Great writing seems effortless. Yet if you’re at all familiar with the writing process, you’re keenly aware of that key word: “seems.” As much as seasoned writers are accustomed to and enjoy their work, even they occasionally struggle with motivation, groan when they notice a looming deadline, and face dry periods with little to show for their efforts beside a few words scribbled on a pad of paper. Therefore, what appears to the reader as a polished product represents hours of research, writing, and revision—not to mention the stress, frustration, and anxiety the writer may have experienced along the way.
If writing can seem challenging to the experienced among us, it most certainly can feel daunting to students who are as yet unaccustomed to the rigors of writing college-level papers. Students in this position may find some encouragement in useful tips that direct them towards the practices and attitudes that carry them from the start of a project to its completion. Richard Veit, Christopher Gould, and Kathleen Gould, authors of Writing, Reading, and Research, Ninth Edition, offer students some practical suggestions that can help them have a successful writing experience, which we’ve summarized below. Share these points with those who need a bit of encouragement to begin or complete their writing projects. If you’re beginning a writing project of your own, some of these points may inspire you as well.
- Allow adequate time to work on your writing project. Effective time management plays a key role in your ability to succeed. Start as soon as you can; by so doing, you’ll have time to carefully review and revise your paper before you turn it in. If you choose to procrastinate, you’re increasing the probability that you’ll run up against the deadline and then realize you’ve submitted a project that contains mistakes, doesn’t fully satisfy the outlined objectives, or falls short of your own standards.
- Choose a place that will inspire you to keep on track. Do you find it easier to do your work in familiar, comfortable surroundings such as your dorm room, apartment, or house? Or, does a library, computer lab, or study hall provide you with an environment that helps you focus? Whatever location you choose, be sure it offers few of the distractions that tend to derail your ability to stay on task. That said, don’t be afraid to take a break every so often. Pausing to get up and stretch, have a quick bite to eat, or step out into the fresh air can renew your perspective. Likewise, stopping periodically to review your work can help you see your progress and give you the opportunity to identify what areas of the project need further development.
- Maintain an attitude that reinforces your desire to succeed. Veit, Gould, and Gould encourage writers to be positive, persistent, and confident. A positive mindset helps you stay focused even when you hit a rough patch and you’re tempted to become discouraged. Persistence helps you maintain the discipline, dedication, and focus necessary to keep up your energy (even if you don’t “feel like” writing) and reach your goals. Finally, confidence gives you the self-assurance to know that you can complete the project in a manner that satisfies you (as well as your readers). The combination of these traits puts a writer on the path to success. (419-420)
Reference: Veit, Richard, Gould, Christopher, and Gould, Kathleen. 2014. Writing, Reading, and Research, 9th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
How do you find the motivation to start (or complete) a writing project? What advice do you give to students who feel “stuck”? Share your insights below or submit them to [email protected].