Hello, and a belated welcome back from The Writing Center Blog! We’re about a month into the new semester, and for many of us, that means the due dates for our first papers are coming right around the corner. Coincidentally, for many of us, this also signals the beginning of Panic Mode. Working in the Writing Center, I have seen people in Panic Mode fairly often, for a variety of reasons. Some have issues with content and filling the page length required, others with their dreaded introductions and conclusions, and a surprising amount of writers come in with the problem that they can’t seem to get started actually writing. Writing can be difficult and Panic Mode-inducing; getting started writing can be even more so for others. But it doesn’t have to be.
Getting started writing is both inevitable and essential. You have to start somewhere, and once you do get started, the words may flow easier as you get a comfortable sense of place in your own writing. Equally as essential as getting comfortable in your own writing, though, is being in a place of comfort as you begin writing.
Comfort should, in a way, come first before you even begin writing. By comfort, I am not talking exclusively about physical comfort, though that is important in its own way. For example, if you are trying to get started writing, but your back is aching because of your chair, or you don’t have enough lighting and you are straining your eyes, or perhaps because you are in a crowded place and you can’t hear yourself think, you are most likely going to spend more time thinking about how much of a pain your current situation is rather than working on your writing. Before you get started writing, then, it is a good idea to find yourself a place where you can feel comfortable writing, which is completely up to your own preferences. Myself, if I need to get something written, I prefer to work in a well-lit space all my own and have some sort of music running as background noise to help me focus. Whatever you need to get into your physical comfort zone, try to achieve that before you begin writing.
Another aspect of comfort for your writing is of mental comfort, which takes shape in many forms. One such aspect is the timing of your writing. If your paper is due in three weeks, you likely are not going to be in a comfortable position if you begin writing it, say, the day the paper is due. Getting your thoughts and ideas on paper ahead of schedule, even if it is just a bit here and there, can be tremendously helpful to your writing comfort zone. Having something written earlier can be much better than having nothing at all later down the line.
Sometimes, though, having that something ready ahead of time is particularly difficult. Writers often find themselves paralyzed by the thought that they do not know exactly what it is that they want to write about, and as a result they cannot get anything at all written. This is where comfort in your ideas comes into play. As you go to write whatever it is that you are writing, you do not necessarily need to have a specific endgame for your writing. Instead, find yourself a general idea and follow wherever it leads you. Having a large base for your paper can be much less frightening to stand on than something that is smaller and more pinpoint. From your large base, you can explore different directions to find your eventual, specific topic. Finding that specific topic may be uncomfortable and difficult, but it is in and of itself a part of the writing process. Despite that, having a comfortable beginning can make the uncomfortable, more difficult parts of your writing process more bearable. Of course, writing can also be much more comfortable if you can discuss it with others. Brainstorming your ideas with your peers or with tutors at the Writing Center can be an excellent way to help make you feel more comfortable about your own writing.
Writing is not always comfortable. In many ways, it pushes and challenges us to think about and explore new ideas that may or may not change the way we think about things. SO even though we can’t have writing be comfortable all of the time, having a familiar, comfortable base before you begin your writing process can make the later parts so much more bearable.