Start your New Year out WRITE -->

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Start your New Year out WRITE

It’s that time of year again –the time of year where you’re working hard to eat better, be more organized, work hard in school, lose some weight, or whatever else you resolved to do. But by this time, the newness and excitement that comes with a new year may be wearing off. In fact, sadly, if you’re like me (and many other people), by mid-January you might be ready to give up on your goals, insisting that you’ll try again next year.

Perhaps you feel the same way about your writing at the beginning of each new term you start –a sense of newness, anticipation, tinged with a little intimidation or nervousness as you face those writing projects on the syllabus. Perhaps you are anxious when facing a blank computer screen for that first paper of the semester. At this point, you may feel like just giving up on your writing goals –saying that you’ll just try again in your next course.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up! Instead of allowing your writing goals to fizzle out, as we often do our New Year’s resolutions, try these three simple steps to start your writing year off right: plan ahead, get in a habit, and set reasonable goals. 
woman with planner

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead allows you to set expectations and goals, and it can help keep you on track with your workload. Your syllabus is posted in your classroom, so be sure to look ahead and plan out your papers and large projects. Take your personal calendar and mark in it what days your papers are due. Then work backwards. Determine how long you will need to complete it, how many days you’ll want set aside to revise it, on which days you will start your research, and so on. If you plan on making appointments with the writing center, be sure to plan a few days for the 2-day turnaround time and a day or two for revisions!

Get in a Habit

To avoid writing anxiety, get in a habit. Set aside a certain time each day for writing and make it routine—even if it is only a few minutes here or there. Consistency will help you to get in a habit of writing, and this will allow you to make progress each day, avoiding the last-minute panic on the day that your paper is due.

It may help to also set aside a physical place or space for writing. Going to this space habitually will allow you to focus, turn off the other distractions, and know that this is the place where work gets done Whether it’s a corner of your kitchen table or a favorite coffee shop, make this a space where you can focus. Try to choose a space with minimal distractions if possible. Clearly if you are stressing about the dirty dishes while you sit at the kitchen table, you won’t be able to work well or focus on your paper. It may take some time and intention, but this habit will help you to turn off the external noise and turn on the researcher, especially if you are routinely writing and setting aside a specific place.  

Set Reasonable Goals

If possible, don’t write your whole paper in one sitting. Instead, break down assignments or papers into more bite-sized chunks. This allows you to set miniature and short-term goals for yourself and keep yourself motivated. Perhaps one day you will do the research, the next day you will organize your outline, the next day you will write the body, and the final day you add the introduction and conclusion before you revise. Look at your syllabus and the assignment rubric to determine what areas or parts of the work you might be able to use as dividers. Or set yourself time-goals. For example, perhaps you will work for one hour on this paper, then take a break to do laundry, go for a walk, or read a Facebook post, then work for 30 more minutes. Setting expectations like these gives you reachable goals and criteria for success. 

While there are multiple ways to fight the inevitable writer’s block that often comes with the anxieties of new classes or a new year of writing, these three steps can help set you up for a successful start to your writing year. Remember to plan ahead, making writing a habit, and set yourself reasonable goals. Your New Year’s writing resolutions don’t have to fizzle out after a couple weeks (like your exercise goals). Instead, you can start the year off right, and WRITE.

Want a few other strategies for academic success in 2016? Check out the Academic Skills Center’s resources on success strategies.


Rachel Willard
 is a Writing Instructor and Coordinator of Student Communications. She loves hearing others' stories. She enjoys people-watching at airports and shopping places that use the grammatically correct "10 items or fewer" signs for the express checkout lanes.

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  1. My goodness this is my fear of working on my master's degree.

    1. I hope this post has helped you work through this fear -- or at least start to!