Every writer—and yes, I do mean every writer ever—has trouble with starting the writing process. Whether it’s due to a lack of information, understanding, or willingness, beginning to write those essays for class can be exhausting. In many of my consultations this semester and even last year, students will schedule appointments and say something like, “I’m not sure where to start,” or “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Pre-writing can be difficult, but there are several ways to minimize the pain and agony associated with starting an essay.
The first thing you should do as you approach an essay is examine the assignment sheet. It’s important that you not only answer the prompt but that you answer it in its entirety. Oftentimes, professors will not simply ask you to answer one basic question in an essay; it will be a much larger, broader topic that you will have to come to some sort of conclusion about. Reading over the assignment sheet can help you figure out what it is that you want to write about. What comes to mind when you think about the assigned topic? It’s important to believe in what you’re writing. The first thing that comes to your mind is often something that you feel strongly about or have considerable feelings towards. It’s always easier to write about things we feel strongly about, so go do it!
When you find something you feel strongly about, the best thing you can do is to just start writing. Forget all the rules (just for now) and write down everything you know and feel about the topic. This is a great way to formulate your thesis. Kansas University’s Writing Center provides great techniques that writers can use when faced with pre-writing: http://writing.ku.edu/prewriting-strategies. A thesis is a statement that is your opinion and how you can prove that opinion to an audience. When you just sit down and write, you’ll find that the evidence to prove your point is already in your head, just not on paper.
The great thing about writing is that, although it’s never easy, we all have the ability to do it and do it well. All it takes is a bit of willingness to start.