Writing effortlessly is a craft I wish to master, but I doubt that it will ever happen. Famous and/or talented writers have their own struggles in writing their masterpieces. I, who write on demand and mostly when assigned to, also find it even challenging. Although it requires a great effort (since writing is not my forte), I find my solace in knowing that writing has become less terrifying. It is easier now that I understand how to evaluate my own text from global (such as content, focus, genre, development, awareness of audience) or local (such as paragraph, sentence, word levels) concerns. Now that I have found my strengths and recognized my weaknesses, I have managed to figure out the best ways that work for my writing process.
-Find what works!
I am an acute procrastinator and more often than not, keep putting off what I can do until much later. However, taking 3 or 4 classes a semester and juggling multiple writing assignments has taught me that being a ‘deadliner’ is a huge no. In addition to that, I have a limited attention span and get easily distracted. These often make me end up browsing other websites that are unrelated to my assignment when doing my research.
My first attempt to stay focused was by setting aside a few hours during night time on weekdays and longer hours on weekends to compose my writing. Having a time limit did not work well for me since I ended up checking the clock most of the time just to see if I had reached the said hours. My second attempt which focuses on page length, word count, or a required content is the best method for me. Choosing only one to focus on in each sitting helps me write more effectively.
-Plan your ‘sittings’!
A realization that a paper cannot be completed in one sitting led me to plan out my writing process into several ‘sittings’. The longer the page length and/or the greater the amount of research is required, the more sittings I need to do. Each sitting can be done over the course of hours or days, depending on the number of pages, on how much time I have, and on how many sources are needed. I never write too much in one sitting. For example, my assignment is a 750-word reflective essay and I plan to have 5 sittings for it. My writing will consist of session 1 (400-word text), session 2 (350-word text), session 3 (revising while consulting rubric or assignment sheet if there is any, or consulting my own checklist), session 4 (editing), and session 5 (going through the paper to re-revise and re-edit if necessary). Whenever I complete a session, I reward myself with a 20 to 30- minute break where I could do one of my favorite leisure activities. Doing this helps me accomplish my mission without lingering guilt due to distractions.
-Just write and write!
While writing, I used to focus on correcting my grammar, choosing more academic words, or varying the transitional phrases. It took several attempts to make me realize that it is a less productive method, as word choices and sentence structure restricted me and I became too focused on those issues during my writing process. Now, in the first few sittings, I just write without caring about the rules of grammar, choices of vocabulary, focus, and organization of my text. Straying from my intended topic or other writing concerns can be addressed during revisions. Doing this helps my ideas flow better and I am able to write more easily.
-Consult the Writing Center!
Being a student again after a long hiatus and facing continuous writing assignments in various genres made my first semester in grad school too overwhelming. Being an ESL (English as a Second Language) writer myself, I experienced discomfort and a lack of confidence with what I wrote, making me question my ability to write. I was then referred to the Writing Center by one of my professors, who told me that the Writing Center could help me go over my paper and see if there were any global or local issues that need to be addressed. These experiences as a tutee, in addition to my experiences as a writing tutor, helped me become a better writer compared to last year; now I have figured out what method works best for me to write effectively, have had a self-made list of questions to assess my own writing, and have become better in self-assessing my own writing.