“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
- Douglas Adams
Moppet's not having the best day. She keeps getting distracted by social media while writing, the local coffee shop is too noisy to think in, and she's spent so long waiting for motivation to strike that now she needs to write her entire class assignment in the next three days! So much for Moppet's weekend plans of hiking and sleeping in!
We have all been Moppet (I certainly have!). But the good news is, we don't have to be! Here are some ways to get back on track with your writing (and reclaim your weekends):
1. Set manageable goals. If you have a 20 page assignment, try to tackle a page a day. If you have a 2,000 word book review to write, break the book down by chapters and give yourself enough time to do a little each day.
2. Reward yourself for meeting those goals. It could be a cup of coffee, some gaming time, or an extra episode of your favorite show. That little celebration keeps us going toward the next goal!
3. Don't edit while you're writing. If you're still worried about perfecting the first page and haven't written the second one yet, you're slowing yourself down. Get it down on paper, no matter how messy and unpolished, and THEN go back and rewrite.
4. Try to minimize distractions. There are browser add-ons like Freedom that work with PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android that will let you block social media or internet regularly or as needed, so you can focus on writing your paper without the temptation of TikTok or Instagram interrupting your flow.
5. Get a buddy (or several)! Building a writing habit is a lot like heading to the gym - you're more successful at sticking to your goals and doing it regularly if you have other people doing it with you! We offer Write-Ins every other week where you can come and focus on your writing time with other students to help build that habit.
6. Leave enough time to take breaks. No matter what you're writing, at some point you won't see the mistakes because you've been staring at it too long. This is especially critical if you're writing a thesis or an article for publication. Step away for a few days and don't think about it at all. When you come back, you'll see things you were missing before.
7. Print your paper and read it aloud to yourself. Once you're ready to edit your first draft, this is the EASIEST WAY EVER to catch mistakes, bad grammar, and sentences that don't flow well. You'll notice things on a printed page or listening to yourself that you wouldn't catch as easily just staring at a screen.
8. Argument-Thesis-Outline-Paper. Even if you hate outlining or want to write first and think of the argument later, sticking to the ATOP order will really help you write faster. Think about what you want to argue in your paper, then develop the thesis from that, then start outlining the points you want to make. Once you have an outline, filling in the details will go much faster!
9. Track your progress. Instead of focusing on how much you still need to write, remind yourself of how much you've already accomplished! Wordkeeper Alpha and other word count trackers can be a great way to see how much progress you've made.
10. Use a citation manager. The longer the research paper, the more invaluable a citation manager is - it helps you quickly format references for your paper without you having to spend hours hunched over a style guide for APA or MLA.
And finally, Moppet's favorite tip: Stop writing while you're on a roll. Once you hit your word count, page count, or time limit for the day, make some notes so you can easily pick up where you stopped tomorrow and just stop for the day. It's easier to jump back in tomorrow when you know what you want to say next, and it makes writing feel less like a marathon and more like a daily task.