Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weird Writing Habits from the Writing Center

What if I told you there was a proven method to make any writing assignment a cinch?  What if, from now on, all you had to do was follow a list of steps and your research paper would be done? 

Don’t get too excited. There is no tried-and-true workflow. After interviewing tutors at the writing center, I discovered that most writers develop their own idiosyncratic writing habits.  These habits were sometimes funny, sometimes ingenious, and most often rooted in superstitious beliefs.

The following is a list of the most interesting writing habits in the writing center:

Chocolate Motivation
One student I interviewed uses periodic chocolate treats to motivate himself. This technique was picked up in elementary school from a teacher who used the method to encourage her students to read. One drawback with this strategy is that it requires the writer to maintain self-control. This method would not work for me!

Clear the To-Do List
Another writer said that he enjoyed large essay assignments because they motivate him to get all his other chores finished. The rationale behind this habit is that it clears the mind of distractions, allowing for a higher degree of focus. This is an idea my roommates could definitely get behind.
Music = Creative Energy
In the brainstorming phase of the writing process, it’s a good idea to test out as many directions possible for your paper to go. One student uses the creative energy produced by music in order to keep his mind flexible.  Music helps him generate a variety of topic ideas before committing to a paper.

Café Vibes
According to one tutor, a café is the optimal place to sit down and concentrate on a paper.  With unlimited access to caffeine, this is one writing habit that will keep you supercharged all the way through to your last sentence.  One drawback with this strategy is that it requires the writer to have the ability to ignore distractions.  The tutor I talked to recalls one café visit in which a customer unknowingly played the Star Wars theme song on repeat. Apparently, they didn’t realize that their headphones were unplugged from the computer.

Tricking the Brain into Positivity
The final writer I talked to likes to trick her brain into positivity. Her method involves changing the file names to her writing projects to names that are less intimidating. After working on a paper for a prolonged period of time, the file name becomes loaded with anxiety. To address this, this student changes the file name to something new.  I think I just might give this strategy of self-hypnosis a try!

Some baseball players have unique routines they must go through before stepping up to bat.  I’ve heard of poker players, too, that fall into superstitious beliefs when they are on a winning streak. Writers are no different.  We all have our own habits and beliefs that for one reason or another help us through the writing process. Whether there is a scientific basis for these habits is debatable, but they do make us feel better.  And I think that’s the whole point.


  1. Using music distracts me on large, important writing projects. I need silence to write strong drafts. That routine may come from spending so much time at the library during my undergraduate years. Pickler Library at Truman is a great place to get work done.

  2. I listen to recordings of drumlines or house music. The driving beat with no words keeps me moving forward.

  3. I clean or tidy to clear my mind.

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