Last night, I turned in a final draft of an article about Kanye West for Part I of my honors capstone project. I spent all summer working on it, and although I’m mostly happy with it and the experience I had writing it, I’m glad that it’s over.
My first idea for my capstone project was to write a collection of personal essays, and then write a reflective paper about the entire experience. But because that didn’t happen, I’m going to put it here. Self-reflection is an important step in the writing process, because it’ll eventually make you hyper-aware of your own process.
I seem to be best at brainstorming if I have unlimited time to come up with ideas. I write better under tighter deadlines.
The reason the first essay took so long was partly because I had a full work schedule, but mostly because my procrastination was at an all time high. I had due dates, but I couldn’t get my brain to understand that this was a Very Big Deal. But at 10:30 p.m. every deadline night, I was typing like a madwoman.
If you don’t make something a priority, it’ll never get done.
Related to that, I realized that I have to put more time into the next two essays I have to write — especially now that I have class to go to and grad school apps to finish.
Getting feedback from other people who understand you and how your brain works is crucial.
I was really lucky that I had a couple of friends who were interested in the subject and reading my work, and caught syntactical and grammatical mistakes that I had missed in my haze of furious typing. I’d also like to find some kind of nonfiction writing group to share my work with, but most of my friends in the English department prefer writing fiction.
Drafts are wonderful because you have multiple chances to really nail something.
The first draft of the essay was absolute crap, but the fifth and sixth ones were actually pretty okay. There’s nothing like awesome track changes comments from your professor about the things you did right.
You really have to examine all of the theoretical aspects of writing before or close to the start: structure, purpose, etcetera.
I almost always sketch out how I want my essay to look and where I want to place things, but for the next two essays I want to set them up better. I started thinking deeply about the structure and my significance statement in the third and fourth draft, and I’d like to hit that in the first or second draft.
Idea maps are awesome.
Typing my ideas at the bottom of my word document or keeping the structure in my head are both ideas that do not work for me. I found that the best way to organize all of my thoughts and decide what to keep or cut was to actually write it out. I took a huge piece of craft paper, taped it on my wall, and wrote all of my ideas out on it so that I could see something physical. It was easier to draw arrows and lines connecting things than trying to do that electronically. I found this cool program called FreeMind late in the project, but this helped me preserve my ideas when I got sick of staring at the paper.
Keep up momentum.
I need to block out significant chunks of time on my schedule for the rest of this project on a more consistent basis. One essay down, two more to go.
Do you have any tips on paper-writing? Let me know in the comments.