17 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!


Laptop open next to a notebook and a mug
MacBook Pro near white open book”  by Nick Morrison on Unsplash


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. Write your topic or thesis down and then jot down what points you might make that will flesh out that topic or support that 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. These factors can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed or with the tendency to procrastinate. But the remedy is simple and will help you keep writing something each week 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 a peer tutor in The Learning Centre, 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 conversation. 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. Set goals and hold each other accountable for meeting deadlines (a little friendly competition can be motivating!).

Talk to other potential readers. Ask them what they would expect from this type of writing. Meet with a tutor in The Learning Centre. 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.

Remember that you can submit your assignment for a peer tutor to review through the Learning Centre Website or through WriteAway.

  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 Basics Copyright © 2019 by Megan Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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