Getting Ready to Write (in 2012)

We’re off to a great start in my Spring 2012 classes at Rider University! As I do every semester, I’ll be sharing this post with the students in my COM107 Persuasive Writing for the Media class and asking for their comments. I’ve made a few modifications to the post for 2012, taking into account the changing media world…

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. (I believe that when I put a pen in my hand and write on a piece paper the activity “triggers” some creative juices in my brain…) Then I make another list — or an outline — for the project I need to do right then and there. 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. I sign off all social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Then I  close the browser window for my email account on my laptop. If it’s on, I turn off the news/talk radio (sometimes music is okay — it depends on my mood…) and I turn off my TV. 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. Or maybe I’ll watch a TV show I’ve saved on my DVR. 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 short break. If I’m really on a writing streak, I’ll reset the timer and keep on writing… I think doing this makes me feel better because it’s a way to “control” the process.

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

Photo: Haemin Rhee via Flickr, Creative Commons


  1. olivia santoro says

    To get ready to write, I have to make sure that my phone isn’t near me and I don’t have any social networking sites open because I get easily distracted. I also make a list of things that I have to get done and check them off as I go because it helps me visualize what I have left to do. Allotting a certain amount of time also helps me get my writing finished because there’s a deadline, and finally, a large tea also helps me focus and get writing.

  2. What do i do to get ready to write? I need to prepare my ideas. If I go into a writing assignment with no idea of what I’m about to write, I will often end up staring at my computer screen blankly for hours. The best way in which I prepare is by bouncing ideas off of another person. In fact, the other person doesn’t even really need to respond, just hearing the ideas flowing out loud helps me tremendously. I often compare myself to the show House. In one episode, he fired his whole team so he bounced ideas off of a janitor, even though the janitor had no idea about what he was talking about. I do this all the time to my sisters, or roommate, but whatever works right?

  3. Stefanie Santucci says

    Whenever I get ready to write, I first think about the specific assignment and think about the different ways I could approach it. Usually, I start out writing a list of all my “brainstorming” or “rough” ideas down on a piece of paper. I go through the list and consider each idea, and the one I have the most ideas about is usually the one i choose. I like to be in a quite place, that is brighter than darker, and usually sit at a table or desk to get myself into “work mode.” I start to write out a few sentences about each one of my ideas and then take frequent breaks to help separate my ideas, writing for too long sometimes confuses me. Sometimes I play light music in the background, it usually helps me stay on task. I don’t like to be around others, or talked to when I have an important writing assignment because I could easily lose my train of thought.

  4. Katie Kochis says

    My steps for getting ready to write:
    1. First I make a list of what I have to do for the writing assignment- This could be research I have to do, requirements that I need to full fill, or any last minute preparations. I make lists 24/7 and they are the only thing that keeps me focus and on task. I feel accomplished and ready to go every time I cross of something on my list.
    2. Music- I need to be playing music as I write, it is the only thing that can focus my mind and help me think of topics and ideas to write about. I can listen to any song or any genre of music while writing, country music is what tends to help me the most.
    3. The only place I can write is in my room on my desk or bed, for some reason it is the only place I am most comfortable and can get things done. I become very distracted when I am either in a library or type of lounge, I need to hide myself from friends and other distractions- and my room is the only place where I can make that happen.

    After I do these things I am ready, focused and on my way to writing 🙂

  5. Robert Faulstick says

    I personally have to be listening to music the entire time I am writing. The type of music will change with my mood but normally it’s something mellow like Dave Matthews Band or Bob Marley. I also have to force myself to sit down and convince myself that I honestly have nothing better to do. (Sometimes I really don’t) Finally, I have to be in something comfortable like sweatpants or mesh shorts. I just can’t focus or be comfortable in jeans or khakis.

