Since Ms. Madden and pocoloca recently have devoted time to share their writing rituals, I thought I would add to the extraordinary collection of musings on this important practice that actually allows us to complete our writing assignments.
About my writing rituals. Well, first off, I like to start with an outline. This keeps me on topic and allows me to answer my prompts or carry out my tasks appropriately. Believe me, I don’t always follow my outline precisely. While writing, I often come up with new ideas to improve my argument or articulate the point I am trying to make. Usually, I develop this outline a day or two before I sit down at the computer in order to prevent a writing overload. Or that’s what I think; sometimes I just write my outline and put it aside because of that annoying old friend: procrastination.
Why do I call procrastination my friend? Well, he is almost an enemy, but I spend so much time with procrastination that he’s practically my friend by association. See, my writing rituals focus on avoiding my encounters with procrastination as much as possible, because after all he is annoying.
In starting a paper, I first find a place conducive to abstract thought. Preferably, this location is a quiet spot, has a good view, and comfy chairs. There are a couple places on campus that I go to when I really need to think/study/write, and I would share them with you, but I am selfish and don’t want them to become really crowded spaces. That brings me to my next thought: as much as I like my friends, I prefer writing alone. I require solitude and peace, and my writing becomes more precise with minimal distractions.
Next, I always have some type of food next to me. Coffee helps too. I find that a full tummy makes me happy and smart, so I refuel often. I cannot stress how important food is for me. Without being overtly scientific, I try to maximize on my sugars and proteins when I have to write or study. Yes, it’s the unhealthy stuff that helps me. Favorite snacks for breaks: a blueberry muffin from Jazzman’s, and apple fritter from Starbucks with a small coffee of the day, or (and this is more of a breakfast item) scrambled eggs from the DUC with pancakes, sausage, or bacon. It might not be heart healthy, but it is mind healthy.
When I sit down at the computer, I only open Microsoft Word and iTunes. I leave the Internet browser closed, ignore my email, and ignore anything else on my computer. While listening to a mellow song, I set goals for how I will go about writing my paper. Usually I separate my writing into two or three sittings, and I respectively finish either half or a third of my paper in each sitting. When my one or two (no more than a couple because otherwise I will waste at least 15 minutes) Coldplay songs conclude, I start typing and translating my ideas into prose. In solitude, I write until I have achieved my goal of finishing either a half or a third of my paper, and then I take a break.
Yes! THE BREAK. My breaks usually last from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the time I have spent writing or studying. I eat, drink coffee or coke, check Facebook, check emails, watch a Top Gear clip, or engage in some other form of mindless leisure. My breaks are the reward for hours of hard work and a successful fight against my friend procrastination, so they are essential. The mind can only concentrate on a subject for just a few hours, so I take good breaks and diligently return to my paper afterwards.
I am always surprised by how efficiently I wrap up my writing if I avoid distractions and procrastination. Because I worry about computer troubles or other issues that could plague the writing process, I generally like to finish my assignments at least a day in advance. This leaves plenty of time for me to edit, or in the worst-case scenario, fix any computer problems.
Now, this is the crazy way I go about writing papers or studying. I don’t know how much seeing my methods will help you in your writing process, but know that everyone’s method is weird, but equally effective as long as he completes the task well. I encourage you to devise your own method or determine how you best write/study. A good method is a good tool to have as you write, and I will leave you with a few tips to help you think about your method of writing.
1: Find a quiet, nice place to study with comfy chairs. Write in a nice place.
2: Find when you work best during the day. I know that I work best in the morning or early afternoon, so I rework my schedule accordingly.
3: Eat well.
4: Start writing in advance of the due date. Cramming works for some people, but not most. Give yourself the freedom and time to think about the work ahead. Make an outline of your paper, or if you think an outline doesn’t help your writing, brainstorm.
5: Write with as few distractions as possible, and turn off electronic devices to avoid temptations to socialize or procrastinate.
6: Set goals for when you will complete the project and follow the goals. I avoid unnecessary stress that way. Goals should also coincide with breaks, and remember to take breaks.
7: Back up your work on two separate email accounts in case your computer loses your work. I always back up my papers in the middle of the writing process, not just at the end.
8: The most important tip: enjoy what you are doing and prepare to be really impressed with your analytical abilities. Be confident that you will make some cool insights on a subject that will hopefully leave you in a nerdy euphoria (and don’t deny this, we all geek out on certain insights we make).