For many students, including me, the most difficult step in the writing process is getting started. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at an assignment sheet, thinking to myself, “I’ve got nothin’.” With practice – and patience – you’ll likely develop your own process and techniques for initiating the writing process, here are some things that help me:
Read the assignment instructions. Done? Good, now do it again. Some assignments include multiple requirements – very specific requirements. I find it useful to make a checklist of the requirements and review the list before I submit my paper.
Write. Write something, anything. This isn’t your final draft, so don’t worry about it being perfect. If you have an idea for your paper, this is the time to write it down. It’s easy to think it, but it can be challenging to put those thoughts on paper, and that’s why prewriting can be beneficial. If the assignment lists questions or prompts to consider, try writing brief answers to get started.
What do I do when I don’t have something to say right away? I write anyway! Even if it doesn’t answer the assignment’s topic or prompt, I always have an opinion – and you do, too! If my assignment is to write a critical analysis of a selected text, I jot down my initial opinion, my reaction to the reading, and any comments I have. Even if you don’t think these ideas will be useful when writing your paper, they get you thinking about the topic of the assignment, and, who knows – later, you might come back to something you wrote and find that you can use it in your paper.
I’ve got words…now, what? After prewriting and thinking about the assignment and topic, I start to think about how I’m going to present my information. I find that creating an outline, even a tentative outline, helps. I always include a bullet point for my introduction and my conclusion, but I never start there. Outlining helps me think about the order in which I want to present my information. After I outline my main points and sub points, I find that it’s much easier to tackle the writing little by little, focusing on one point at a time.For more tips on getting the writing process started, check out the University of Maryland University College’s Prewriting and Outlining page at this link.
-Tessa Hill, RSU Writing Consultant