Whether you’re working on your mid-term paper or just a regular essay, writing can be a difficult job. Creativity doesn’t always flow when it should and plenty of writers sit down with every good intention, only to find themselves an hour later having accomplished nothing aside from trolling around online, playing games or suddenly feeling the need to reorganize their entire office. Although writing can be a daunting task, these 7 college writing prompts will help you get your creative juices flowing and get you on track to producing better papers without sweating the deadline.
Go Old School
When you’re stuck with that blinking cursor on your screen, it may be time to switch back to old school pen and paper. Several studies suggest that writing by hands helps to boost comprehension and improves the ability of writers to develop ideas. Many authors – including the likes of Truman Capote and Susan Sontag – have gone on record with their preference for writing in longhand and science has found there’s a reason why. One study out of the University of Washington had two groups of elementary students write an essay. The group writing by hand completed their essays more quickly and used more complete sentences than their keyboard using counterparts. Additional studies have found that writing by hand can:
- prevent writers from being distracted
- improve the flow of ideas for outlining
- actively engage more areas of the brain, including motor skills and memory
Break Free From the Internet
When it comes to potential distractions, the internet reigns supreme. While having the internet on hand for on the fly research can be useful, it also proves too tempting for many people who find themselves distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, news feed updates and other routine distractions. Even a simple mission to do pure research can easily lead to skipping from one article to another, then another, then another, resulting in information overload. The best way to cut the habit even if your willpower is the size of a gnat? Applications that prevent you from hopping online. The problem of internet based distractions is common and there are several applications that can come to your rescue.
Anti-Social – If you find yourself scrolling through FaceBook, YouTube, Hulu, Twitter or any other social based website, Anti-Social is the answer you’ve been looking for. The program blocks any set of websites you determine and keeps you from logging onto them for a set amount of time.
Stay Focused – This addon for Google’s Chrome browser offers users the same option – name the websites you want to have off limits and set a timer.
Self Control – This open source program was originally programmed only for Mac OS systems, but has since been coded for both Linux and Windows users. It can be used to block websites, email or to keep you off the internet completely.
The Three B’s of Creativity
German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler originally wrote about the “Bed, Bath, Bus” phenomena in terms of its relationship with creativity. Inspiration tends to strike at the most unlikely times, but understanding why this happens can help you set the stage to get those ideas flowing. Scientists, researchers and writers who should be finishing their work have come up with several reasons why inspiration tends to hit during the most impractical moments. First, these activities tend to require little, if any, actual brain power, leaving your mind free to wander. These activities also make us very relaxed which increases the release of dopamine in our brains and throughout our nervous system.
Dopamine is responsible for just about every happy emotion you can imagine – including creativity. While the 3 B’s have become the standard list for helping to boost creativity, the truth is that any mindless but relaxing task can produce the same effect. When you’re stumped on where to go with a piece of writing take a walk, do the dishes, go for a run or head to the store to do some grocery shopping. The trick is to be sure you keep a pen and paper on you or use the voice notes function on your smartphone to capture those ideas when they hit.
Write About What You REALLY Want to Write About
Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions, all you really want to write about is the time you got beer drunk at your cousin’s wedding and professed your undying love to the bartender. If your brain is stuck on a particular theme, scene or story, just get it out. Writing about whatever has your mind so preoccupied will help to clear the slate and get the ball rolling. Just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to show it to anyone and the process of simply getting it down on paper (or screen) can get your creative juices flowing as well as giving your brain a chance to stretch, so to speak.
Break Out the Right Music
The effects of music has become one of the more popular areas of research in recent years. This is due, in part, to how portable music has become. Many people now carry entire libraries of music with them and can, at any time, call up favorite albums or playlists with the simple swipe of a finger. Researchers have found that music has a direct impact on our brains and have broken it down to music that is over 60 beats per minute (BPM) and that which is under that threshold. As you might imagine, the higher the beat the more energizing the effects. High energy techno, dance music and hard rock all quicken the heart rate, breathing and can even increase blood pressure. Slower music produces a calming effect and can reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Mix up your favorite music to keep yourself going – keep up the beat, keep up the work!
Tim management skills are sometimes seen as only useful for those in the corporate world but the truth is most people could do with some help when it comes to prioritizing and getting things done. There are a number of ways to go about this and one of the most popular is the Ten Minute Blitz. Simply set a timer for 10 minutes and focus on getting one task done. Ten minutes may not seem like much, but you’ll probably be surprised at just how much you can get accomplished. For more involved tasks, such as research or writing, many people prefer the Pomodoro Technique, which sets up time in 25 minute intervals, with a 5 to 10 rest period between cycles. The cycle is repeated four times in a row, with a longer break (15-30 minutes) after the fourth round of focused, 25 minute work. This can be done easily by using a kitchen timer or you can use applications such as Time Out to track how long you’ve worked and build in automatic reminders to take a break in order to keep your mind sharp and avoid burn out.
Burn that midnight oil. Getting up early is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the game and increase the chances of you getting into the flow of essay writing.