Tag Archives: how to get unstuck series
For those of you keeping up, I’ve been covering the last couple of weeks remedies to help with the personal statement writing process– a series entitled “How to get unstuck while writing your personal statement.” Part 1 dealt with unsticking yourself from the brainstorming process and Part 2 discussed how to become unstuck from proper outlining and structuring techniques. And, now, for Part 3, as the final installment:
If you’re stuck… and you’ve already written your first/second/umpteenth draft.
First of all, if you’re stuck while revising your draft and don’t know how you can go on, then you should probably stop… for a little while, at least. This means: stop writing, stop editing, stop working on your statement. Don’t look at it, don’t even think about it. Work on other parts of your application, continue studying for the LSAT, work on school assignments, whatever. Occupy yourself with other (productive!) things that are not your personal statement. Think of it as a personal statement abstinence.
The purpose of this is to give you some time off– starting at the same 500+ words will make anyone’s glaze over, and that is not how you want to review and edit your own statement. Burnout can cloud your mind and your eyes, allowing for stupid mistakes to happen. Simple grammatical mistakes and spelling errors can go unnoticed, and your whole argument structure can go woefully awry if you’re not careful and on your A-game.Taking time off is one of the few ways certain to prevent burnout and to relieve your stress at least for a short while. If you feel that you’re burnt-out already, taking time off is absolutely crucial.
Taking a break will allow you to refresh your perspective and interest, so that you can pull off the best final draft possible. A few days off will allow for more ideas to come to mind when you return to your statement, as well as for mistakes to surface when you read it over with renewed eyes. You’ll be able to immediately spot awkward phrasing, poor argument structure, grammatical error, and overall roughness. Provided that you’ve allowed yourself enough leeway to do so (and have the self-discipline to get back into it), taking time off is almost never a bad idea.
If you find yourself still stuck even after taking a break, then perhaps you need a refreshing brainstorming session. If you find that even after taking a short break you’re still having trouble, follow my advice in Part 2 of this series to start getting your wheels turning again.
By brainstorming, you can find and develop a new direction for your statement that will make it stronger. Brainstorming and outlining are not limited to just the beginning stages of writing– they can be used whenever you need to refresh your thought process, to further develop ideas or even generate new ones. This, of course, is always welcome, whether you’re at the beginning or end stages of your statement’s development. You want to always be active in your statement writing– not passive in the doldrums– when submitting such an important essay. Do whatever it is you can to keep your spirit up and to stay alert.
Of course, once you feel that you’ve exhausted all your own resources– you’ve done all the above and still feel at a loss, unable to add or edit anymore– it may just be about time to stick a fork in it. Granted, it is always a wise idea to give your essay over to someone for review and, in this instance, it is especially appropriate. You want an objective reader to confirm that you are truly finished and that nothing else needs to be added, fixed, amended, or changed. At times, such an objective reader is the only one to make that call as burnout can often masquerade as that “finally finished” feeling. But, at the same time, you are often your own worst critic and own worst slave-driver and someone else has to tell you to step away from your computer. So, use discretion when deciding to hit “submit,” but don’t be afraid to let go either.
Last week, I posted part one of the series “How to get unstuck while writing your personal statement,” where I covered how to unstick yourself when stuck choosing a statement topic. For Part 2, I’m covering what to do when you’re at the draft-writing stage.
If you’re stuck… and you have a topic, but can’t start your first draft.
Before beginning your draft, you want to ensure that:
- You have a solid argument.
- This argument is supported by relevant evidence– whether it’s anecdotal or describing relevant work or school experience.
- Your topic is explained thematically– meaning, it is a theme that runs through your statement/argument, connecting all your points.
- It ends solidly, tying off all ends, so that it is impossible to poke holes in your argument.
It’s a lot, I know. But, there is hope.
In a previous post, I covered how to organize your topic around a basic argument structure. Those basic principles can be used during the outlining process, which would then get you into a prime position to start writing your first draft.
The answers to all the points I’ve raised above can be seen during the outlining process. Laying out all your material at hand in bulleted points and organizing them in a structure will allow you to get a birds-eye view of your statement as a whole. Doing so will make assessing your statement that much easier, and will allow you to make the appropriate edits.
You’ll also be able to ascertain the weak points of your argument and fix them– whether it’s a certain point needs further explanation or to integrated better into your statement, or if you’re providing too much information and getting too far away from your argument.
Of course, the most brilliant thing about outlining is that it can help you get out of a creative rut. When outlining, you’re forced to think or even reconsider aspects of your topic in new ways, which can allow for new material. This is, in a sense, a more advanced method of brainstorming that can help get your juices flowing to start your first draft. Before you know it, you’ll understand your topic and your aim that much more clearly and will be able to start working on a successful first draft.
Next week, in the final part of this series, I’ll cover how to get unstuck when you’ve already written your first/second/fifteenth draft.
So, you’ve been working on your personal statement. You’ve brainstormed, you’ve outlined, You might even be done with your first draft. But… you’re not getting anywhere.
It’s okay if you feel a little stuck– it happens to everyone. And, people get stuck at all different points of their statement-writing process. So, I’ve written this helpful guide-series that will show you how to get unstuck, whether you haven’t chosen a topic, are hammering out your first draft, or trying to nail down your final draft. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be covering different points of typical “stickiness” and how to get unstuck from them.
If you’re stuck…. and you don’t have a topic yet:
If you’re in the very beginning stages of just formulating your topic, it’s best if you start with some brainstorming or outlining before beginning your draft. Even if you do have a topic, it’s often helpful to still brainstorm to help tweak your topic and refresh your writing muscles (and your mind).
Start thinking about how your experiences have molded and shaped you. How did your experiences during undergrad shape your maturity and understanding? If you’ve been out of school for a while, how did your later positions shape you? What sort of trajectory has your life taken thus far? What has brought you to this point? Consider your answers– how will these affect you in the future, as a law student? As a working attorney?
I’ve posed these questions to coax out a potential argument about,the wealth of material you have scattered in your resume and in your mind. The problem may well be that you have so much to choose from, it’s overwhelming. I know the temptation exists to start to work on a draft right away and, if you really feel comfortable doing this, try. However, think about what I’ve just asked here while you brainstorm– just start writing down what comes to mind in a brief, bulleted list, without the pressure of putting it into a formal draft. Think a bit and see if you can come up. Write down everything you come up with; your material, somehow, has to directly relate to you and your experience.
Then, read over and evaluate what you came up with. See how you can make this all work, and how this relates to you. Do you feel comfortable with it? Can you take it further? You may end up going through many cycles of the above process- twice, three times, you name it. Regardless of how many times you brainstorm, it’s important that you do it. By brainstorming and even brainstorming repeatedly, you will inevitably come up with something good, something you can work with, and something you can write about well.
Next week, I’ll be covering how to get unstuck when writing your first draft, part 2.