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Staring at a blank computer screen

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 work space too.  If you have piles of paper and other clutter, it can hinder your ability to think creatively.  Some people do not mind clutter, but I think many people feel more overwhelmed when they have a work area that is unorganized.  Another suggestion is to move to another area in your apartment or house and trying writing.  Sometimes people simply need a change of scenery.  It also helps to turn off distractions such as cell phones, televisions, and other electronics.  The best way to focus on writing is to direct your attention to writing for 45 minutes or any length of time that is ideal for you.  Finally, procrastination should be avoided as much as possible.  If you break down your writing assignment and work on it Monday through Thursday, for example, the final result will turn out much better than if you write the entire paper Monday night.  You need to allow yourself the opportunity to review and revise your paper, and make sure each paragraph is focused and written clearly.


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Lily M.

Anthropology College Instructor

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