How do you get ready to write?

Another semester has started for us at Rider University. One of the classes I’m currently teaching is COM106 Writing for the Communication Professions. Each time I teach a writing course, I like to start the semester with a discussion about the writing process, in general, and the steps each of us need to take in order to get ready to write. As I’ve done in past semesters, I’ll be sharing the post below with my students and requesting their comments here. But, feel free to add your comments, too. We’d love to hear about what motivates you to write! Hope to hear from you soon!

How do you get ready to write? Whatever I’m writing, these are the steps I take to motivate myself and to get the “creative juices” flowing. 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 by sharing your comments below. Thank you!

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!

Well, these steps are the ones I take when I’m getting ready to write. However, we all have different ways of doing things… Here are some tips from Janis Butler Holm: Getting Ready to Write: Rituals vs. Distractions.

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 Magrino



  1. Tempestt Duncan and Jazmine Brown says

    After a deep discussion, we found out that the way in which we prepare for writing is by brainstorming. Depending on the subject, sometimes we like to create a web with all of the ideas in our head and then put them in order. If we are trying to pick a topic we list all of the ideas and see which topic we can write more passionately about.
    After reading the articles, we realized that some of the ways that they suggest getting ready to write are much different from ours. Sometimes we do get distracted by television, phones, and different things that we see online. Specifically, advertisements can cause us to get easily distracted and want to venture on to another website. In the future we will take McGuinness’ advice to let things go and focus on the task at hand! 🙂

  2. Erin McMullin, Krista Musinski, James Burroughs says

    While discussing how we get ready to write, we all discovered that we share some similarities. For example, we like to be in a comfortable environment and believe that starting our essay, assignment, blog, etc., is the hardest part. Krista and Erin need complete silence in order to think effectively. Whereas, James can work in noisy environments. We all favor creative assignments that apply to our interests whereas writing a given assignment by the professor.

    We also found out that we have differences when it comes to the writing process. Erin realizes that she works better and thinks more clearly if her room/surroundings are clean and organized. Krista likes to eat or drink coffee while she is writing, and James does his research while writing the paper but also finds it effective to make an outline. After analyzing the ways we all write, we learned that we have similar ways to go about writing. Also, it was interesting to learn that what we may not like may facilitate writing for another.

    -James, Krista, Erin

  3. Alexis Brickner & Jackie Rodman says

    Ways that we are same-we both find it harder to write when it is for an assignment or class. As for creative writing, we find it much easier to come up with a well written paper or story. As for where we like to do the writing, it is the same in the sense that we both like to be in our rooms, Jackie with music but not to loud. Myself, I like to have music on but if I am writing for an assignment or class, I find it harder to concentrate when there is music playing. Jackie likes writing stories but has not been able to do that for a while. I (Alexis) throughly enjoy creative writing and I wish that I could do it more often but as life gets busier, the free time fades away. The last time that I (Alexis) was able to find time to sit down and write creatively was last January, 2010 when we had a huge snow storm. I was stuck inside of my house so I decided to just start writing. I never realized how much fun it was to just write a story and how easy it was to come up with such awesome creativity. The story however is still incomplete, as I said, I have become so busy that I find it harder and harder to sit down, while relaxed, and finish what I have started. Jackie is the same way. She used to write stories all of the time when she was in elementary school, but as she got older she started to get busier and didn’t have as much of a desire to write on her own anymore.

  4. Rob and Alyssa says

    When I’m assigned to write a paper, I usually try to come up with an outline of what I plan to write because I tend to be a very unorganized writer. I can be a scatterbrain when it comes to writing.

    I am not able to write while lying on my bed or anywhere comfortable. It’s too easy to just fall asleep and take a nap. I also can’t read while lying down.

    We like to be in a quiet area because we will be easily distracted and usually procrastinate until the last couple of days. Our brains work faster and more efficiently during a time crunch. We work better under pressure. Most of our writing gets done not long before the due date. We both agreed that assignments for school that require concentration and “perfection” are easily put aside, whereas blogging or personal writing is more relaxing and natural.

  5. Brandon, Irv, Aaron says

    We like to be pressured when we write. We like to wait until the last minute and “bang it out.” We get distracted very easily, so we shut off and block out all types of social network and contacts. It is very important not to take a break because it will mess up our rhythm. Once we start writing, we don’t stop till it’s finished.

  6. Michelle, Lisa, Amanda says

    Michelle likes to stay organized by writing an outline before she begins writing. She likes to reference her outline and write her papers and stories one section at a time, but not necessarily in order. Sometimes she may find it more beneficial to begin with her conclusion. Lisa and Amanda share almost the same routine when it comes to writing; they both would rather dive right into their work and get all of their ideas down on paper before those ideas are forgotten. They both make sure to go back and revise and edit their work.
    Michelle strongly disagrees with Lisa and Amanda’s way of starting to write. She would rather take her time and stay organized with an outline. Lisa and Amanda disagree with Michelle and would both rather quickly get started and make sure they get all of their thoughts down.

  7. Glen Healy & Nick Charamis says

    From a creative standpoint I(Glen) feel as though sometime “I got it” and sometimes I don’t. I find that trying to write or create “the best thing ever”, is part of my problem. Instead of starting with the basics, and building from there, I try to just start out with the best piece of writing ever created. With this being my biggest issue, not reading other writings before I begin my own is actually the best thing for me. If I layout what my goal is, and start out by fulfilling my requirements, I find that once the ball gets rolling, I can then launch into full out creative mode.
    Nick feels as though he has to “strike while the iron is hot”. If he gets into the “creative zone” he has to capitalize on that, and not let the moment pass. If he gets interrupted, its hard for him to go back and finish being creative. In order to help overcome this, Nick does outlines and lists which will enable him to “go back” and get back into the mind-frame he had while he was creative.

  8. Kristina DiDonna says

    Before I write a paper I try to plan out what each part of paper will say. Like kind of separating the main topic into sub-topics. Brainstorming is the best way of saying it. You think of everything I am going to talk about and then start the paper. Im different than most people, I cant sit in a quiet room and write a paper. I need to be relaxed listening to music or even have the television on low. I like having the choice to take a little break if I need it but not completely stop. I also have to be in the mood to write a paper, once I get started, If I feel like I’m on a roll, I won’t stop till i’m done and then its like weight is lifted off my shoulders. Everyone is different when it comes to writing, but there is many ways where people can be similar. I tend to enjoy writing more when I am able to choose the topic, but I feel like when you have to write something you don’t want to write about its like a challenge and you learn more about other things.

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