Turning out the first paper of the semester can be a bit daunting, especially when you are new to the class, and unsure of the teacher’s expectations. We are all secretly convinced that we are horrible writers, incapable of turning out a decent bit of work–or we are overconfident, and end up with an essay slapped together 5 minutes before class that will assuredly be brilliant. If you are one of those people, please continue on your way. This blog post is not for you; it is directed at my fellow anxiety ridden students who are about to melt down in a panic attack at the thought of writing an essay. Trust me, I am right there with you. However, after a long career of several panic-riddled essays that I have survived, I would like to offer a few tips to overcome the fear of writing.
- It just isn’t that bad! You may feel as if you are the worst writer on the face of the planet, your essay is doomed to fail from the get-go, and no idea you have is worth while. Say hello to the floor for me as you melt onto it. Then, regain consistency and consider the facts: you have made it this far in your education. You must have something worthwhile to say, otherwise you would have failed out long ago. Writing the essay for your English 1 class will not doom all of us to world hunger, nor will it solve the problem (most likely), so just relax and write. It is only a grade.
- Self esteem is key! As you are sitting there plotting out your outline, convincing yourself you are going to fail, you are, in fact, dooming yourself to failure. One of the greatest anxieties for any student about putting his/her thoughts down on paper is the simple fear that those thoughts may not be important. Well, they are! Try putting post-it notes around your computer, thinking of positive things as you write. Super, super corny, I know! But that little vote of confidence may be just what you need to get you over the hump of writing that first sentence.
- Set goals you can accomplish! One of the hardest things to do in writing is to actually feel satisfied with the work you have accomplished for the day. There is always a sentence that is off, more you could have said, blah, blah, blah. So, moral of the story, set goals realistic to what you can get done in a day. Work on one paragraph in a two hour span. Heck, work on a few sentences that seem off. Limit what you do, and be smart enough to be happy with your work.
- Do a rough draft! Notice: the best papers actually take a lot of work. Give yourself the opportunity to put your best foot forward by actually starting a paper early. This can help relieve the anxiety of starting the paper as well. If you know you are just working on a rough draft, you can just start writing, and not have to worry if it sounds perfect or not.
- Just start, don’t edit! Okay, I know this is kinda the same point as above, but it is an important one, so I am going to repeat it. When you start the drafting process, DO NOT begin by immediately going in and editing your work. This would drive the most gifted writer mad. Give yourself the kindness and courtesy of being forgiving with your rough draft. Let it have mistakes, and correct them after. You can alway set it aside and bring those fresh eyes–and brains–back to it later.