The end of the semester is near! And while thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas break are distracting and exciting, there are still some final assignments to be done. One item in particular is popular among professors before exams: essays. Weekly quizzes, assigned readings, and discussion questions are at a close, but there are still the final papers to crank out. As a journalism student, I have spent 90 percent of my college career writing. As a side effect, I am all too familiar with writer’s block. So here are some tips to battle the pesky mind block and finish the final papers looming between you and winter freedom.
I know, it sounds like your high school teacher all over again, but I promise she had a point. When you make an outline, start with very general topics. Then under each large topic, narrow down with examples and details. Before you know it, you’ll have the entire paper planned, and all you have to do is add the transition sentences. That way, your brain isn’t stressed and concentrated on producing a whole paper in one sitting. Just concentrate on the things you know you have to include, and organize them.
2. Write out of order
Don’t be fooled into thinking that papers must be written in order: Introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Sometimes you know what you want to say in the body, but you get hung up on how to open the paper. So skip it. Write what you’ve already got planned in your mind. Then you’ll have the majority of your paper done, and you can revisit the introduction with a clear mind.
3. Ask your friends
Now, I don’t mean ask the people that you sit next to in class everyday what they’re writing their papers on and cheat. I mean really ask your friends. Even if they’ve never had the class, chances are they are at least a little familiar with the topic. Or, if nothing else, they’re familiar with having to write papers. So introduce your topic to them and ask how they would approach it. Getting an outside point of view can inspire new ideas and make you look at your topic in a new way.
I know, I know, who actually reads their textbooks? But if you’re really struggling with a paper, chances are the information you’re searching for is in the assigned reading and research materials your professor associated with the paper topic. Sure it can be boring, but you’ll save time if you just make yourself read. Otherwise you’ll scramble for information, get nowhere, and end up having to report to the textbook anyway. So go there first. Get the information you need from your class materials and writing the paper will be so much easier. It’s the last big paper, so don’t ruin your grade now.
5. Don’t procrastinate
Easier said than done. No matter how many times we’re told not to procrastinate, and how much we know it’s true, we inevitably save our papers until the night before they’re due. Giving your self some wiggle room can really lessen stress, which in turn, lessen writer’s block. Write just a little a day, and the whole paper will come together in a few days. If you are going to save the paper until the last minute, try to outline or research beforehand. That way you already have your ideas, so all you have to do is crank it out. You’d be surprised how relieving it is to get a paper done early. Plus, that means on the night before it’s due, you can be grabbing a drink at Tin Roof instead of spending the night with Mr. Hodges.