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How to Start and Succeed at Writing Essays

A black background with a white pixelated cursor in the center.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

We’ve all been there before. The heading is perfectly placed and our name properly formatted.

The keyboard eagerly awaits our fingertips, ready to transfer ideas from our head to the screen. Yet as ready as we think we are to write our paper, that blinking cursor looms before us as if it is mocking us.

Writing essays can be a daunting task, but it does not have to be. Rather than the blinking cursor serving us as a reminder of what we have yet to write, let it be the countdown for the flow of ideas that we will write.

With each blink of the cursor, we get closer to the time when we can start writing. Three…two…one! Let’s begin!

Schedule a time to brainstorm and write your essay

While this takes some proactivity on your part to schedule out your writing process ahead of time, planning when you are going to begin serves you multiple benefits.

Besides ensuring you have enough time to complete your task, scheduling when you will write also holds you accountable to write during your set time period and to mull over the topic in the days or hours prior.

For instance, when I receive a due date and assignment for an essay, I sit down with my planner and plan out a few days when I will brainstorm. I set aside days specifically for writing and revisions. By doing so, I have enough time to finish my essay without having to scramble at the last minute.

We all have busy schedules. So, look at your schedule and adjust it to have enough time. This helps create a bit of extra pressure when you actually sit down to write or plan.

The busier you are, the harder it may be to find time to write your essay. Knowing that you only have the time you’ve scheduled for yourself makes it easier to avoid procrastination and excuses.

I find that the most beneficial aspect of scheduling my writing sessions is that it allows me to do subconscious brainstorming in the days leading up to my writing time.

To further explain, I do not usually write anything down, but I keep the topic in the back of my mind. Over the course of a few days, I start to develop a basic sense of where I want to take my paper, making the writing process that much easier.

Similarly, try to think about your prompt whenever you have free time so that by the time you actually have to brainstorm, you know the angle you want to use to approach your paper.

Brainstorm

This is another vital yet often-skipped step in the writing process. While important, many students may be inclined to eliminate this step all-together in an effort to save time.

However, writing without a sense of direction often leads to more work later on as you will have to adjust your paper to correct for your lack of flow. If you find that brainstorming does not really “work” for you, then maybe you have not found a method that you like yet!

There are many different ways of brainstorming, each one designed for different people, and all of them allow you to get your ideas out and onto the paper.

My personal favorite and one of the most common ways to brainstorm is to do what’s called a brain dump. Essentially, you write anything and everything on your mind about the topic for a set period of time (10 to 15 minutes).

Do not worry about grammar, punctuation, flow, or any of the usual aspects of essay writing. Simply consider what the prompt is asking and convey your thoughts about it (you don’t have to answer the prompt in your brain dump).

Then, when your allotted time is complete, review your paper and look for common ideas that may have come up or aspects that you can incorporate into deeper analyses. Regardless of the prompt you may have, brain dumping is extremely helpful in jotting down your ideas.

Similarly, another common technique is to make a web of ideas. Start off with the main idea in one large circle in the center. Then, make additional ideas branching off of it so that the more ideas you have, the more branches you will create.

In this way, it allows you to visually see the layout of your thoughts and consider which aspect is worth deeper consideration when writing your paper. 

Once you find a technique that works for you, stick to it! Brainstorming is the key to succeeding.

3 Ways To Manage A Busy Schedule

Create a distraction-free zone

When the time finally comes for you to write or brainstorm, make sure that the location you are writing in is distraction-free. While some things may be out of your control, there are certain things you can do to help maintain your focus.

First, put your phone on silent and out of sight. Just like the famous saying, “out of sight is out of mind,” you will be far less likely to pick up your phone and get distracted if you can’t see or hear it in the first place.

Additionally, try to go somewhere quiet if possible. You may benefit from putting headphones on.

At the same time, try to eliminate any and all possibilities for making excuses. One common excuse is to get up to get water or snacks. To eliminate this, keep water and snacks within your reach so you will not be tempted to halt your writing session.

Besides the other things you may do individually, you should decision whether or not to play music. For some people, having music on in the background helps them focus more, so if this is you, play your music.

Personally, I do not play music when I’m writing because I find that it distracts me and can become another thing I use as an excuse (like waiting for the “perfect” song before beginning to write).

The environment you write in is nearly as important as the writing itself. Set yourself up for success by creating a welcoming writing environment.

Write!

At long last, you can finally write. You’ve brainstormed and created the perfect environment.

However, that blinking cursor may still seem to mock you. I’ve found ways to move past that scary emptiness of the first page, mainly by making sure it is not empty.

I mean this literally. For example, when I’m beginning my paper, I ensure that I can actually see the beginning of my brainstorm on the same page.

However trivial this may seem, because I already have some writing on the page, it is not as hard to start writing the actual essay. Regardless of the content or how rough the ideas are, because of the simple fact that the page is not blank, the cursor does not seem as daunting. 

Additionally, keep in mind that you do not have to start writing from the introduction. In fact, you might not write in order most of the time!

Begin writing with whatever you feel most strongly about or the part of the prompt that you have developed the most ideas and direction about.

If you know how you want to format a certain body paragraph, then begin with that! If there is a specific way you want to close out the paper, then write the conclusion first. No one said you had to go in order. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is to always remember that your thesis statement can change. Your thesis is not something that is permanent once it is written. It often adapts and evolves as you write your paper.

The thesis you initially thought you would write may not serve you the same purpose once your paper is completed. Remember to revisit your thesis every so often and change it to match your paper if needed.

If you’re struggling to write with your current thesis, don’t be afraid to change it!

 

These small steps can make a world of difference when it comes to writing your paper. Now the next time you have an essay, you will not let the blankness of the page get the best of you. Happy writing!

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Author: Sophia

Sophia is a current college freshman at Pennsylvania State University with plans to major in marketing. When she's not studying or in the gym, you can find Sophia watching her favorite Youtube channels or streamers. In the future, she hopes to travel the world while developing her marketing skills and building her network.