Are you getting ready to write?

At the start of my writing classes each semester we review how people prepare themselves to write. Everyone does this differently, of course, so, in addition to my own experiences, I like to share advice from different sources. Here’s a timely poster and blog post by Demian Farnworth from that arrived in my email inbox today:
10 Rules for Writing First Drafts
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I’ll be sharing it with my writing students in class next week. (Thanks, Demian!)


  1. Yasmine Christian says

    Well, Some of the things that were mentioned in this blog post are actually ways I get ready to write. For one, I definitely sit in a quiet place just to make sure I can concentrate on what I am about to do. I also make sure my head is clear, and if it is not quite clear from all the craziness from the week, I take a second to take a deep breath, rub my temples, and think happy thoughts. Once I am clear headed I am ready to start writing. I notice that sometimes I can be laying down possibly daydreaming or just some random thinking, and an idea will come to me or a line for a poem I have been stuck on finally comes to me. It is the most amazing feeling in the world, I never force myself to write something, if it is a specific topic I must cover for a class I will do my research, but I will give my brain sometime to relax and process the information before I dive right in. I sometimes will also do quick brainstorming, or I will have a few lines written for a piece I am working on and save it, come back later and finish it, sometimes I even move things around. If I really need a creative boost, I turn up my music to get my juices flowing and thats when my fingers get to typing away.

  2. When it comes to writing I find the hardest part is getting started. I have no major problems with writing, it is just finding the starting point and getting pen to paper that seems to take forever. I find that more often than not I will wait until the last minute to begin any writing assignment, because for some reason, I feel as if I work best under pressure. When it comes to the actual process of writing I typically like to sit in my living room with music playing in the background and start with old school pen and paper. To me, it seems like going through that process gets the creativity flowing and once I start I can’t stop. From there I have to finish in one sitting, otherwise I will lose my train of thought and the creativity that comes with it, so this could be a lengthy process. After I finish with my first draft on paper I will let it sit anywhere from a few hours to a day, this allows me to think about it. When it comes to completing the final draft, I like to take my laptop to Starbucks, grab a coffee and begin typing and editing what I previously wrote. There is something about the smell of coffee and the combination of music and light conversation in the background that helps me finish the process.

  3. Samuel Cahill says

    The way in which I get ready to write (outside of school assignments) is more so when something happens that I find hilarious that I need to write about. I don’t really set out to create from scratch. I went to a family reunion that was a disaster from start to finish and would send out emails to friends and family that started with “dear diary, today….” And would write about the insanity that is my family. At the beginning of my trip I had 2 people on my email list and by the end I had half of my dad’s office requesting copies of my emails.
    Most other writers, in this class and that I know, have done most or all of their writing for school assignments. Personally, knowing a deadline is approaching and having a set structure for a paper is how it gets done. I personally would do as little organizing before hand as possible. Just ramble for a bit on whatever the topic is and see what you have after a page and then organize from there so you have a bit more clear direction to head in with a few ideas. Beyond that, I would think that wherever someone is comfortable or happy would be a good place to start writing. So go find your snuggie and a rum and coke you can pretend is just pepsi and go for it. Bust out that seafoam green sharpie you convinced yourself you needed at staples and have never used. Don’t even worry that it’ll bleed through 8 pages in your notebook. Those things cost like 12 cents anyway and the metal spiral is annoying and you hate that notebook anyway.

  4. I like to be able to take my time when I am writing. I don’t do well with leaving everything to that possible second because otherwise I get into a panic and writing something is even more of a hassle. When it comes to papers and other assignments for classes I tend to outline and have sources that go directly to a certain part of the paper. I work on it bit by bit so that I only have to deal with a certain amount of information at a time. I will find that some information can be used in multiple places in a paper and in that case I will save some extra information to add when I go back after the paper is complete. I really like having time to work on everything at my own pace and then once each piece is done creating a flow between sections.
    When I write freehand I just kind of let things come to me. I don’t really know where things will come from, but I tend to get an idea and run with it. Some things are just so off the wall and out of left field that it allows me to have fun with it. I think being very involved in dance has helped me look at things differently and express stories and emotions in new ways. Just like when I am creating a dance I am able to have no limits and play around with things, similar to when I just want to write and see where it takes me.

  5. Getting ready to write. Since I do not consider myself a big writer this is an act that I do not often perform. Although when it comes time that I do have to sit down and get a piece written I have a very specific way I go about my process. I absolutely hate wearing stiff clothing when trying to write. The very first thing I must do is take off my pair of jeans and sit down in something much more comfortable. I also do not like to sit just anywhere. I need to get cozy lying on a comfy couch, under a blanket to get my creative juices flowing.