  6. For all my writing assignments getting started is defiantly the hardest part. From the time I sit down to actually do my writing assignment, it takes me at least 20 minutes to actually get started. I have my computer in front of me but I usually will go to other websites just to procrastinate. I hate how long it takes me to actually get started. I give myself a time limit for procrastinating. I look at the clock and say ill start 15 minutes from right now. I need total silence when I need to write something. That means I first lock myself into a room all by myself with no distractions. Before I actually write something, I need to get an idea of what I am going to write. I plan in my head the structure of my writing and get my ideas in order. I need to do that, but I hate actually making outlines which I think is really weird. The beginning of my writing assignment is the hardest. Right before I begin to write I am almost anxious because I know everything I need to include but I have no idea where to start. I tell myself I just need to start writing and it will come to me. Once I start writing, I’m almost done before I know it. Once I get past the first paragraph or so, my ideas really come together. I feel like my writing at the end of my assignments is always better than the beginning of my assignments. When I think I have finished saying what I need to say, I always proof read it. While proof reading I usually change all the parts through out my assignments that sound off until I think it is perfect.

  7. Focusing on writing can be very hard, especially when there are so many distractions everywhere, so just like you, I also need to get rid of my phone, facebook, etc. When I go on the computer to start writing, I quickly open up facebook, look around for just 5 minutes, then exit out and do not look at it again until I am finished writing. That way, I get the urge out of the way so I do not feel like I want to go on facebook during my assignment.

    I also have to be dressed somewhat nice when I want to write. Lounging around wearing pajamas makes anyone feel lazy, so to feel more productive, I’ll wear something that I would wear to class or work.

    Having a glass of water and a snack also help me to finish writing more productively, so I am not constantly thinking about being hungry or thirsty and getting up in the middle of a paragraph. If I do need something or just want to take a short break, I will wait until I finish a paragraph. That way, it is similar to a reward.

    Besides these things, I really do not have any other ways to get ready to write, but I feel like all of this helps me. I also plan to take some of your suggestions into consideration next time. They sound helpful!

  8. Charles Oliver says

    The steps i take to help me get ready to write is first of all turn my cellular device off. After i do that i start off by just jotting down ideas that i may have so i can spread all the stuff that i may be thinking to write it down on paper. After that i gather the information that i like from what i’ve jotted down and then began to write a rough draft. Then after my rough draft is done, i normally take a 20 minute snack break to just relax for a little. After that is done i get started on my final draft make revision’s and after that i’m done.

  9. Theresa H. says

    It depends on what I have to write and what purpose the writing will take that determines what I do when I get ready to write. If I am writing for a grade I must turn off everything! I can not have any distractions but music. Music helps me to calm down in tense situations. So, I pull my headphones out and listen to my Ipod or listen to my Youtube playlist until I have accomplished what I needed to write. The most important thing for me to do is to make a playlist of songs that I want to listen to so I wont waste time picking a song when one song ends. I hate writing for classes so I make myself bored with only listening to music to motivate me to get it done. I also like to do my graded writing assignments in the library because I hate the library and I have no choice but to do it. If I am writing poetry or writing something for fun I can listen to music loudly and have everything up but my music has to be the same mode that my poem is or that im feeling when I am writing for fun. So a playlist is still a must.

  10. Hey, I really think that this was a great article. I agree that you should always have the audience’s perspective in mind when you are blogging. What I do to get ready to blog is to gather my thoughts. We all have thoughts and ideas throughout the day, but many of them don’t get written down. To handwrite little notes to yourself whenever a great idea pops into your head is extremely helpful. This not only goes for blogging, but writing in general, because this way you actually see your ideas on paper.

    As for spam control problems that you may be having with wordpress, try using a plugin that detects whether a comment is spam or not. That should really help. Good Luck.

