I found Murray's reading on Writer's Block to be relieving in that it is not only me that struggles with the time it takes to come up with how and what to write about. He included a few examples of what other authors experience in taking days or even weeks just for the thought process that they need before they begin writing. Again, this was relieving to read, but not really applicable for myself. Unfortunately, this is not realistic for us graduate students that do not have the luxury of taking a lot of time before each writing assignment is due.
Murray ends his piece by stating, "He must not write to write," which is something that I find myself doing all the time to keep up with assignment due dates. My question is, if we must do this, what methods do you find effective to handle the difficult task of having to produce multiple writing assignments a week?
Response from Chelsea
Emily, I totally know how you feel about the unrealistic idea of 'time' for graduate students to write. That's exactly what I was thinking when I read Murray's article (Time?! What time!?!?!) We always get slammed with excessive amounts of writing, especially at the end of the semester when final research essay are usually due in each of our classes.
As to your question, I have two very different answers. What I advise to students with multiple writing assignments due is one thing, and what I do is something totally different. At the WC, I try to encourage student to write excessively. Just write, write, write and eventually, at a later point, they will read through all of that writing and find tidbits they want/need to keep. They can start to shape a draft from a mountain of a writing if all else fails. The mentality is that it's better to have too much than not enough.
Now, when I have a lot of writing due in the same week, I try to start as early as possible if I see conflicting due dates. The operative word here is "try". Since I'm not perfect, I usually will start both assignments the weekend before they're due. In that case, I switch back and forth between assignments. I work on one until I absolutely have nothing else to write, and then I move onto the other assignment. I continue this cycle until something of a draft is complete for each assignment. During undergrad, I used to 'binge write' the night before something was due, then poorly edit it the next day... needless to say that method doesn't work at all. Never got higher than a 'B' on those writings :) Hope this helps!
Response From Caleb:
Emily, I found Murray's article to be a relief as well, as I always felt that I was an anomoly as far as academia and writing is concerned; however, as you said, graduate students and ample time are two phrases that I have never heard put together in the same sentence. The quick fix answer to your question would be to start early, although in reality, I don't believe most writers understand the concept of 'starting early'. What I generally do when I write is start thinking about the prompt, research topic, etc., once the assignment is initiated, then I don't mess with the project for days, and let the topic start stewing in my mind. In all honesty, I don't actually start writing until the weekend of/day before the assignment is due, not so much because of my slacker 101 membership, but mainly because it typically takes me that long to map the process of my paper in my mind, as I typically prefer not to write things down, beacuse it only leads to more things for me to read, and often causes me to forget my original intentions. As Murray notes, some writers need to know the ending to their paper before they begin, and in many ways I follow this notion. After a long while of stewing on my ideas and thinking about what the overall message of my paper should be (the conclusions I draw out), I just start writing. Sometimes I kill a tree limb, and other times a take out the whole tree during this process, but once I know what I want to say, it's just a matter of making the paper sound like me while still portraying my argument, then cleaning up the messes. I don't know how much help this is for you, but hopefully you can pull something out of the mess I call a process.
Response From Willma
Many times I know what my ending is, but it takes me a while to construct my ideas-points into a concise thesis. For my last writing assignment, I did what Katherine Ann Potter does as stated in the Murray article -- I constructed a paragraph indicating what I wanted to accomplish, which helped me to spend much less time in developing a thesis.