    I have heard that a common habit to inspire creativity is to listen to music while you write. This may work for some people but I have found it is quite the opposite with myself. If I listen to music while I write I end up singing along and getting distracted from what I am supposed to be doing. In order for me to be successful in writing I need to be in a very quiet place. Even though writing is not my favorite activity these few little quirks are what get me through the writing process.

  6. Shannon Larcara says

    I think that my writing process comes differently each time I need to write. Whether it is assignments for classes or an article for the school newspaper, there is one thing that seems to occur the most. After I know I need to write something I think about it a lot throughout my days and sometimes I get these bursts of thoughts or good sentences that come to mind. So I always have a pen and paper handy and even if I am preoccupied with something else I will drop it all to write down these thoughts because they are normally the most important. My mind seems to have road blocks more when I am concentrating only on the paper in relation to focusing on a lot of things and keeping it in the back of mind. This helps me a great deal because when I sit down to start to type the paper I already have some ideas and sentences prepared. I also love to hand write things before I type them. My ideas and thoughts always come out quicker on paper first.

    If I haven’t had many ideas running through my head prior to my assignment being due, I will tackle it in pieces. Every time I sit down to write I will be alone without any other distractions. I cannot write the whole paper in a certain amount of time, I need to break it up. I have never set an amount of time to write, but I like that idea. I normally break it up with lunch or dinner or by watching a show. Then when I return to a writing assignment I can make good edits that I did not notice the first time. I also tend to read my final paper out loud, besides spell check this is the best way to find my mistakes and change anything I don’t like.

  7. I love to write, it may take me a while to officially get started, but once I do it just seems to flow like water. Although, getting there can be easier said than done. When I am tasked with writing, I am the kind of person that suffers from a bit of “writer’s block.” I have all the ideas in my head of what I do and don’t want to write, but organizing them into a clear message can be tricky for me. As I started to say in the first sentence, it takes me a while to get started, similar to how a car needs to turned on to warm up before you drive it in colder months. In order for me to get ready to write, I find that there are a couple of things that often help me through the process. One thing that I use to help me write or do mostly anything is through the use of music, I am a huge music person and use it for practically anything. Music helps my mind calm down, clearing all the ideas and thoughts racing around in my head, so that I can try to piece everything together. Music is a big help to me, especially with writing.

    Other things I use to get me ready include writing outlines or plans out for each paragraph, that way it’s broken down in smaller parts. I like to write when the environment around me is quiet, often I stay in my room with the door closed and my music going. As I write I usually re-read any and all sentences I write, seeing if they make sense. When I am really stuck I sometimes talk with any family or friends, bouncing off any ideas or struggles I am having with my projects. Walking away for a while and taking a break can also be helpful to me, allowing me to think about it easier as I am not looking at it all the time. Lastly one thing that I need with writing is simply time, that way I am not pressured by time or anything.

  8. My ability to write mainly depends on what I’m writing about. If a subject is interesting to me I can just write mindlessly and sort it all out later. More often than not, however, my writing is just essays for classes on subjects that bore me. If a subject is intellectually or emotionally stimulating for me then I will have no problem getting the creative juices flowing. Otherwise my creativity depends on the guidelines/deadlines of the project. As a designer I have a similar need to create based on instructions. Yet too many restrictions can be crippling and make even fun topics impossible to write about.
    My writing also depends largely on my surroundings. If I am cramped in my room for too long I will go crazy. If I have to listen to my roommate play video games 24 hours a day I will go crazy. If someone in class won’t shut up and do their work I go crazy. And not the good kind of crazy. In response sometimes I will go to the library or seek and escape elsewhere. My mind wanders a lot (I spend more of my day daydreaming than focusing on any one thing) but I also like to wander around physically. Just being outside and getting fresh air helps me. I may not get any productive thought done, but I get all the distracting thoughts out of my system. Aimless walks and long showers are probably my greatest escapes, while deadlines and outlines my greatest helps.

