The best writers seem to effortlessly tap into their creative juices, then spontaneously produce gorgeous sentences—the kinds of sentences with which a teacher could never find fault.
But what if you’re not the best writer? What if you’re positively terrified at the thought of having to express yourself in prose, to the point that some sort of temporary paralysis descends on your hands: so there you sit, fingers poised to tap-tap-tap away at the computer, and your digits won’t budge, instead hovering idly over the keyboard, never striking a single letter?
You’re not alone. Trust me, you’re not alone. And also trust that there are developed strategies for getting over this very common anxiety and for moving toward productivity as a writer. Read on and then practice what I preach.
No One’s Perfect
Repeat this phrase ten times. Make it your motto for academic life. No writer fluidly crafts perfect prose, all at once, all the time. Every writer has to work at it, even though it definitely comes more easily to some than others. The point is that every writer has room for improvement, on every assignment, and that alone should motivate you to start a writing assignment. After all, who doesn’t relish the chance to produce something, refine it, and then perfect it? A writing assignment is just that—the opportunity to achieve something meaningful, and to enjoy the credit for doing so.
Don’t let these multiple stages discourage you; in fact, embrace the process, from the first brainstorming session to the rough outline, to the draft and finally to revisions and a re-write. The best part of this sequence is that you’re likely to find your voice, all while working on a writing assignment! Imagine, in fact, that the assignment is the vehicle for expressing your convictions, your philosophies—and to conveying thoughts you wouldn’t otherwise have conjured, invented, or verbalized. What’s more motivating than that?
Recognize that the written word is that powerful, and that a writing assignment puts that power in your hands—literally.
Know Why It Matters
Think carefully about why the writing assignment is crucial for you as a student, a thinker, and as a participant in academic life. Consider where in your “big-picture” this essay or research paper might fit, and imagine ways that you could turn it into something bigger: could you later share the essay as a blog post, or could you develop a narrow research project into a broader academic thesis? Of course, not every writing assignment proves relevant to your life, but with planning, speculation, and imagination, it’s possible to relate a writing assignment to future scholarly conversations, or to opening fresh dialogue via social media. Get motivated to write with the goal of articulating something about yourself and your future.
Settle In for Success
Start every writing assignment with the intent to finish it. Nothing motivates more than the realization that you CAN and WILL see this through. Take that single-minded approach to every writing task, and motivation will course through your veins! To secure that ultimate success, find—or create—a quiet, focused environment that supports you doing your best work. Even the most competent writer can falter if distracted. The library may be an option, but if it’s noisy or too social, get off campus and try a more isolated location; move out of your immediate zip code if necessary! Be sure to have on hand everything you need, from source material to your laptop charger to snacks. With all of your needs met, no interruptions and no excuses will result in success.