I admire Mick Jagger, who can belt out the words “Time is on my Side” without a hint of sarcasm. Many students who attend Athens State juggle full-time jobs and often have a spouse and children at home; they take on as many classes as their busy schedules allow and somehow manage to turn in assignments on-time. I do not know many students who enjoy all of the coursework assigned to them, but some are downright hostile to writing assignments. So, what happened to give writing this reputation? Writing takes time – a commodity that few students are willing to devote.
If you read any writing guide, it will tell you that writing is a “process” and then explain (at a minimum) five steps to writing: prewriting, outlining, writing, revising, and editing. Even the sound of these assumes hours of contemplation and numerous reams of paper balled up and tossed on the floor. This is just the writing process–add the word “research” into an assignment and suddenly students tense up and start to count the number of hours that will have to be spent in tedious and time-consuming examination of moldy tomes and journals. This is the reputation of academic writing – and that is a shame.
Writing is a difficult task. Anyone who tells you differently lies. I know very few people who can produce a finished work in one attempt. Anyone can write, but it takes a measure of discipline and it takes time. There is no quick fix to this dilemma except time management. As adults, we apply time-management to every other aspect of our lives: scheduling dinner at home, meetings at work, and recreation time on the week-end. Why not put that same time-management plan into your writing? Here are a few tips:
Start early. Professors rarely assign papers “spur-of-the-moment.” Writing assignments, including research papers and essays, are often on the syllabus received the first day of class. Begin to think about your topic, and stroll through the library – either in person or virtually – to begin to organize your thoughts. Jot down key words and phrases that you can develop into full sentences and paragraphs later.
Make a schedule and set deadlines for yourself. Setting manageable tasks and timelines can alleviate the anxiety. It is often easier to set goals for six or seven fully developed talking points than for 15 pages.
Remember, a rough draft is just that – a rough draft. Do not spend excessive time thinking of that one perfect word for that one particular sentence. Concentrate on getting the general idea onto the paper. Before you know it, you will have a rough draft that is now ready for fine-tuning.
Spend a little time with your paper. Re-read, revise, re-read it again. Then repeat.
Always remember, your Athens State Writing Center is here for you. We are students just like you: juggling job, home, and school. We can assist with idea brainstorming, setting a schedule, or just providing an ear to bounce ideas off of. We can assist with helping you find that “perfect word,” transitioning your ideas, or just discuss writing.
Writing does take time, but with planning and using available resources, it doesn’t need to be painful.