Ways to Jumpstart your Writing and Research

Hi all!  A few of you have emailed me feeling a bit “stuck” in your work over break.  It can be hard to work by yourself!  I empathize.  So, I’ve put together a short list of “prompts.”  These can be done in any order.  And there is no pressure to complete all (or any!) of them.

Finally, if you are doing some pre-writing, don’t forget to safely collect all your pieces of writing in one place (virtual or analog).  Just don’t lose them!

  • Reread your proposal and my comments. After that, set a time an do a 15-20 min free write about what you think your next steps should be.
  • Pick one text you think you would like to work with (doesn’t matter if you are revisiting it or coming to it for the first time). Spend some time with it and then set a timer for 15-20 mins and do a free write.  Work on answering the questions: What (specifically) about this text is interesting to me?  Why?  Possibly spend some time close reading a scene or a moment.
  • Gather 2 or 3 of your texts and set a time for 15-20 mins. This time, free write about similarity in difference or difference in similarity.  If the texts are mostly similar, state why you think that, then look for an interesting difference and explore it.  If the texts are mostly different, state why and how, then look for a compelling similarity and explore it.
  • Spend 10 or so minutes brainstorming themes, motifs, questions, or repetitions you have seen in your texts so far. When you have a list of 25 or most things, go back and denote which ones feel most interesting to you.  Then, set a time and do a free write about one or two.  Really try to site specific moments from some of your texts.
  • Go back to our blog post prompts from the term (find them on the syllabus). Read over the various prompts and pick one.  If the prompt requires outside research, then spend a set amount of time on that (1-2 hours, perhaps).  Then, do a low-stakes freewrite for 20 mins answering the prompt with what you know.
  • Anxious? Make a list of all the things about which you are anxious when it comes to this project or the term itself. Only do this for a set amount of time (10 mins, perhaps).  Once you have a list, go back and start to write next to each anxiety a specific person or place or action that might help you if this anxiety becomes real.  (For example: anxiety—I don’t know enough about WWI. Possible solutions—make an appointment with Prof X or Prof Y; read that book about WWI history I have been procrastinating; watch a documentary about the time period to bolster my knowledge, etc.  OR anxiety—I cannot access all  the texts I need.  Possible solutions—make a list of all the texts I think I need, then star the ones I have access too now.  Begin reading though and note how I might be able to get the other texts when the term starts (ask a librarian, see a prof with a specialty in that area, etc)


I could go on and on.  Do these offer a good starting place for you?  Let me know what you think and feel free to email or leave a comment.