Smart writing advice for students: “Finish before you start”
Starting to write from a blank sheet

What’s the phobia about writing?

The first challenge students normally experience whenever they are confronted with the task of writing is how to get started. Referring to Newton’s law that an external force needs to act on a body at rest to set it in motion, you need a good dose of motivation to get you started on your writing. You don’t always want to be like the student in Tim Urban’s TED talk  who only gets motivated when the submission deadline is 3 days away. 

Here are the tips

The best way to get your writing started is to first get it finished. It sounds counter-intuitive right? Well, it’s the same reason a traveller needs a map for a journey. The map shows the destination even before the journey has commenced. Let’s dive into the tips, shall we?

1. Have a good title

The title carries the central message you want to pass across, it should be terse and specific and should contain keywords of your assignment/project. Depending on the project, some students may have been given a title by their supervisors or they must have submitted a title and an abstract for approval during the planning phase of their project. Whichever be the case, it is something you can always refine at the end of your writing, so don’t focus on perfection at the start. Looking at how I chose the topic for this post, I initially went for no. 3, but when I was done with the post, I realised the word “essay” is rather streamlined as this post covers a broader scope of writing. I looked away from no. 4 because “advice” seem to capture the central message of this post “Finish before you start”.

Title building process for this blogpost

2. Put a structure in place - Mindmapping

You can use a mind map to organise your thoughts. Ideally, you should do your brainstorming starting with a blank sheet be it on a paper, a white board or a mindmap software as I used for this post. It’s always good to start with a blank sheet in either case as it helps clear your mind from distraction and also helps you to focus on getting as much ideas down as possible. 

Miindmap for this post
Mindmap for this post created using text2mind

3. Transfer your thoughts to an outline

After doing the brainstorming, you transfer your ideas to an outline. An outline helps to organise your thoughts in a top-down approach, with sections and subsections. Notice how I use asterisks to represent the ideas I want to discuss in the section, while the lists a to d represent the actual subsections.

Outline for this blog post

4. Start developing the ideas one point at a time

It is usually best not to jump from chapter 1 to chapter 4, especially when your project follows a sequence. Write as much as is required in chapter 1 and then you can successively build your work up to the last chapter. Think of it as building a house where blocks are laid layer by layer.

Finally

You should now go ahead and kickstart your writing project, and don’t forget we are here to provide you all the writing assistance you need.

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