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The writing process

Learn more about aspects of the writing process to help you stay motivated and on track with your writing.

Improving focus

When you write

There will be times when you'll find it challenging to concentrate on your writing. One simple way to improve focus is to anticipate distractions and plan for moments where you may be less productive. Make it as easy as possible to write in times or places where you tend to be most productive. If you live and work in a busy household, this may be before or after your children, roommates, or others around you get up, go to school, leave for work, or wind down for the night. Scheduling as many times as possible for yourself to do this work, even for short periods, will help you avoid situations where you are under pressure to write most of the assignment at once. If it just so happens that you find yourself writing lots during one of these scheduled sessions without that last minute panic, that's a bonus. 

Where you write

Building habits around where you write can be just as important as being conscious of when you write. Returning to a familiar setting to work on your writing day after day can provide you with a constant reminder to complete whatever task you typically set out for yourself in that space. For example, it may be far easier to tune out distractions when you are at a desk by yourself than in a busy room with many other distractions.

Turn off distractions

Try using a dedicated device or separate account on your device that has limited or eliminated access to entertainment applications. You might even try the old-fashioned approach of shutting off your device and working out your ideas with pen and paper, although at some point you will probably have to compose and submit the best part of what you have written electronically. If you don't need an internet connection, consider turning off your internet access to reduce the potential for distractions such as email or social media notifications.

Image credit: Norbert Levajsics via Unsplash

Know when to step away, try something else, and return when you are ready

One of the advantages of setting goals (covered earlier in this guide) is that it is a lot harder to lose focus and run out of things to do when you have listed your writing process as an interconnected series of small, manageable steps, rather than a seemingly impossible maze of endless possibilities. As described in Setting Goals, many of these steps may not involve writing at all, but may be related to looking for information or planning your paper. Give yourself enough time to work on these tasks--they are part of the writing process too! 

What aspect of the topic is most interesting to you?

If you find yourself losing focus or thinking of something different once starting on a task, try to redirect those thoughts to an activity that most interests you at a particular moment. Often, this will often be the aspect of your topic that interests you the most, or the part of your paper that you may already know the most about. For example, you could focus on your analysis of a specific article that you know you will need to include in your eventual paper. Similarly, you could focus on a personal experience that is relevant to your topic and that you want to capture in writing even before you figure out what comes before and after that part of your assignment. For example, if you think of a new idea for an improved thesis statement in the middle of writing a paragraph, working on the overall thesis and organization for your paper may be a more productive use of your time than continuing to write a paragraph that may no longer be relevant or worthwhile to the new approach.

Give yourself permission to change direction

When all else fails, remember to plan for and give yourself permission to work on something else entirely when the need arises. Sometimes, you will not be able to write no matter how much time you spend trying. Instead, spending time on other tasks may mean you will have more time to return to your writing tasks at a later point.