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A lot of people simply don't enjoy writing--and they do their best to take any shortcuts they can find to make the process shorter. One shortcut is avoiding outlines. Outlines can seem like just another cumbersome step. Why not just get the words on the paper and get the thing done?   But outlines serve at least two purposes: generating ideas and organizing the content. Many writers experience some form of writer's block. That empty page is intimidating, the clock is ticking, and the brain...freezes.    Outlining can help unblock things. It's easier to write down a few main ideas and some supporting facts than it is to come up with complete sentences and paragraphs, after all. Start with the introductory paragraph and write at least a fragment with the main idea. For beginning writers, it may help to highlight this to remember that the whole paper should support this focus.   Generate a few more ideas related to the topic. These might... read more

From August 2009 to August 2012 I worked as a writing tutor at Northern Illinois University's Writing Center.  I sometimes had appointments with students who had trouble starting their essays.  After asking them about their writing habits and how they work best, I learned that many students made the mistake of sitting behind the computer for too long without writing anything or deleting everything they wrote.  The deleting cycle is just that, a cycle, because if you think that everything you write is not good enough, you will never have anything written.  I suggest getting up and doing something else for 20 minutes or so, and then taking out a piece of paper and jotting down ideas, not necessarily in perfectly formed sentences.  Perhaps it helps to make a bullet point list or write down a broad topic at the top of the paper and then narrow down the topic as you work your way down toward the bottom of the page.  Sometimes it helps to organize your... read more

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