Writing Into the Void: Tips for Completing Final Papers During Quarantine

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[Image credit: Sierra Death Generator / Untitled Goose Game]

Writing in isolation--the kind of society-wide isolation we’re all dealing with now, not just the romantic ideal of isolation associated with writing--is tough. It can feel like writing into the void or writing to nobody.

With all our courses online, we’re feeling the aloneness part of writing a lot more strongly right now, which makes doing the writing part--and keeping at it--that much harder. And when final papers and summative assessments are due, we need motivation, not a feeling of isolation.

So what can we do? Before we go any further here, take a pause. You owe yourself a great deal of credit and congratulations for sticking it out for this long during a uniquely challenging term.

To keep you going in the final days and weeks of writing reports, papers, presentations, and projects, I’d like to share a few tips and strategies I use to break the spell of isolation and get the writing done!

Audience? What Audience?

Your writing always has an audience. Even with personal blogging or journaling (which, by the way, are great pre-writing tools to help get your ideas flowing), you are your own audience. So for your assignments, it helps to identify and picture real or potential readers other than yourself, even if you aren’t directly interacting with them. Thinking about that audience as you write is important not just for giving your work the focus it needs in terms of genre, scope, and tone, but also just for reminding you that you aren’t actually writing into the void--you are writing to be read!

graphic of a boy doing a victory cheer in his bedroomKnow Your Body’s Schedule

Isolated living presents a whole host of mental, physical, social, and economic challenges, but one potential benefit to working at home is that we can adjust our daily rhythms to best suits our individual needs. We all have a unique circadian rhythm so it’s best to identify the time of day when you can work at your best. For me, that’s the late afternoon to early evening, right round dinner time, which, coincidentally is also when you can meet with me for a WCC drop-in tutoring appointment!

[Image Credit: Anton Gudim]

Self high-five gif from TenorCheck in With Friends to Make Yourself Accountable

Maintaining self-discipline and setting a work schedule can be difficult habits to form, especially when you aren’t seeing much of the outside world or checking in as often as normal with instructors, classmates, or co-workers. To create a feeling of low-impact accountability, I make a habit of checking in with a couple of close friends about what I’m hoping to accomplish that day. The point isn’t to ask your friends to harangue you into staying productive, but rather to take your internal thought process about goals, tasks, and responsibilities, and make it external by telling someone about what you’re doing. Plus, after a good writing session, it always feels amazing to brag to someone who knows how hard it was for you to get going in the first place.

Make An Appointment at the Writing and Communication Centre

Sometimes, even with a toolbox of great writing strategies and the best of intentions, you might get stuck. We all do. (Yes, even me, even writing this blog post!) The Writing and Communication Centre is here to help! Our drop-in appointments are a great place to bounce questions and ideas off of a pro who is a student just like you, and we can help with writing at every stage of the process, whether you’re outlining, midway through a draft, putting the finishing touches on your work, or in full-on panic-mode! We’re here for you as a resource: make use of us!

star wars meme asking darth vader to join in

[Image Credit: Ben Ball]

Write Alone, Together

So, while we tend to think of writing as a solitary exercise, writer Tishani Doshi reminds us that, even when we’re each writing alone, there are always others doing the exact same thing, alone in their own spaces. She says that writing is “in fact, a kind of unity, of being alone together.” With that in mind, remember that, even when it feels like you’re writing into a void, you’re not alone. Your friends, classmates, family, and the friendly Writing and Communication Centre staff are all here for you. We’re writing alone, too. So we’re all writing alone, together.

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