As my (our) college career comes to an end, I’ve done a lot of writing that I’m not familiar with, namely cover letters. The problem with cover letters is that I’m told they should be formulaic, but I’m not a formulaic writer. Where some people write them like Mad Libs- filling in the spaces with the proper names, adjectives, and experiences- the only part that remains the same for me is the signature. There’s a general structure, of course, but from there I have a desperate desire to precisely tailor myself for the position (I can’t control my resume, at this point, but I can control the quality of my cover letter!).
From here it seems I have no ritual to my writing; even comparing it to writing essays or the (veeery rare) journal entry, there’s very little that connects them because I can’t bring myself to follow a mold. I have to approach everything on its own terms or else I feel like it restricts my thoughts, which makes my writing process lengthy and incredibly inefficient (e.g., I completely scratched a draft of this very post because I didn’t like it).
With all the variables, however, I realize that one way that I always begin my writing is to organize. Writing the heading, adding page numbers, opening and organizing every document I’ll need for the assignment: I have to get all of this out of the way first or else I can’t focus. For my cover letters, this meant that I had open tabs for the job description and company; I had already formatted the heading with the correct address and hiring manager name, if I could find it; and I had already decided which resume I would use (I have one for research and one general). Once these are all in place, I have all the tools ready and at my disposal to craft the perfect cover letter.
With all this said, it should come as no surprise that I could work all day and only apply to 5 or 6 jobs. Perhaps I should become a little more formulaic when it comes to quantity over quality. However, this ritual forces me to produce high-quality work and will hopefully help me in the future as I continue into grad school and, eventually, academia.