Whether you are in high school or in university, you may have experienced the struggle of having to whip up an essay one too many times. I call it the curse of writer’s block. As a budding journalist, apart from deadlines – this is something that I will probably struggle with for as long as I live.
Writer’s block isn’t the only curse, but also the daunting procrastination that follows it. I don’t know about you but I am an excessive sleeper and cleaner. Whether you watch amusing cat videos on Youtube, are a Facebooker or a gluttonous snacker; there are actually strategies in tackling this mental battle.
- Start writing in the middle and leave the introduction to the end.
Personally, the hardest thing for me when writing essays is starting off with the introduction. That’s not actually such a bad thing. Beginning with a body paragraph will help you to focus on one argument/statement/thesis at a time. Once all your body paragraphs have been completed, it will be easier to summarize all your points into your introduction and conclusion.
- Don’t be afraid of rough drafts.
I am constantly fighting this obsession of wanting to get things right the very FIRST time. From my own personal observation, writer’s block is often most common in perfectionists like myself.
Take note of Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom when it comes to writing: “The first draft of everything is s***.” Remember, rough drafts are something to work with – they aren’t the final masterpiece. It’s not about the first thing you are going to say, but it’s about the last thing you are going to say.
When typing up rough drafts, it’s a good idea to spontaneously type what comes out of your brain – even if it doesn’t make complete sense. My tutor in one of my subjects this semester said that transcription helps you with the ideas that you want to keep, and the ideas that you want to ditch.
- Write everything first and edit later.
Another habit I need to let go of is writing and editing as I go. This is continuing off the tangent of the previous point. Work becomes less productive if you do both actions simultaneously because of the pressure of making it perfect at the first attempt. This pressure inhibits the brain from thinking widely and discerning a selection of ideas.
I find that I produce more and better ideas when I type and brainstorm my ideas onto a Word document, and then leave the editing separately. I’m going to keep sharing Hemingway’s impeccable quotes just for your inspiration: “Write drunk, edit sober.”
- Set yourself small and measurable goals
Organise on a calendar or a diary on how you’re going to approach this essay. Usually, I would set aside time for researching sources followed by summarising the sources in my own words. My next step would be creating commentary and/or criticism for the sources I’ve summarised. Then, I would take time to brainstorm my main thesis points and expand on them in point form before I form them into full sentences. My last step would be thorough editing of course. This is more or less my approach.
Constantly whipping up an essay the night before creates too much unnecessary pressure, and doesn’t allow the brain to think clearly and logically to its full potential.
- Talk it out with someone.
I’ve lost count at the amount of times someone has said: “I feel so much better now that I’ve talked about it!” Not only does debriefing with someone clear the mind of clutter, but most of the greatest and profound ideas come from talking to someone about it.
In conclusion, I think the idea is to stop doubting yourself! Don’t be afraid to make silly mistakes – we can only improve from them. Just remember:
“The worst enemy to creativity is doubt.” Sylvia Plath