Get Ready to Write!

Spring semester (I love writing the word “SPRING”!) has arrived at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In my writing course, COM107 Persuasive Writing for the Media, I’ll be sharing this blog post with my students and asking them to comment below. You’re welcome to comment, too — and I hope you will!

These are the steps I take to get myself ready to write. Sometimes, I only need to do one or two of the steps to get ready… Other times, I need to do it all! ;-) After you read what I do, please tell us what you do to get ready to write.

1. Clear Your Head — and Your Workspace — to Get Organized

To get started on any writing project, I need to focus on the project — not on everything else going on in my life. First, I make a handwritten list of things I need to do that aren’t related to the writing project and tuck the list away to be looked at later. Then I make a list — or an outline — for the project at hand. In my workspace, I move piles of work out of my view so they don’t distract me, which brings us to the next step…

2. Shut Down Distractions
I turn off my phone or put it on vibrate. Then I shut down TweetDeck and close the browser window for my email account on my laptop. I turn off the radio or TV, if either is on. I can’t be distracted if I really want to focus on my writing.

3. Do Something Else First — Something You Enjoy Doing
For me, a walk on the beach (in warmer months) or preparing a favorite recipe can inspire me to “tackle” a writing project. What inspires you? Do that first, then sit down and write, write, write!

4. Time Yourself — and Don’t Forget to Give Yourself a Break (or Two)
Sometimes I actually set a real timer and write for 20 or 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, I get up and “reward” myself by getting a snack or taking a TV break. If I’m really on a writing streak, I’ll reset the timer and keep on writing.

5. Focus on Your Readers/Audience and Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Think about your readers or audience. Who will be reading or hearing the words you’re writing? What do they like or dislike? How can you grab — and keep — their attention? Successful writing projects are written for specific audiences. I sometimes pretend I’m having a conversation with my readers, like I’m doing right now. I hope you’ll tell me what you think by responding to this blog post so we can continue the conversation!

What do you do to get ready to write? Please share your tips and ideas here.

Until next time, take care, and thanks for reading (and hopefully responding)! ;-)

Kathy

Comments

  1. What I do to get ready to write is very similar to what you listed above. The first thing I usually do is write or think about the topic I need to be writing about. Next, I try to outline what I will be writing about, what will go in the introduction, the body and the conclusion of the paper. I love to keep myself organized so before I write anything I try to get only the papers and references I need to write a paper. I also take some breaks but I tend to go on Facebook as my “treat”.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Thank you for your comments, Vanessa. I’m happy to see that you “outline” what you will be writing — that’s a very effective way to get ready to write. I also like your idea about “Facebook breaks”! Thanks, again!
      KM

  2. Melvin Vazquez says:

    When I am getting ready to write (usually the only time I write is when I have to write a research paper) I do many things similar to you, and a few differently.

    Generally I keep a to-do list on my iPhone of most important things I need to do to make sure I don’t forget any of them. But I find that I definitely need to clear my head of any other tasks and responsibilities and go to a quiet and comfortable place, such as my room. I don’t usually worry about doing something I like before I begin writing, but if I’m writing a research, I’m most likely doing it during the weekend and have probably done a few things I like before getting to work. However, I find it very necessary to take breaks during my writing session. I don’t time myself, but if I’ve been focusing for some time and have been productive already, I take a break as soon as I hit any type of mental block.

    For any type of writing, it is probably a good idea to consider your audience so that you can make yourself clear and be understood. For persuasive writing, this is probably much more important because in order to convince someone on a topic, you need to understand what will make that person agree with you.

    So even if I do some things slightly differently, I probably follow most of these steps most of the time when I need to write a piece of any length.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Thanks for your comments, Melvin! You’ve added several good ideas to mine. And don’t worry: We won’t be writing any research papers this semester in our class! ;-)

  3. Amanda Grisafi says:

    When I sit down to start writing, I have presumably completed all my research on the topic already. I prepare my work space by gathering all my research together in case I need to refer to anything while I am working. Then I make a list of all the points I want to include or all of the ideas I have on the topic I am writing about. I do not normally shut down all distractions, but I think that is a really good idea because I find that having the internet open or having my phone by me slows down my working process.

