Getting Started

Getting Started

Although there are many different types of writing, each with their own requirements, they can all present a difficulty for writers: getting started. Maybe you stare at a blank page for hours on end, trying to figure out how to begin. The more writing you do, the more likely you are to experience a time when you are stumped. So, what do you do?

Find Your Interests

If a topic seems uninteresting or vague, looking at it from a fresh angle might inspire you. Discovering your interests is time well spent because writing will come easier afterward.

If you have too many ideas as you begin writing, make a brief, bulleted list with a sentence per idea, so you can determine which ideas are the strongest.

If the topic is very personal, look for an approach to the prompt that has fewer emotional ties. Remember, you are in charge of how much you share, and there’s often a way to tackle personal writing without causing yourself undue stress.

If you have personal experiences you want to use in your writing but cannot, use those experiences to inform your research instead. This way, your writing does not specifically refer to your life, but you can still tackle similar ideas.

Think the Topic Through

Once ideas stand out in your mind, make a bulleted list of them; this list can be as informal as the thoughts in your head, and it does not need to be in a specific order. For now, just get the ideas down on paper.

If necessary, step away from your computer or notebook and brainstorm while doing a chore or activity that does not require much thought. You might find some ideas come more easily when you are not intensely focusing on them.

Make an Outline

After making your short, bulleted list, you can revisit, expand, and organize the ideas in the order you want to use them in your writing. This list will serve as an outline. For more information on outlining, see the Stone Writing Center’s (SWC) Outline handout.

However, if outlining is harder for you than writing, try moving on to your rough draft instead. You can always make an outline after you have finished the first draft. Then you can compare the draft and outline to verify you present your ideas in the best order possible and ensure you have not missed anything important.

Start Writing

Remember, you do not have to write paragraphs or sections in a particular order. Write what comes easiest to you first, and when you hit a wall, skip ahead until you are comfortably able to write again. You can always rearrange your ideas during revision.

Do not worry about grammar while writing your first draft. That is a detail to tackle when you start editing.

After you have finished all of these steps and written the first draft of your paper, you have done the hardest part! Take a moment to breathe and congratulate yourself.

The next stage is typically revision, which is covered in the SWC Revision Strategies handout.

Page last updated July 7, 2023.