The cursor blinks like it’s accusing you of not being a writer, not being able to communicate with the written word. Oh, if only you were in front of a group of people, you’d have no trouble chatting and getting to the topic you want to discuss. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable on stage, before a mic’d podium, with throngs of faces watching you with anticipation. Maybe you’d thrive there.
But there’s something about a blank page, about that cursor waiting with the same expectation as that sea of quiet and open faces that causes your whole system to go into deer-in-headlights mode.
As a teacher, part of my job—and when it works, it’s one of those beautiful eureka moments that I live to witness—is to help my students get their ideas out of their head. Many of my students confuse the struggle of penning their thoughts with not having ideas, or not having good ideas. One of the most common questions my composition students come to me with is: How do I draft?Continue reading
I was a time management tutor at a university for two years. Most of the students who came to me for help described themselves as master procrastinators. These students were also highly intelligent, talented, and hardworking.
In fact, my students were often so driven that they could work on a project they enjoyed for hours without even considering the time spent. But for some reason, the half hour required to write a paragraph for a less enjoyable assignment could seem insurmountable.
When we think about our own procrastination, we often feel guilt. We criticize ourselves as disorganized, distracted, or lazy. But these descriptors aren’t accurate. If we choose to, we could just as easily point to instances in which we were organized, focused, and diligent.
This is because procrastination is not a character flaw. It’s something that is situation-specific, and we are all susceptible to it.Continue reading
When you write for yourself, it is tempting to overlook falling short of your goals. You don’t risk being chewed out by a supervisor or letting down a team, and no one has to know you haven’t produced as much content as you were planning.
The flexibility that comes from being your own boss is freeing and might be a major reason why you chose this path to begin with. But if you take too much advantage of this freedom, you will begin to suffer from a lack of production, leading to a lack of income—which, ironically, restricts your freedom.Continue reading
The word “philosophy” means to be a friend of wisdom; to become wiser. In this context, a philosophy of writing refers to understanding and reflecting on your writing, with the goal of improving it. This inevitably entails questioning possible preconceptions and changing your mind.
Let’s start with one such assumption: What is the first image you conjure up when you hear words such as “writer,” “author,” or “writing”? Likely, you would give a description such as “a person using a typewriter,” “a notepad and a pencil,” or “a person using a laptop.”
These are all perfectly valid and understandable responses. We often use such images to convey the concept of writing—indeed, on this very page you are now reading. The thing is, such images focus on writing as an activity, not as a process. In other words, they emphasize those parts of textual production that are related to practicalities: outlining, typing, or editing.
In a way, approaching writing only as an activity—that is, focusing only on its practical aspects—conditions us to forget about what precedes these practical stages. We often talk about the right time to write or how much one should write per day, and for good reason: These are crucial aspects of writing. But they’re not the only ones.Continue reading