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Mind Games by Amy Ratto-Parks

March 11, 2013

I’ll admit it, I’m one of those people: I start a writing project the same day I receive the assignment. I sit down, brainstorm possible angles, dig up a bunch of research, and make notes to myself. (I’m not lying; you can ask my college roommates.) I even open a new folder for the project and start a document of “notes”. I love this part of the process because guess what? It’s noncommittal! I can jump in with fervor because I know that I can still change my mind.

At some point a few weeks before the deadline, I decide if I actually like my topic. If so, I flesh out the notes and begin to draft by writing whatever seems most interesting. I just start writing chunks of text that explain my thinking, or explain each piece of research I want to include. I ask myself questions like, “do I have enough research?” or “do I really understand this topic and its implications?”

Most of the time I write my first full draft with a sheet of paper over my computer screen to silence the mean inner-editor that tries to sabotage my most intelligent thoughts.

I make sure to have a solid draft ready at least a week ahead of time. Again, for me the key is to always feel like there is more time than I need. If I can convince myself that there is no rush, the composing is easy, but the minute I panic or feel hurried, the entire process shuts down. (Mind games! Mind games!)

A few days ahead of time I proof read and edit the draft. Then I do that again. And then again. (Full disclosure: I actually hate this part.)Finally, I print out a clean copy and carry it around with me so that when I panic about not being finished (it still happens) I can reassure myself. After all that – it’s always a relief to turn it in.

Amy Ratto Parks is the Composition Coordinator at UM.

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