    As I am writing, if I start to get tired then I will give myself a goal like once I have reached a certain word count or page number then I will take a break. I will usually go on Facebook, watch television, or spend some time with my roommate. When I return to my work, I read over what I have already written to get back into the zone and I also edit as I go through it.

    I usually go back and edit a few times after writing by taking some time in between so that when I return to the work my eyes are fresh so I may notice errors I did not notice before.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Great ideas, Amanda! I especially like how you “read over what I have already written to get back into the zone…” Thanks for the tips!
      KM

  4. Rakiya George says:

    To get myself ready to write, I do several things. When I first get the assignment in class, I think about what ideas for what I want to write and at times I would write little notes on the assignment. I think about the type of assignment I have to write and who will read it and who I will let proofread it. From my experience last semester, I’ve decided that I write much better when I’m in the library with friends and we are all doing homework. I bring my laptop (to write), my headphones (to tune out distractions), and sometimes Starbucks (to keep me focused). At first, I go through any and all of my distractions such as Facebook and my email, then when I am finally done with using them, I sign off and leave my iTunes on and just listen to music while I write. The best place for me to write anywhere is somewhere quiet and warm. The library is there for a reason, and I use it as much as possible. I never give myself a time limit especially when I have no other plans to tend to. When I am in the type of area that I described, my papers are written easier and quicker. I don’t spend the hours that I should be sleeping writing because my paper is done already. I do not like to waste time and take away form the time I dedicate to sleep. Writing papers is really easy for me and when I am in the library I get the job done.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Rakiya. Thanks for your comments! You reminded me how much I used to like to “retreat” to the library to get my work done when I was in college. Today, I like Starbucks, too. Thanks, again, and I’ll see you in class on Thursday.

  5. Will Bethea says:

    I think this is some good advice. My brain moves at about 100 miles an hour so I can’t focus on one thing at a time easily. I personally find that I work better with background noise from the radio or the TV. It doesn’t really matter which is on it just makes writing easier for me. I like to use a lot of repetition to drive my point home when writing. I also try to section off my work, I find that if I try to finish a project all at once, I end up doing a lackluster job.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Thanks, Will. I agree with you when you say that it helps when you “section off” your work. I call this “chunking” — doing things in smaller chunks rather than all at once. It’s a great tip! Thanks, again!
      KM

  6. To get myself ready to write, I do some of the same things you do. I clear my head and my desk area, as well as organize myself so my desk isn’t in a clutter. Then I usually put my phone on vibrate and keep it on the far edge of my desk. I make sure I am signed off of Facebook and that my music or any other distractions are turned off. However, I do not agree with doing something I like to do before because that just distracts me and I would not want to go back to or start my writing process. I agree with timing myself. I do tell myself to get my work done in a certain amount of time and I also give myself a break so I don’t feel like a slave to my work. Usually I don’t focus on my readers but it is a great idea because maybe I will get more readers that way. Lastly, I make sure before I start my writing process that everything else I need to do is done so I don’t keep thinking about it or is on my mind. I also brainstorm and make sure I get all my thoughts out on scrape paper first.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Grace. I have to admit that doing something I like to do before I start writing is one of the newer steps in my preparation process. Maybe I’ve become better at focusing as I’ve gotten older? ;-) Also, I like that you bring up “brainstorming” in your comments. We’ll be talking about brainstorming later on in this course. You’re right: It’s very helpful to the entire writing process. Thanks!
      KM

