How to Make Paper-Writing Less Painful
Here’s a little confession: writing isn’t always easy. Yes, even English majors struggle with papers from time to time. We sometimes struggle to choose a topic. Or we hit a research roadblock. And speaking of blocks, there’s the dreaded writer’s block.
Creating a good writing process will help you avoid these problems. Here are some tips.
Brainstorm: When teachers provide you with flexible instructions or open prompts, it can be difficult to decide what you even want to write about. Try making some lists of ideas in order to get those thinking juices flowing.
Freewrite: Let the words pour out of you without stopping. Yes, grab an actual pen and piece of paper. Close your laptop screen, click off of Tumblr, and get writing. Set a timer and just got for it. Don’t lift the pen from the paper or stop and pause. This is your chance to let raw ideas emerge. Once the timer stops, go back and evaluate what you have. It’s a start.
Map: If you’re a visual person, a map or web of ideas can be an awesome way to collect and organize your thinking. You can use your map to lump topics together and envision the areas of your paper. It may seem a little juvenile, but it really does work.
Organize your research and outline: Once you’ve gathered ideas or quotes, you need to structure them. I think outlining is the best strategy for this. You’re going to run out of steam if you just sit down in front of your computer and write without a plan. Outlines let you flesh out the direction of your paper. This is probably the most tedious activity, but it makes actually writing the paper so much easier.
Draft & rewrite: Good writing is rewriting. Always go back and edit your drafts. It’s so easy to miss mistakes when you don’t reread. Print the paper out and mark it up. Viewing your paper at your desk is much better than viewing it on your computer screen. Your professor won’t be grading it on his computer, so it’s good to see what he or she will see. Reading your paper aloud also helps you find mistakes. It may seem awkward at first, but hearing your ideas will allow you to catch errors you don't see when you're reading silently.
Find an editor: Getting a second opinion never hurts. When you read your own paper, you have a clear bias. Having someone else look at your work gives you a chance to find out what isn’t clear. Ask anyone—your professor, your TA, your roommate. If your school has a writing center, definitely go there! That’s what they’re there for.
Find your style: Some people write best in the morning, when they're fresh. Others prefer to wait until the last minute because they write best under pressure. Figure out what works for you, and stick to it.
Do you follow these steps?