by Mackenzie Cassels
One of the most frightening moments in a university student’s life is opening up a blank Microsoft Word document. It’s plain scary to see a clean white page and blinking cursor waiting for you to write hundreds (or even thousands) of words. How on earth do you overcome the paralyzing fear associated with the blank page? If you have ever been told, “just start writing” you have been given one of the most important strategies in overcoming writer’s block. Free writing is a proven technique to help students stop procrastinating and transform a blank page into a completed assignment.
How does free writing work? Begin by choosing your topic. If you are given the choice, try to choose one you are interested in and know something about. Next, write down a draft title at the top of the word document. Your title will likely change, but doing this helps you identify your topic. If you have an idea about your main argument (your thesis statement) that is even better!
Now, start typing and do not stop until you run out of ideas. The goal of free writing is to get all your ideas down on paper. Do not focus on grammar, punctuation, spelling, or anything that could derail your stream of ideas from flowing. Some students find it helpful to tip their laptop screen down, close their eyes, or look away from their screen while they write.
When you are done, you will likely see a block of text with a bunch of red and blue squiggly lines, but that’s okay! Focus on what you have: a block of text and a word count that’s above zero. Next, review what you have written and correct spelling and grammar errors. After doing this, you’re ready to group your ideas and organize them into paragraphs.
At this point, your block of text is beginning to resemble an essay. You will still have to add quotes, do research, fact check, and edit, but you have completed the hardest part! Remember, the purpose of free writing is not to write the perfect A + assignment in a single hour, but to overcome that pesky writer’s block and defeat the infamous blank page.