  11. Whenever I start to write a paper or anything for that matter I have to be completely mentally separated from all my other obligations. As you mentioned above you write your other tasks down and then hide it away, I do the same. My desk has to be clear of distractions because as I’m writing I will space out and think of all the other things I have to do. I try to turn off my Facebook and phone, but then I worry that I’m “missing out” on whats going on out there, so my phone goes back on and I take a small break to peek on Facebook!
    I also have to change my scenery when I’m writing something. If I begin writing in my room, a half hour later I’m on my way to the library or sitting outside. I feel like a change of scenery may bring me new ideas. But as you said I like to make an outline of everything I want to say, and I start writing bullet points and sentences I know I want to include, then I go back and organize after I have all my definite thoughts down. These are just a few of my pre writing rituals.

  12. The step I can most relate to is number four. I don’t time myself, but I give myself a reward to work to. I often tell myself, “okay, once I get to the end of this page I can take a break.” Unless I’m on a roll, I usually have to write a little at a time. Sometimes it helps to do something else for a little bit because I’ll subconsciously be thinking about my writing and an idea will pop into my head. Also, I need to be really comfortable to write. When I feel comfortable I’m definitely more relaxed. I’ll change into sweats and maybe make a cup of tea or coffee. I can’t really relate to step number three because I’ll just keep doing what I like and procrastinate. If I were to watch a TV show I like first I’ll keep telling myself, “okay just one more” and then before I know it I’ve watched hours of TV! Lastly, I don’t need it to be quiet, the TV and radio help me relax, but I people talking really distracts me. Therefore, I write best when I’m alone. Depending on what I’m writing or how I’m feeling that day plays a big part in if I need to do all of these things or none at all!

  13. I agree with your blog 100%. I have a hard time trying to write so by doing these steps I think they will help me a lot. When I write I usually draw a map of what I have to do so that I have something to follow while I am doing my work. Writing a list of this to do also helps me a lot. Does writing down things that are not related really help? I feel that it would distract me more by thinking about it. Number 2 is probably the hardest to do out of all of them because it seems that everyone is always on their phone and it really distracts people. I think putting away all your distractions help a lot. I get more work done when I am in my pjs because it is more of a comfort thing. I really like the idea of timing yourself because it helps to pace yourself, and I heard that having snacks in between studying and writing really helps people to concentrate. I have a hard time focusing on the readers because it is hard to know what people want. I really enjoyed this blog and I will try this steps because I think they will really help!!!!!

  14. Stacey Dileo says

    When I write I need to be in a quiet place. Even the smallest thing will get me off track. I usually like to be alone so that I am able to focus on just what I am writing about. Just like you I like to jot things down before I write or I will forget my thoughts throughout writing. I always like to take breaks or I get to bored and start rushing my work. I can not have my phone near me or I will text the whole time and not get anything done.
    That is how I get ready to write!! 🙂

  15. Benjamin Smith says

    There are several steps that I must also follow before being able to write creatively. Sometimes these steps only take a matter of minutes to run through before I can begin or sometimes much, much longer.

    1. Step one is always used to clear my head of all impending deadlines and activities. I can not be committed to writing when I have other thoughts cluttering my imagination. This involves turning off the television, closing a book and/or just laying down to relax for a few minutes before I can start.
    2. If after this step the words are not flying from my thoughts onto paper, I must reorganize myself and give it another shot. This may be as simple as stepping away from my notebook or computer for a few minutes to collect myself before returning. If the writing won’t come naturally, it’s no good. You can’t force genius into greatness.
    3. When you start to get into a groove, you must do everything in your power to keep yourself in that mindset. Sometimes the groove only lasts a paragraph, maybe longer perhaps even shorter but this is when you will do your best work. To keep myself interested and distraction-free I like to have a warm or cool beverage (dependent on the season) and a brain food snack such as fruits or almonds.
    Your writing is guaranteed to be improved by just following these short and simple steps.

