Even for some seasoned writers, the thought of that next upcoming paper can be overwhelming. Worry about topic choices, research time and materials, and the mental road blocks that may ensue begin to consume your mind, and that doesn’t even include the actual writing. The mental exhaustion can be worse for less experienced writers or students who simply dislike writing. The key to overcoming the fear of writing, which in itself can help overcome the procrastination that is always creeping into your mind, is to plan it out. Take the writing one day at a time. Don’t sit and try to write a 5-page paper (especially so if it’s any longer than that) the day before. I know you’ve heard that incessantly, but make it easier on yourself and your grade by planning your writing out.
This is a dilemma that I have faced personally and over years of writing have found to work the best. It not only allows for more available time throughout the week, but makes me feel better because I know I can take a break. I don’t have to write the whole thing in 1 or 2 days. I can plan, take some time to think, have a breather, and write better. I have time to tweak and to skip a paragraph or question I should be answering if I can’t quite get it one day. Planning your writing out is always the number one advice I give to students I work with in the Writing Center who are struggling with time and pages, which is always a bad combination. If I have a student come in who says they have a paper due next week and they just don’t even know where to start, I tell them it’s okay. Breathe. We have time, which means you’ll get the number or words or the required number of pages you need without additional pressure. Then, we plan it out together, make subsequent appointments, and take it one day at a time.
Plan it out. It’s almost as simple as it sounds. While it does depend on the length of your paper and the amount of preparation/research required, here’s the general idea:
- 1+ days for writing out ideas about topics, answers to required questions, thesis, points you want to make, creating an outline.
- Approximately 1 day per page or section, depending on the type of paper you are writing.
- 1+ days for editing, again depending on how long the paper is or how much editing you feel you need to do. It’s always a great idea to take your paper to your professor’s office hours if you get a chance or have some serious questions.
Taking the time to plan it out, especially on the first day or so of general planning your paper, creating an outline, or simply jotting down some notes on points you want to make, will help save you time and pressure in the long run. Breaking up long papers into smaller segments makes the overwhelming big picture feel and look just a little bit better and much more manageable.