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Self Reflection

From an early age, I’ve always loved to write.

I kept diaries from kindergarten all through high school, chronicling the many ups and downs of my life. In high school, I took as many English electives as I could, and I wrote for the school paper and literary magazine. Creative writing has always been a passion of mine as well; I write fiction, poetry, and even songs, although I consider myself as primarily a fiction writer.

As an English major, writing is a bigger part of my life than ever. Whether it’s completing a short analysis of a text for homework, banging out a research paper, or creating a short story for a creative writing elective, odds are I’m usually writing something.

When I tell people I’m an English major, I usually get “Oh, so you must like writing papers.”

Actually, no. I HATE writing papers.

I hate the blank Word doc glaring at me, reminding me how much work I have to do and how little brain power I actually have to do it. I hate the tedium of finding quotes and sources and doing citations. Most of all, I hate having such a great idea in my head but struggling to put it coherently on paper (I have this problem with fiction writing too). Or worse: thinking my idea is great but realizing halfway through the paper, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that it isn’t really going anywhere.

See, once I think of that truly great idea and really get rolling (usually with the help of lots of coffee), I can write a pretty darn good paper. But it’s the process of setting it up that kills me. My brain decides to shut off when I need it most, then I end up procrastinating and hating myself for it later. That Spongebob episode where he needs to write an essay for boating school has become the story of my life.

I’d say that the weaknesses in my writing are my organization and details. I sometimes find myself going on a tangent, or glossing over something that should be explained better, or just saying the same thing in different ways. The thing is, this is 100% preventable, and the best way for me to do it is PLANNING. If I want to write a successful paper, I need to follow a specific process:

  1. Write all my thoughts out, look over my notes, and put together a thesis from this imaginary pile of ideas that I dumped out of my brain.
  2. Make as detailed an outline as possible, including supporting points, quotes, and sources.
  3. Write the paper using this outline.
  4. Proofread and edit.
  5. Turn in the final draft and CELEBRATE! Another paper down.

If I follow this process, writing the paper seems like much less of a monumental task. And if I don’t? To put it bluntly, usually the paper ends up sucking. The aforementioned writing flaws come out in full force.

The hardest part of this process is finding the motivation to actually DO IT. Sometimes, my brain just doesn’t want to work, and writing is like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to be productive in my room (the library is a must) and I can’t concentrate unless there’s a decent amount of caffeine running though my veins. It might take me a while to get going, but once I do, I can’t be stopped. I’ve worked all though the night on a paper just because I knew that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again.

My brain may be a fickle jerk, but when it actually is working, I can create something great. And there’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a paper that you worked hard on and that you know is awesome. I still hate writing papers and would much rather be writing fiction, but an English major’s work is never done! At least someday I’ll be grading papers instead of writing them.

What’s your writing process like? Do you struggle with the demon of procrastination too? How do you stay motivated when writing? Feel free to share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc

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