  16. Samantha Corral says

    Getting into a “writing mood” definitely takes me a minute. I have tough time focusing on the quality of my writing when I know I have laundry in the dryer, dishes in the sink, and a shower that needs a good scrubbing. Keeping my entire environment orderly allows me to feel as if my writing can happen without ANY distractions. Once everything is in its place I can begin. I need comfy clothes, a well-caffeinated mind, and a detailed to-do list. I sometimes can get overwhelmed with tasks, but seeing them written out seems less hectic. Because my mind tends to wander and I’m easily distracted I can NOT handle a break. I must finish one project before I can take a breather. After my (strict) routine, my writing comes out to be work I am proud to hand in. 🙂

  17. Karly Ossowski says

    In order to efficiently work on a project, I need to apply pressure. I find that I work best under pressure, whether I have to change the circumstances or what. I suppose this may be why I tend to work last minute, and it’s probably a good excuse as to why I’m a procrastinator. As much as I would like to say that I shut off all distractions around me, I don’t. I tend to listen to music or keep Facebook on the next tab, but I do need there to be no talking. I love contributing to a conversation, so if there is one going on around me I will be awfully tempted to join, and sure to listen. So, isolation is usually the most effective policy. The last step I take to writing a project is writing. Most if not all of my projects are required to be typed, but I have to hand write at least the beginning of my work, if not all of it, to get my project going. That’s how I get ready to write. 🙂

  18. Margaret Casperson says

    Whenever I write, especially for school assignments, I do a few things to get ready.

    1. Avoid distractions

    I also turn off my cellphone, and my iPod so I’m not easily distracted. I also find a quite place to work. At my house, the most quite place for me to work is in my basement.

    2. I write all my ideas down a sheet of paper

    Even though it is old school, I write all my ideas down on a sheet of paper. This way I am not distracted with anything from my computer. Once I get all my ideas down on a sheet a paper, I transfer all of my ideas from the sheet of paper to my computer.

    3. I also try to take a break every 20 minutes

    This way I can relax my brain. I usually listen to one song or eat a snack on my break.

  19. Jackie Ruberto says

    When I get ready to write, I leave some time in my day or week for me to sit and think. Sometimes I’ll write whatever pops into my mind down, but a majority of the brainstorm writing that I do comes after I have thought for awhile about what i’m going to write about. I know that procrastination is not a good thing, but for me, writing at the last minute is how i get by a majority of the time since I feel that I work better when under pressure. I’m not talking literally the last minute where my writing needs to be done in an hour or 2. Im talking last minute like the last week or so before it’s due is when I start to write. If I start writing too far in advance, I start to second guess my writing and make so many changes that I often get confused and then my writing ends up not making sense and its just a big mess in the end. One thing that i cannot do while writing, which most people have to do, is listen to music. I cannot concentrate on what I am writing if there is music playing in my ears because I will either end up writing the lyrics that I hear, or I will get too into the music that I wont want to write anymore. I also cannot work consistently, I need breaks and I need time to relax and regroup my thoughts. I try to take little breaks every 20-30 minutes or so.

  20. Sabrina Santana says

    When I get ready to write, I first make sure that I am comfortable and free from distractions. I also make sure that I am writing somewhere that has bright lighting. I then organize myself and make sure that my work space is clear. Once I begin to think about the particular writing assignment, I make sure to write down all of the ideas that I have. Once I get my ideas down on paper, I narrow them down to the main topics that I want to write about. Then I begin to write.
    If at any point I feel like I am struggling with my writing, I take a break and check my e-mail, facebook and twitter. I may even turn on the television to see what’s on or step outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air. After I take a break, I can usually get back to my writing with no problem. Throughout my writing process, I tend to reread my writing a lot. However, once I am done with a writing assignment, I usually don’t proofread it until the next day. I find this to be extremely helpful because after not looking at my writing for a certain amount of time, I see it with a fresh pair of eyes. This allows me to catch any mistakes that I may have made and also allows me to read it with a different perspective.


  1. […] my thoughts about this in previous blog posts, including this blog post from earlier this year: Getting Ready to Write (in 2012). But, I’d like to reinforce this additional message: Whatever you’re writing, whether […]

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