Establish a Comfortable Place to Write


Ideally, you should find a quiet place where all your needed writing resources—such as a personal computer, dictionary, and paper—are set up. To help you focus on the work at hand, you may need a place that is reasonably free of distractions.

Determine Your Most Energetic Time of Day

“In fact I think the best regimen is to get up early, insult yourself a bit in the shaving mirror, and then pretend you’re cutting wood, which is really just about all the hell you are doing—if you see what I mean.” Lawrence Durrell

“It’s important to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or the weather is wrong. Even if you don’t succeed, you’ll be developing a muscle that may do it later on.” John Ashber

You will probably find it easier to establish a regular writing schedule if you can write during your most energetic time of day. If you tend to procrastinate, try getting up an hour earlier each day to write. The advantage of morning writing is that you are fresh from the night’s sleep. Also, once the words are written, you won’t need to feel guilty about procrastinating all day and the responsibility of writing will not hover over you. Not everyone’s body clock is the same, of course. You may prefer to write in the evening; that is fine so long as you are able to produce meaningful work.

When circumstances prevent you from writing at your best time of day, however, do not use this as an excuse not to write at all. Even ten minutes of freewriting at your worst time of day is better than no writing.

Focus on Priorities

While emailing folks and talking in chats and e-lists can be fun, you need to ensure that you’re not chatting and surfing online at the expense of your writing. As you may know, working on the Internet can be engrossing, just like TV. We can become so engrossed in reading and talking online that we forget we have a writing project due!

Write Daily

“Writers are not born nor made, but written.”- William Matthews

“I’m not sure I understand the process of writing. There is, I’m sure, something strange about imaginative concentration. The brain slowly begins to function in a different way, to make mysterious connections. Say, it is Monday, and you write a very bad draft, but if you keep trying, on Friday, words, phrases, appear almost unexpectedly. I don’t know why you can’t do it on Monday, or why I can’t. I’m the same person, no smarter, I have nothing more at hand…. It’s one of the things writing students don’t understand.”- Elizabeth Hardwick

“Think of writing then not as a way to transmit a message. Writing is a way to end up thinking something you couldn’t have started out thinking. Writing is, in fact, a transaction with words whereby you free yourself from what you presently think, feel, and perceive.”- Peter Elbow

When asked how they develop ideas, professional writers often explain that regular writing becomes an addictive activity that enables them to develop new ideas. As they work on project A, they get ideas for projects B through Z! If you write regularly, you will generate more creative ideas than if you write only sporadically. Successful writers do not wait until they are inspired to write.

Making time for writing on a regular basis does not necessarily mean that you will have less time for your other classes, family, and social activities. After all, working a little each day instead of putting whole projects off until the weekend will leave your weekends freer for other activities. Rather than giving in to procrastination and letting the responsibility to write haunt every pleasurable moment, try little dosages of writing at a time. Ultimately, after a training period in which you need to force yourself to write, you will find writing has its own rewards and you will soon look forward to composing.

On days when disaster strikes—when the rain leaks through the roof of your writing site or a bad storm knocks out the electricity—you should still try to contribute something to your writing, even if it is a single sentence written hastily on a napkin or spoken into a tape recorder.

Establish a Reasonable Writing Schedule

“You know when you think about writing a book, you think it is overwhelming. But, actually, you break it down into tiny little tasks any moron could do.” Annie Dillard

“Structuring your time without being tense about it helps writers find additional time to work and play. And more. If you work with a sense of structured routine, with a present-orientation (dwelling on missed opportunities), with effective organization, and with persistence, you will be more likely to display higher self-esteem, better health, more optimism, and more efficient work habits. Without learning the language of time, you risk depression, psychological distress, anxiety, neuroticism, and physical symptoms of illness. Clearly, writers must learn to deal with time.“- Robert Boice

Deadlines 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!” In turn, for writers who tend to procrastinate, deadlines can provide an incentive to get started. Each time you begin a new project, you should evaluate how much time you can devote to completing the document, then set realistic goals for first, second, and third drafts.

You can overcome the impulse to procrastinate by establishing reasonable goals. For example, you should not expect to write an entire essay in a single session, but it is reasonable for you to write a solid introduction or to develop one point of your essay in a single session.

To help develop a realistic schedule, consider the following questions:

  • How much time can I spend on selecting a topic? What sources may be difficult to obtain?
  • At what point can I get a good enough draft to share with others?
  • When will I have identified the major sources that I will need to consult before writing a solid draft?
  • When can I develop a fairly complete document planner?

Because writing is typically not a step-by-step process, you will probably want to routinely revise your goals for research, writing, and anticipated due dates. To keep motivated on a daily basis, many writers also maintain logs of their daily writing—i.e., written records of their daily efforts to get writing work done. On longer projects, writers maintainWeekly Progress Reports. To get the best out of a log or progress report, each time you complete a writing session, map out the agenda for your next session. If you find it difficult to maintain your schedule of goals, use the reward system. Allow yourself a treat or indulge in a pleasurable activity—a hot fudge sundae or a relaxing swim— but only after you successfully complete a specific goal.


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