A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Staying Focused

What types of questions do writers need to ask themselves and reflect upon to create stronger content?

  1. What assumptions about writing and research do you hold that intrude on regular writing? For example, do you assume that you first need to do the research and then the writing? Are you uncomfortable writing without having thoroughly completed the research?
  2. What social supports can you establish to promote regular writing?

Although individual writing processes are vastly different, composition scholarship provides evidence of patterns across disparate writing methodologies. This section identifies and explains some of the most notable patterns of successful compositionists. We suggest that successful compositionist practice some of the following strategies: Return, Revise, Risk, Reject. 

Realize your creative potential by adopting the work habits of successful writers, artists, and scientists. Note: For an extended discussion of researching strategies, see Research.

Have you ever heard the expression "success is where preparation meets opportunity"? This same truism can be applied to "invention" or "creativity"; we can all be creative, yet being creative isn't a passive process. Work is involved.

Overcome procrastination by establishing an appropriate schedule.

Schedules are extremely important to writers. Documents can almost always be improved with additional revisions, so some writers need deadlines, a line in the sand, to say "Enough is enough!" For writers who tend to procrastinate, schedules can provide an incentive to get started and keep writing.

Realize your creative potential and avoid procrastination by logging your work.

You can be more productive and make writing less adverse if you write in brief daily sessions. By keeping a log of your writing efforts, you can:

  1. Motivate yourself. By tracking your accomplishments on a daily basis, you can develop a better sense of how research efforts and invention strategies help you break through writer's block.

Rather than waiting for that illusive large block of time and rather than procrastinating until the last minute to begin researching and writing, you can ensure your success by using small blocks of time to accomplish your research and writing goals.

There are serious disadvantages to binge writing as opposed to regular writing as research has demonstrated. First, binge writing tends to stimulate manic-depressive behavior (Boice).

Use the Weekly Progress Report to keep your instructor apprised of your efforts and to help you focus on completing a project in a timely manner.

Writers often find it useful to log their work and to provide regular progress reports to themselves and those they are accountable to--such as supervisors or editors or teachers (see Log Your Work).

Avoid procrastination and gain some control over how you manage your time while developing documents.

One of the most important lessons writers must learn is to handle the language of time. Judging from the multitude of books dedicated to time management--indeed whole forests have given way to time-management
specialists--many of us have difficulties overcoming procrastination, knowing when to research, when to write, and when to collaborate.


Understand the psychology of writing, particularly the importance of balancing believing with doubting. Learn how to overcome "writer's block" and manage difficult writing assignments.

When it comes to writing projects, do you tend to procrastinate and then binge-write around the deadline time? Do you ever have difficulties scheduling your writing work so that it doesn't become aversive?

Use the common topoi and tagmemic questions to stimulate your creative abilities.


What is it? What are the unique features of the subject?

Example: What were the unique achievements of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission?


How is the subject similar to or different from other members of its class?

Example: What did the Apollo 11 mission accomplish that previous or subsequent missions did not?


How much can a subject vary, and how can it vary over time without losing its essential nature?

Example: What facts does NASA or a conspiracy theorist present as evidence?


How can you observe the subject? How often can you observe it?

Example: What pictures, video, or physical evidence do we have regarding Apollo 11?


How will the subject change over time? How is the subject changing over time?

Example: How have interpretations of Apollo 11 evolved? What conspiracy theories have been raised since 1969?


What's the larger, systems view? In other words, how do the parts of your subject relate to one another? How does your subject relate to other subjects?

Example: Many web sites and television shows have argued that the Apollo mission was a hoax. contWhy is that? What science was required to carry off the lunar landing and what evidence does NASA have to prove the Apollo mission?