Do you dread writing essays? As a new semester comes to a start, stop worrying and start writing with a fresh look on essays and how there are ways to cut down on the anxiety and up the grade. A++
In school, I was taught that there are certain ways to do everything especially when it comes to writing. I find this to be extraordinarily ridiculous. The process of writing a good poem, essay, or story is something that should be completely personal. Getting a fresh look on your writing after you have finished your first draft or seeking ideas from fellow writers are great tools and sometimes the best way to improve your writing, but when you first sit down to your laptop or journal ready to begin writing, the structure and the rules other people have tried to force onto you as the “correct” way of the writing process should be the last thing on your mind.
“PLAN, PlAN, PLAN.” That was my tenth-grade English teachers writing process. I’m not talking about the entire act of writing here, proof-reading or editing or anything like that, I’m talking only what you do to get up to the first draft. She would give us three pieces of paper before we started writing. One sheet was for jotting down ideas. The second was for formulating exactly what each idea per paragraph would be and exactly how we would write our sentences. The third sheet was for our first draft which was simply copying down what we wrote on the second sheet of paper in actual essay form. The process was simple, if not anything else, and quick. It was efficient, not effective.
By this, I mean that everyone ended up with an essay the correct length yet very few had substance or creative energy. Let me give you an example. Imagine the class has been told to write about the declaration of independence. A student following the jot, formulate, draft rules could write,
“In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted,”
and receive a great grade. Now throw in some substance and creative energy.
“An American founding father and virtuoso of words, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776 the document which would one-day secure freedom for the United States of America and it’s people.”
Given the freedom to explore words and how they can change a sentence, a whole new world is opened up. You may like the first sentence better than the second and that is completely fine. What I want to employ you to think about is how if my tenth-grade teacher had maybe once said something along the lines of “throw away those sheets I gave you and just write,” then maybe more students would have attempted to receive more than just a passing grade. Word-count and pen color have become so important that we are forgetting to teach passion and intrigue. Some students may dread writing a paper on the Declaration of Independence because it doesn’t interest them or it would take too much time.
Finding the Answers
When I decided I wanted to be a writer I knew I needed to stop feeling dread over essays assigned by professors. If I couldn’t write a paper how would I ever write a book or research article? That’s when I let go of the formulas. I was focusing too hard on the perfect way to even think about how to start an essay that I wasn’t writing one. So here is my adivce. I can not guarantee improvement, but I can offer my advice.
1. JUST WRITE!
Don’t think. Just write. What do you know about the topic already without researching? Write it down. How do you feel about the topic? Write it down. Do you have any questions about the topic? Write it down! Basically, write everything down. I prefer to set up my word document first with the basics: Times New Roman, double-spaced, font size 12. After I’ve passed that I don’t have to think about it again and I can JUST WRITE!
2. Research. Fact check. Blah blah blah.
When you just write you are probably going to hit some bumps. This is completely fine. While you are in that step just write it down without thinking twice. Step 2 is when you fix those bumps and smooth them out. Double check any “facts” you thought you remembered. Not sure about a year or specific date? Now is the time to look it up. Don’t spellcheck or fix grammar yet. Right now just read the syllabus and add any specifics the teacher wanted. At this point, you have content personal to you AND anything the teacher wanted.
3. Make it pretty.
Remember how your teacher told you to have so many paragraphs and so many words? Make it happen. Separate everything you have written into paragraphs. Every five sentences indent and start a new paragraph but make sure it makes sense. You can indent after four sentences or seven sentences if it makes more sense. Don’t think about it like a paper, think about it like your words. This paper is your thoughts and ideas. The paper you write won’t be a grade until you turn it in, so until then, trust yourself and express your ideas to your readers even if that is only one professor. Your thoughts matter. Prove it. Make them pretty.
4. Add some more.
Whether you have met the word count or not, I know you have it in you. Keep writing. Research some more or just keep writing. Make it flow and sound nice. This paper is yours that’s why it would be a big deal if someone plagiarized from you. (That reminds me, DON’T PLAGIARIZE.)
5. The finishing touches.
Most formal essays shouldn’t include the words I, me, or you. Go through your essay and take those words out replacing them with indirect terms or completely changing some stuff. Now is the time to check grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You are basically done. This step is just adding the sprinkles. Read it over a few times. Ask a friend to read it. Get some opinions on the paper that aren’t your own. Adjust some things if you want but remember the paper is yours. Make it what you want it.
TADAA! You did it. You read this article. If you just used it to write an essay or if you plan on it then that’s great too! Thank you for reading and I hope this helps. Just remember that writing doesn’t have to be painful or make you worry. You are going to do great.