March 2014
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Turning paper stress into paper success

As a liberal arts college, McDaniel is a place where students take classes in a variety of disciplines, regardless of their major. As a result, McDaniel students can expect to write at least a few papers a semester (and if you’re majoring in something in the humanities, you can expect to write a lot more).

Papers can be intimidating and it can be difficult to drum up the motivation to work on them in a timely fashion. However, papers are not the end of the world. Here are some tips I can offer on planning and work methods that can help you turn paper stress into paper success.

1. Find a place where you can write well. There are lots of different spaces on campus, with varying levels of noise and technology. While writing from your dorm room may actually work well for you, a lot of students find that they need to leave that space in order to write papers or get other homework and studying done. I have a particular spot in the library where I really like to work (though I won’t reveal it–I don’t want to lose it!). My spot is quiet, but not silent, and there’s usually not a lot of people where I go. I also have a lot of space to work and space to walk around when I need to stretch my legs. Other students like to work in other parts of the library or in classrooms. We also have several computer labs on campus where students can get work done.

2. Go to the writing center. McDaniel’s writing center is a great place to go to get help on your paper, especially if you plan ahead and schedule a writing center appointment a few days before your paper is due. The writing center can help you at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing up final drafts. As a writing tutor, I’ve encountered a lot of students who come into the writing center stressed about their work and leave feeling more confident about what writing they’re producing. The writing center is a fabulous resource, and appointments do not cost any money.

3. Find other work or writing to work on. Sometimes, when I’ve written a lot at once or if I’m experiencing writer’s block, I find that it’s a good idea to take a break and work on something else. While this often involves me surfing the web and checking my many social media accounts (a Facebook, a Twitter, and two Tumblrs), I’m sometimes able to direct myself to more productive work, such as other homework or writing for myself. (Fun fact: I’m writing this blog post right now as a way to take a break from a Shakespeare paper I’m working on. It’s nice because I’m still writing, but my mind is getting a nice break by thinking about other, less difficult things.)

4. Pace yourself. Never save an entire paper for one night. I know that’s easier said than done; I myself have written entire papers in one night, and it’s a miserable experience. Pacing yourself, however, can help you avoid dreaded all-nighters. I know of a few students who write one page per night of their papers, and I envy their persistence and planning–it’s a good strategy, and it works well for them. Perhaps it can work well for you too.

Papers can be stressful, but they’re not impossible. With a little self-discipline and clever use of resources, it’s completely possible to make the paper writing process a more relaxing experience.

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