  9. Alison Noll says

    I have an extremely hard time when I begin to write. Like right now for instance, how am I going to begin this paragraph response? For one, I definitely put too much thought into the brainstorming phase for a writing assignment. I think I have to come up with the best idea first and strictly stick with that. I do put a lot of pressure on myself and just have to be in an extremely relaxed state before I begin to do so. To be in this relaxed state, I have to have enough food in me, be in my own space, and not feel stress or pressure about other work. When I get ready to write, I prefer to have a pen/ pencil and pad. I like being able to write words and thoughts all over a piece of paper and scratch things out when I do not like them. This makes me feel as if I am making progress with where I want to begin. I like to write anything that comes to mind because my ideas tend to branch off into bigger ideas when I have a variety of ideas already on paper. I need to be by myself when writing and without any technology in sight. I get easily distracted by the tiniest things and will lose focus fast! I like when I have enough space to sprawl out on the floor with multiple pieces of paper to keep writing until something feels right, and I prefer this to be in the privacy of my own home. If I were to be around anyone when writing, it would be my mom. She used to be a part of Toastmasters, which is a public speaking group, so she always has creative thoughts and ideas that get my juices flowing. I have to feel like I have made some sort of dent in the assignment to be able to take a break.
    When beginning to write, I try and put myself in the situation and connect the topic to a personal life story. Once I am able to relate to a topic, I feel like it is easier to get a grasp on what I will be talking about and come up with more ideas. If I do feel like I am not getting enough ideas in the moment where I am trying to actually brainstorm, I will stop completely and go on about my day. Sometimes just doing other things will spark ideas and to remember them, I either email myself, or type it in a notes folder in my phone. I like to prepare weeks ahead for writing assignments, especially essays. I do not like to cram my thoughts into just a few days time. I really feel like I write my best when I have given myself a while to think and expand on ideas. Also, I do not like to rush my work. When I am writing about a topic I am not familiar with I have to mentally prepare and gather any ideas from my mom or maybe do some minor research to get a go on things. Overall, I really just have to give myself a lot of time, be in a quiet environment, let my brain go crazy with any ideas and be in a comfortable environment when I am getting ready to write.

  10. I have a few things I like to do when I get ready to write. Depending on what the topic is, I normally will always have the main idea on the top of the page. This helps me make sure I do not go off topic too much.

    I always want to sit in a quiet place so I can think, and I do this because sometimes I do think out loud. Then finally before I even type the first letter on the page, I visualize in my head what I want to say. Now here I will not visualize the entire work, but the current paragraph. I then write one sentence at a time and then almost have full conversation with myself to make sure that I am getting my thoughts through. Once each paragraphs are done I then read it aloud. This helps me to find grammar and spelling mistakes. I then will start all over again, with writing down the main idea for the next paragraph and so on.

    These steps I take allow me to do the work I need in a quick and organized way. Normally I wait to the last minute to write when I have a deadline, because sometimes the added pressure helps me get the project done, and helps me focus on the project at hand.

    Now this funny part is that I did not use any of these steps before I wrote this Comment. Here I just went for it, maybe because I had to think exactly what I do every time I start to write.

  11. I agree with Farnworth—I do need a physical and mental condition that makes me want to write. For example, I cannot attempt to do any kind of writing in a noisy room. Unfortunately, I get distracted very easily which is why I need peace and quiet. Once I obtain that sanctuary, I can allow my mind to wander and my fingers to type whenever a thought comes to mind…if one ever does. I agree with Kenny’s statement as well, getting started is the hardest part for me. I always have so much on my mind, and it takes me a while to get it from A (my brain) to B (the keyboard).
    Since it does take me a while for my thoughts to process, I need a lot of time to write. Without a significant amount of time I tend to be very repetitive, and my thoughts are everywhere. Needless to say, mind mapping is the key to my writing success. Another great writing tool is an outline. Outlines help me focus and center my thoughts so I know where to go with my paper. I also find to be extremely helpful when writing anything—it stops me from writing down filler words, and to make my writing sound smoother.

  12. Katherine Girgenti says

    At the top of the list, I generally like background noise of some kind because I have a very active brain. Usually I use music, which relaxes me the most. I have also found that while I’m a slow worker for the most part, I do tend to get the most out of a short time when I’m cutting it close with my assignment’s deadline (that’s definitely not a suggestion, but I figured I’d state it). As a lot of people say, I find that breaks are also great when my brain is on the verge of exploding. Additionally, I’m a big fan of moving around while brainstorming. And to combine the idea of breaks and moving around, I find going for a run helpful. Especially when I go to the park by my house. I LOVE staring out at the lake there and well, maybe it sounds like some cheesy trail mix commercial, but just enjoying nature. Another in my little bag of tricks is that I like to try and connect the piece I’m writing with something that interests me in some way. It’s not always possible, but it definitely helps with inspiration. Even if the train of thought it takes me on doesn’t make sense, sometimes it brings about alternative inspiration. I had a teacher that told me when I would write drafts to just keep the pencil going on the paper, that it doesn’t matter about organization of thought at that stage, it could be fixed up later. I didn’t really like the idea at the time, but now I understand its benefits much more. In the end, I can be really disorganized with my writing. I love going in guns blazing right on the essay, with no preparation. It’s probably not the smartest way, but when I use my techniques I can get pretty far.

