As the semester winds down and Thanksgiving Break approaches, the last thing you probably want to think about is any final projects hanging over your head. But if you’re ready to tackle a big paper headlong and just can’t figure out how to begin, this blog post is just for you.
Take a few tips from a guy who loves starting new projects and simply reveling in the glory of an unrevised rough draft.
1. Know thyself.
Before you take the plunge into your paper, think about how you typically write. While I always write my thesis statement first and litter my paper with quotes before I actually use my own words, you may have an easier time freewriting until the ideas fall together.
2. Convert other documents into a paper.
You can turn notes into a rough draft or write on napkins so you won’t take the first words you write too seriously.
3. Change form.
Try outlining, poetry, or something you’ve never done before. I start all my creative writing in the format of a comic-book script, and even some of my academic papers started as two characters arguing with each other.
4. Find your opening rituals.
I begin all my drafts with five bold hyphens and a title, while a friend of mine starts everything she writes (even on Facebook) with “::”. If you’re curious about how to recognize rituals you might already have, think about the way you begin writing other things, like class notes or social media posts.
For example, I discovered that the hyphen ritual helps me start writing and relieves the blank-page anxiety after noticing that I put lines at the beginning of my physical papers even though I used to stare at blank Word documents and struggle to begin.
Try out one or all of these and remember what we like to say in the Writing Center: It’s called a rough draft for a reason.