  7. First off I think all of these steps are useful and probably will be helpful to others. Personally, I follow a couple of these steps in a different fashion. When I prepare myself to write, I have different steps depending on what it is I am writing about or for what class. If it is a regular paper for a writing class, I like to first clear my writing space and have all the materials I need in order to write (books, outlines, any papers regarding this essay.) I then reread what the assignment is then I read through all of the materials I have and highlight any important passages or quotes that pertain to the assignment. I like to then create my thesis and make an outline that includes my 3 or more main ideas and all the sub-points and/or supportive material I need to back it up form my resources. Once I have all of this done I take a break and start to write the next day. I break up the outline into different sections which will dictate what I will write each day so I don’t get overwhelmed.
    I think that if you break up your writing into sessions there is less room for error and you won’t overwhelm yourself.
    But overall your steps for writing seem to be very useful I might just start using a couple myself.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Bridget. It’s great that you take such an organized approach to the writing process. And I’m glad you’re going to try a few of the steps I’ve listed, too! As you try them, let me know what you think and if they work for you! Thanks!
      KM

  8. Katie Zak says:

    Overall, I do use many of these techniques, but I do them subconsciously. I also love writing and because I do a lot of free writing on my own, it all gradually became second nature. However, there is one tip that I probably wouldn’t use for myself in preparing the write, which is making a list of unrelated topics to get out of my head. If I were to sit down and make a list of things that are irrelevant to my topic, I would continue to dwell on certain things or people that I would write down. Also, if I were to remember something while making my list, I would most likely dwell on it for some time after just because that’s in my nature. When I recall certain things that I need to address at a later time, I feel like I have to take care of them immediately after they come to mind. Aside from that, I do use most of the other techniques in preparing to write. My favorites are eliminating all background noise from my surroudings. I silence my cell phone and turn off all music and television in the room and focus all of my attention on my topic. Not as often as I rid my surroundings of noise, I also do something to spark inspiration, such as go for a run or complete a chore or a task. Anything to get my excited and passionate about what I am about to write helps me tremendously. Lastly, I also take breaks from writing for many reasons ranging from hand cramps to writer’s block, or just to walk away for a while in case any new ideas would come to me with a fresh mind. Sometimes my best writing follows a break where I completely walk away for a short break. In addition to these tips, I also like to make sure that I am alone because I can think aloud or in my head. Sometimes I need to say things out loud to see how they sound, or if I like the idea as much as I did when it was only a thought in my head. I also like to have all of the basics of writing, meaning having a good pen to write with, usually a fun tablet or notebook of some kind, anything else to get me excited about putting my thoughts down on paper. Writing has always been a leisurely activity for me, especially since I keep my own private journal. It helps to me to vent and let out any frustrations or feelings of excitement I may have towards an event or another person, and more than anything, I write whenever it feels natural and necessary to me.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      You bring up several great points, Katie! I especially like that you say, “Sometimes my best writing follows a break where I completely walk away for a short break.” I’m glad you enjoy writing so much and I hope you’ll like our class! Thanks!
      KM

  9. Ashley Stoffer says:

    Idyllic things always inspire me. Old movies, old houses, and old books do the trick. When I smell a worn, leather journal, I am ready to fill its pages with all that is on my mind. Other things that inspire me, in a nutshell: hot tea, fireplaces, Ohio in the autumn, school supplies and remembering my excitement as a child about to begin another year of school, colors, God, family, friends, the ocean, libraries, tears, laughter, silence, chaos, airports, the United States military, passion in others, etc. I can find beauty and inspiration in a plethora of things that encourage me to write.

    When I find the things I want to write about I mentally, and sometimes physically, seclude myself from the world. Most times, even in the most busy places, I hear nothing as long as I have a pen in my hand. Technology wasn’t this far advanced when the greatest writers of all time wrote their epic stories, and like them, I prefer paper and a utensil in hand. Now, I have to get comfortable before I begin. I cross my legs and drown myself in a big, fuzzy blanket. Then, as it seems to happen every time, I subconsciously begin twirling my hair in thought.

