Writing those first words of an essay—or any type of writing—can seem like trying to climb a mountain and having no idea of where to begin. It can be daunting staring at the assignment sheet that you have read at least twenty times but still do not understand. However, as Anne Lamott states in the above quote, getting something on the page is imperative, but first you must choose what you are going to write about. The basic steps listed below can help get you started.
· The writing prompt from your professor should guide you regarding the topic of your paper. Begin thinking of possibilities as soon as the assignment is given. No matter how fast of a writer you believe yourself to be, procrastination is not your friend. At least think about the project. Do not hesitate to ask your professor for clarification or help. As always, please feel free to come to the Writing Center for assistance as well. We love to help writers brainstorm!
· Once the subject of your paper is chosen, you may or may not already have a thesis statement in mind. Researching the topic can help support your thesis, or you may discover something different to write about. Giving yourself enough time in the drafting process allows for the possibility that you might switch topics or position.
· Organization of a paper looks different to each writer. Some create outlines first. Others have to have all of their sources before they can begin. Some have pages and pages of notes. Find what works for you but remember that it is okay for this part of the process to change depending on the project.
· Begin writing. Easy as that, right? Not always, but sometimes even writing down your thesis statement or, “This essay is about…” at the top of the page (to be deleted later) can jumpstart the writing process.
Appreciating the purpose of a first draft can help reduce the anxiety of writing. A rough draft is not the final product. This is your chance to make mistakes, take risks, be daring and try something new. The most important thing to do is give yourself enough time for revision. First drafts are supposed to be messy and imperfect so that you can revise your paper into a finely crafted piece of work that you can submit with confidence.
You can come to the Writing Center at any time during your writing process. Remember, we are writers as well, so we understand your concerns and struggles. We are here for you!