28 Planning Your Writing – Overcoming Obstacles

When you are trying to write your first draft, it can be challenging to get started when facing a blank page!


So what can you do?

Just write. You already have at least one idea. Start there. What do you want to say about it? What connections can you make with it? If you have a working thesis, what points might you make that support that thesis?

Review and update your outline. Re-write your topic or thesis down and then jot down fresh points you might make that will flesh out that topic or support the thesis. These don’t have to be detailed. In fact, they don’t even have to be complete sentences (yet)![1]

Create Smaller Tasks and Short-Term Goals. Your assignment might seem too large, and maybe the due date is weeks away, or next week. These factors can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed or increase the tendency to procrastinate. However, the remedy is simple and will help you keep writing something each day toward your deadline and toward the finished product: divide larger writing tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks and set intermediate deadlines.

Collaborate.  Talk to your friends or family, or to Learning Support, about your ideas for your essay. Sometimes talking about your ideas is the best way to flesh them out and get your ideas flowing. Write down notes during or just after your conversations. Classmates are a great resource because they’re studying the same subjects as you, and they’re working on the same assignments. Talk to them often, and form study groups. Ask people to look at your ideas or writing and to give you feedback. Although, don’t expect them to read full drafts as they may be time-poor because they are working on their own assignments. Be realistic with your expectations of others. Set goals and hold each other accountable for meeting deadlines (a little friendly competition can be motivating!).

Talk to other potential readers, that is, teaching staff. Ask them what they would expect from this type of writing. Also, review the marking criteria and assignment instructions. Meet with someone from Learning Support. Be sure to come to the appointment prepared with a copy of the assignment and a clear idea of what you want to work on.[2]

Try to start writing well in advance of your deadline so that you can continue to improve your assignment before you need to hand it in.


  1. "Writing the First Draft" in The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear CC BY-NC 4.0
  2. Adapted from "Overcoming Writing Anxiety and Writer’s Block"in The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear CC BY-NC 4.0 


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Academic Writing Skills by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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