(Or Tips to Thrive During  A Love/Hate Relationship: Part 1)

For the last month, I’ve spent many days writing: reports, reviews, term papers. I’m tired of writing! However, after a few days on holiday and some Florida sun, I think it is time to add another blog post. And I’ve decided to write about writing.


Vermeer A Lady Writing a Letter 1665

I enjoy writing. I probably wouldn’t have started a blog unless I did. But I also absolutely detest writing. There is nothing quite like the horror of a blank page. And I am a very slow writer. Filling a page with sentences sometimes feels like using my head to bash a hole through a 3-ft concrete wall.

Or, as Gene Fowler, the American journalist and screenplay writer, noted,

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Earlier this month, someone asked me about my personal writing method. Here is a short list I compiled about my writing process “Before/During” and “After”* I finish a solid draft (of an academic paper). Perhaps some of these ideas are obvious, but I hope that one or two are useful for you.


  1. READ, READ, READ–Before I start to write, I always spend a significant time reading about the subject. I read not only to learn/find sources, but also to study writing styles. What words are typically used to describe a phenomena/technique/concept? What clichés should I avoid? What is the tone of a particular journal/field? What are effective transition phrases? Sometimes I use a different highlighter to mark a particular passage or phrase that I enjoyed for its literary value. Later, I review these “good writing-highlights” –what about that phrase did I enjoy? Why did I think that passage effectively summarized an idea?
  2. Use Thesaurus.com: There are many words/phrases that I use too often-“noted” “moreover” “interest/ed” “theme” “use”. When I am writing a draft, I search through my document to see whether I am using a particular word/phrase in excess (CTRL-F). Sometimes seeing the word/phrase highlighted makes me more aware that I’ve used the word “use” more than three times in one paragraph. Then, I use an online Thesaurus to swap these offenders…perhaps “utilize” instead of “use”. Plus, utilizing an online Thesaurus or Thesaurus app definitely enriches my vocabulary (just don’t go overboard, seriously).
  3. Try Different Outline Methods: When I write I make a general outline in Word. Then, I fill each section of this outline with all the sources I plan to use and a sentence fragment about each source. After, the general outline is completed, I work section by section. I open a new Word Document and copy/paste a section of the general outline. I keep organizing the source+sentence fragments until the notes are in the order I plan for my draft. Working off this more complete outline, I write a draft version in the initial general outline document. –something like this (completely false sources)Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 2.52.22 PM
  4. Save Multiple Versions: Every time I work on a draft, I save a new version (Report 1, Report 1.1, Report 1.2, Report 1.3…). If I make large changes in one version and the next day I decide I like the original better, I have the older draft saved! Sometimes, I return to an early draft just to remind myself about the overall flow of the paper.
  5. Use a Tool to Manage Bibliographic Data: Zotero, Mendeley, Standalone….definitely worth using one of these programs!!!

Hope these ideas help. *Part II (After Tips) will be online soon.





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