    Once I begin, I write and write for hours. If I get up in the middle of my storytelling, I know any one thing could distract me from what I am trying to stay focused on. So, unless I am writing a novel, I finish my writing before changing tasks. As I write, I imagine my story being read by an actor as a narration during a movie. It doesn’t matter what the topic, I find that image to make the words seem beautiful and intelligent.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Wow, Ashley! Through reading your comments, I can visualize you sitting there in your fuzzy blanket and writing for hours! ;-) You seem to be very comfortable with the writing process. That’s great! Thanks for your comments!
      KM

  10. Stefani Williams says:

    In order to write better, I usually drink a cup of coffee then procrastinate by going on Facebook or playing a challenging game of Tetris for an hour or so before getting into a serious writing mode. I know that it’s not a very good way to get into the zone or be productive in any way, but at least I know I’ll have my social networking addiction out of my system for a while. Then, I play inspiring classical music to get my mind churning with unique ideas. I try to crank out as much as I can, before I get weary and distracted again. At that point, I play Tetris again or stare at my bed, which usually motivates me to finish writing. In general, I try not to do things at the last minute, but I find that the pressure of being late motivates me more than any game of Tetris does.

  11. Laura Rista says:

    First and formost, I always make sure I eat something like fruit or carbohydrates before i do any assignment. This will help keep my energy up and allow me to focus on the task at hand. After, I find a nice quiet, spacious workplace so I can stay organized. Clearing my mind of stresses and negative thoughts is essential because, I need to be able to only think about what I am writing about. Before actually doing the assignment, I must research my topic and be able to relate to relate it somehow. Lastly, in order to keep time management, there is always a set deadline. Sometimes turning off my cell phone or television can help cut down the time it takes to do what I need to do.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Laura! Eating before writing works for me, too! But, I write so much, if I ate carbs before every writing task I’d be huge!! ;-) It’s great that you have some time-management techniques in your preparation process. Thanks for your comments!
      KM

  12. Tara Dalrymple says:

    When I am getting ready to write a paper there are a few things I must do before I begin.
    First, my brain has to be focused on the task at hand. If I am tired in any way, I take a power nap to refresh my body and my brain.
    Once my brain is ready, I go back to my computer and make sure everything around me is turned off such as the TV and music. It must be completely silent for me to concentrate.
    After that I see how long of a paper I am intending to write. If it is more than one page, I make an outline of what I will be writing about throughout the paper so I do not get off topic. If it less than one page I think about what I want to write about in my head.
    Lastly, I focus on who my audience is because that will depend on my style of writing.
    It is amazing to me that I do all these things within the matter of seconds or minutes before I write a paper. It has come so natural to me that I really had to think about what I do before I sit down and start a paper.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Tara! “Power naps” always work well for me, too! It’s great that the preparation process is a natural process for you! ;-) Thanks for your comments!
      KM

  13. Before I starting write I always make sure to read over throughly of what I am asked to do. I jot down a couple of notes of what the professor might be looking for it. Also i always think about what will catch readers attention. What will make the reader actually care about what I am writing. Once I have got that down I take a break because just that task takes me a little while. Writing is a process full of many steps personally i have to do in a certain to submit a quality assignment. After I make an outline of the notes I had created I fill in the outline. The outline general will include always the Thesis/Residual Message, The Body Generally Three paragraphs and then Conclusion. Which, briefly goes over what i have discussed. Now I am ready to write thats the easy part! I Prepared myself by taking the steps then the writing easy. I go back to my notes and to my outline for guidance. While i Write i tend to put all my thoughts down no matter what it is ill write because I can always go back and edit. After writing I always ask someone to read over it for thought and to check for errors. Of course after I read it just to see if I missed something! These steps might seem long but it makes the actual writing part easy! I can never just sit down and write i draw blanks i have to map it out! That how I get ready to Write!!

