The 5 Things I Know I Should Do When Writing But Don’t Actually Do

I am a hypocritical writer. After spending a lot of time in writing-related courses, I feel like I have a pretty good  understanding of what we are all supposed to do to make a good paper. And I agree with these things. Still, for some unintelligible reason, I don’t actually do them. So here’s a list of those things that I should do and tell others to do but don’t actually do:

1. Get started early.

Sometimes I get things done early but, when it comes to writing, I live in procrastination nation. (That was supposed to by funny.) We hear it again and again that we need to start our first drafts early so we have time to revise, and some classes even require drafts to be turned in a week or so before the final is due. But I can’t seem to write (at least, not write well) unless the assignment is due the next day. Which is horrible but, nevertheless, true. It’s led me to some pretty interesting all-nighters in Club UgLi and a few nearly-traumatic coffee overdose experiences.

2. Outline first.

“Turn in an outline of your paper on Tuesday.” Nope. That’s not happening. If an outline is assigned to me, I will probably just make up some bulleted list that won’t actually relate to my paper in any way and pretend that it does. I know deep down I really should outline, because it would help keep me on track and add a fragment of structure to my disheveled thought process. But whenever I try (which I don’t do often), I get stuck and just have to start writing the actual thing. Like many areas of my life, my organizational process when writing is a hot mess.

3. Journal every day.

This one I really wish I followed. I think journals are so important, and that they’re something I would really treasure when I’m old and wondering what I actually did in my college years. When I was younger, I was an avid journaler and would write pages of nonsense (including quotes that I thought were deep in the seventh grade, thoughts about the meaning of life, and who I sat with at lunch) in various Hello Kitty notebooks. Looking back on these now, they are seriously hilarious and I thank young-Allison for actually writing on the reg. But the excuse I give now  is the same excuse I give for just about everything else–that I don’t have the time.

4. Have a clear thesis.

I’m sorry, but if I could fit the main idea of my paper in 140 characters then I would’ve just tweeted it instead of putting out ten pages. Teachers would always tell me to have a thesis that follows the observation-argument layout and plainly presents the main idea of the paper. I have such a difficult time doing this. A lot of times I will write the whole paper, think it’s great, and realize I didn’t have a sentence that could be considered a thesis. At that point, I’ll usually just throw something in at the end of the introduction. This is probably not a great thing to do but, in my sassy defense, if they want the main idea of my paper then they can actually read my paper.

5. Write in Times New Roman.

Sure, I’ll turn in my stuff in 12-point TNR like any student. But all I can picture when I see that font is an old, gray man in a mauve robe sitting on a plush armchair smoking a pipe in a rustic library whilst reading a leather-bound book entitled “Antiquity.” Come on, people. This is the future. Let’s switch the Helvetica already.


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