  13. Over the years I have found that I am a huge procrastinator. For example, this assignment is due in 2 hours and I am just submitting it now. So for me, actually sitting down and figuring out what I am going to write is the hardest part. Once I finally get myself ready to write, there can be no distractions. Nobody can be in the room with me, unless of course it is in a library setting where everybody is doing work privately. There can be no noise, some people enjoy listening to music while they work but I can’t have any sounds. The TV can’t be on even if it is on mute because this is a huge distraction that keeps me from focusing on the task at hand. The structure of my writing strictly depends on the topic I am writing on. If the topic is interesting to me I find that my writing can flow and I can get alot done in a short amount of time. When doing research papers and things of that matter I have a strict format that I have always stuck to, and it has worked well for me in the past. I start with an intro that explains what the basis of my paper will be about, and then specifically state the main points of the body paragraphs. After I do that I focus on one paragraph at a time. I collect all of the information needed for that one paragraph and when I am finished I collect the information for the next paragraph rather than doing it all in one shot. I like to take breaks with my writing. I feel if I put in a solid hour of work and can get a good portion of the paper finished I deserve to reward myself with a break. Once my break is over I finish my writing, proofread it, and at this point I am ready for bed. I have never been passionate about my writing, I don’t do it for myself I do it for the person I am writing for. Because of this I will alter my style of writing to what I feel the professor likes because that will ultimately get me a better grade most of the time.

  14. Ashlee Monaghan says

    For me, getting ready to write is completely mental. I almost have to trick myself into a “I’m ready to write” state of mind. I mainly have to do this, because I’m almost never in the mood to write (at least anything lengthy). I’ll drink a red bull, make sure I have 3 more in the fridge and just begin. What I’ve noticed lately is that getting my sources for the piece or paper that I’m writing is ALWAYS half the battle. It’s so much easier to flow and not have writers block if I have an abundant amount of sources and information at my disposal. By disposal I mean I need everything organized. Each topic or point that I need to use for my writing piece has to be together and stay together. For instance, if I’m writing about snowboarding, I need everything about how to snowboard in one area and everything about what’s so great about it in another area. Organization in every sense of the word is needed for me to write succesfully. I always have to be at a desk and NEVER at my room. If I’m in my room, that’s a recipe for disaster. Not only is it my comfort zone, but there are far too many distractions. I never like to edit as I go. I wait until I’m finished then go back and edit. Usuaully I end up changing paragraphs all together. I am always up for new ways of learning how to write better!

  15. I tend to do everything last minutes, the stress motivates me to write fast but I think that because I don’t take time I kill all the chances I have to write well. When I start I can’t stop, I will go on until I’m done.
    I feel comfortable when I am in a place with little to no distraction, I like a background noise. I think that it’s the same kind of condition of when I’m reading, somewhere that feels comfortable and familiar, I like to hear myself say what I’m writing, just like when I read I like to hear the words I’m reading it gives life to the story I write.
    I never really wrote in a creative matter it’s always for school or paper related to my classes material, I like my major so it doesn’t feel like a pain, because I understand and feel strongly about what I learn. Everything makes sense and I make connections with what I experience everyday, it’s amazing to know on a theory level what we all do in communication everyday I have that “ah that’s what it is” kind of feel.
    I hope I can learn more about myself and writing with this class
    Right now I feel like a little machine that’s used to do things a certain way and this class is teaching me something I’m not used to and that I don’t feel that confident about.
    I think its a learning process I hope to feel better by the end of the semester.
    In general my writing has been till this point something I have to do and if it becomes something I like to do.

  16. Generally speaking I am not very good at writing when it comes to formal papers. I trouble formulating ideas for papers and following all the rules that go with writing papers. However when it comes to more informal writing like a story maybe then I not that bad. In my experience I have found that being well-rested helps alot as does making sure I am not hungary or thirsty. To get creativity flowing the one I do the most is day-dream. I have always found that my best ideas come when I am day-dreaming somestimes when I should not be. Writing down a rough outline also helps alot because it gives me something to work off of. Also I find that getting up and walking around maybe getting some fresh air helps if not to help me focus and and come up with ideas then to help relief some stress or just to procrastinate.

  17. I am easily inspired.
    However, I think I write my best when I’m mad. So, upset me and expect a passionate response. I also get ready to write by starting early. If I wait too long, I get agitated at everything and everyone! I start my writing by just rambling, too. I hate structure, I really do. I feel like it takes too much time which is why I need to do it in the end. So, when my professors tell me to hand in outlines or drafts, I’m just like, “I’m not ready yet!” I absolutely positively hate it. I feel like it makes me forget what I’m even doing in the first place. Oh! I should’ve said this first: I get ready to write my starting off with a prayer! Seriously, it works. Things just come to me out of nowhere and then next you know, I see a great grade on the top of my paper. It also relaxes me when I know I don’t have to stress about anything because everything is under control.

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