George Mason University
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George Mason University

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Procrastination Won't Help; Just Get Started​

Don't be intimidated by that blank screen looming before you; unholster your keyboard, and show it who's boss.​

Doing a major rewrite on something that already exists is tough. Writing something new from scratch is tougher. Have faith; with a few tips, you can conquer that blank screen, and fill it with smart, snappy words. 

You'll already have a topic, and you know your audience. It also helps if you've gathered all the reference material and resources you need to convey your message.

If you're blocked, just start writing. Restate the main message of the page. Sketch out or list the ideas behind your message. Try a “word dump,” in which you dump ideas and concepts onto the screen as they come into your mind.

Even if you know something isn’t going to work, write anyway. It might come out as a list of random ideas or a complicated, garbled sentence, but it’s a starting point.

It's OK to write poorly when you're drafting. You're not required to produce perfect, sparkling prose from the very beginning. Reworking text can help your ideas gel.

When you have a few sentences or phrases, start rearranging. You can spot patterns and see ideas that can be grouped together. Break up long sentences or thoughts into smaller components. Rework the structure, and see if your ideas can be presented with an introductory sentence followed by a bulleted list. Or create an outline of the points you want to make, and rank them by priority.

It helps to bounce ideas off others. If you're dealing with a topic that you're not completely familiar with, give your subject matter experts a call. Tell them what you're trying to convey. They might have a new and better concept about how to present the material. Just chatting can generate new ideas and new approaches to an issue.

Still stumped? One exercise you can try is writing a “Mad-Lib.”

  • Mason’s Office of _____________ is a ___________ for students because _____________.
  • Faculty benefit from training in ____________ because it helps with _______________.
  • Our graduates have found success in the fields of _________, _________, and __________.
  • Our students have interned at _________, __________, and _________.

Or you could make a statement, then back it up by answering the "why" question.

Mason’s School of _____________ is a great place to be. Why?

  • Terrific faculty with lots of professional experience and contacts.
  • Small classes, so you get the attention you need.
  • Networking opportunities, through faculty contacts, etc.
  • Proximity to D.C., which has X, Y and Z that will help you further your career.
  • Proximity to D.C., again, which offers culture, clubs, and cuisine. You can immerse yourself in studies and still have a life.
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