Having trouble getting those first few words and sentences of your application essay up on your computer screen? Don’t fret – even the most accomplished novelists or famous journalists have a tough time getting started. Tempted to get up and do something – anything! – else rather than stare at that blank screen for another second?
One piece of advice: DON’T.
STAY WHERE YOU ARE.
AND SET A TIMER FOR 15 MINUTES.
AND MOST IMPORTANT…
WRITE, WRITE, AND WRITE SOME MORE UNTIL THAT TIMER GOES OFF.
When you start to write a few words on the page – even words like “I don’t know what to say” – something miraculous happens. Suddenly, there are WORDS on the page, not just blank space. And these words will inspire you to continue writing. Here’s why:
This is Your Warm-Up
Think of this 15–minute exercise as a warm-up. It’s not a marathon, but it’s a quick jog that will remind your body that it DOES INDEED know how to run. Maybe all you’ve done is written about how you have nothing to write, but the actual act of writing will trigger your writer’s reflex and motivate you to keep up the momentum and write something more and – hopefully – something of substance.
Words Beget Words
Your babbling string of “I’m writing but I really don’t have anything to say” will likely transform into, “well, maybe I have a thing or two worth mentioning.” You’ll see.
Turn Off Your Devices
I guarantee that all of this advice will work with one big BUT: You must turn off your devices. 15 minutes of writing isn’t a real 15 minutes if halfway through you check Instagram and send a Snap. It just won’t work. So hard as it is to do…just turn off your phone and resist the temptation to open a new tab.
You’re more likely to make it through your 15–minute writing workout if you know you’ve got a reward waiting for you. Whether it’s a social media break, a coffee with a friend, or an ice cream sundae – just knowing that it’s there and waiting will help motivate you to keep on going.
Get Ready, Get Set…Go!
It’s time to start! UNPLUG and set an alarm for 15 minutes. Then ask yourself: What do I care about? What do I enjoy doing? What’s important to me? And write. Your only commitment is to keep going until you hear that beep. When the timer goes off, STOP. Hit “Save.” And then go get yourself a double scoop of sweet, cold, decadent ice cream.
Need help getting started? Talk to our experts – we’re here to answer your questions, motivate you, and help you get accepted!
• The Biggest Application Essay Mistake, a short video
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Application, a free guide
• First Drafts of Personal Statements: Let Yourself Go