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Cyril. I think it’s great that you “always think about what will catch readers attention. What will make the reader actually care about what I am writing”! The type of writing we’ll be doing in our class is different from the “thesis”/research-paper-type writing process you describe in your comments, but I think you’ll adapt well to our writing assignments. “Mapping out” your writing is a great technique to use for any writing assignment. Thanks for your comments!
      KM

  14. Jade Marzan says:

    When I get ready to write it is a long process. At first i sit down and think about what it is I want to write about. Then i jot down a few main ideas and topics on a sheet of paper to prepare for what it is i want to write. Once all my ideas are all formed and together, I then will just free write. I write down anything and everything and hope that it comes out good. Then when I am finished with that I will read what I have to see if it makes sense, most times it doesn’t. Then I will go back and take out what doesn’t sound good and re-write everything to make sure it flows well together. Once I think it flows well I will usually have either someone else read what I have written, or re-read it over and over again so that I can make sure that all my ideas have been formed correctly. A lot of times after I write I will go back and add more information into what I have written to make sure I touched on all the main points.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Jade. Thanks for your comments. The way you describe it, for you a writing project is a very long process… Maybe this semester you’ll discover some time-management techniques that will save you time when you’re writing? Let me know if I can help you shorten the process in any way. Thanks, again, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
      KM

  15. Nick Charamis says:

    I do some of the same things you like to do before you write. I try to stay away from distractions, and try to get my friends to leave my room. I usually lock the door so that people are not coming in and out of my room. Another major distraction for me in my girlfriend texting me. My solution for this is to put my phone on vibrate so it does not continue to buzz, or I will just tell her that I have to do my homework so I will talk to her later. I also like to take many breaks when I am writing something large like an essay. I find that coming back to my work is very helpful and it helps me see previous mistakes that I made in my writing. One last thing that I try to do is think about what I am going to write about before I actually start writing. Just how people like to use different pre-writing methods, I like to pre-write in my head. This helps me think of my main goal so that I can always stay on task.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Hi, Nick. I agree with you when you say, “coming back to my work is very helpful and it helps me see previous mistakes that I made in my writing.” I also think it’s very interesting how you “pre-write” in your head! Thanks for your comments!
      KM

  16. MyNeshia McKenzie says:

    When preparing for writing I do basically the same thing as you except I do not like to give myself a time to be finished. I find that when I give myself a specific time I began to rush through my work and I’m not able to get the best quality ideas. Other then that small factor I do everything thing else. I like to have a clear, organized and quiet space to work; I seem to think better. Another thing I often do is listen to music before I begin to write, feels it opens up my creativity side and I begin to expand my thinking. Once I am done procrastinating by listening to my music, I start to get to work and begin to make an outlines. My outlines just consist of basic ideas of my subject. When my outline is finished I am ready to begin writing.

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      MyNeshia, Thanks for your comments! I agree with you that it’s not good to “rush” the writing process. Setting a time deadline isn’t good for everyone. Also, I think it’s great that you outline your writing! Thanks, again, for your comments!
      KM

  17. Shannon Aloise says:

    Before I write, the first thing I do is create my workspace. It must be without ANY distraction; no roommates, television, music, anything. I arrange the books and resources around me so that I do not have to get up for any reason. I also get water or something to drink and something to munch on like carrots.
    Then I get busy researching! I write everything out by hand in bullet points to keep myself on track. While I’m writing, I write as much as I can without looking at my notes and when I get stuck, I use the notes to give myself more ideas!
    Your number 1 about making a list that is unrelated to my project would not work for me. This would distract me and I might even get so distracted that I start to work on one of the other tasks that need to be done.
    Your number 3 is something that I might try next time! Taking a walk or watching a movie would help me to relax and not think about school or work for awhile. I just hope that I haven’t procrastinated too much so that I have time to do something for myself!
    SA

    • Kathy Magrino says:

      Thanks for your comments, Shannon. It’s nice to see that you’re a healthy snacker when you write — carrots are great. I should try some healthy snacking, too, but I usually go for the chocolate! ;-) See you in class!
      KM

  18. Hey can I use some of the material here in this site if I link back to you?

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