How to Distance Yourself from Others’ Thoughts and Ideas When Writing
Full of challenges and research that require you to take charge of your ideas and string together a coherent narrative, writing can be one of the most satisfying activities of your day. It can also be one of the most frustrating, however, especially if you’re having a hard time generating interesting or unique ideas about which to write. Many writers find themselves in this position, and it never becomes less of an annoyance. As you progress in your writing skill, however, it’s likely that you’ll eventually develop certain tactics that will help you power through writer’s block. Sometimes, however, the issue isn’t just that you’ve had a hard time thinking of topics about which to write, but rather one where you’ve done your research and read a lot of articles – and now your head is so full of the texts you’ve already read that you can’t separate your thoughts from those of someone else.
Keep Track of Your Research
One of the best ways to start off is to always keep track of what you’ve read; where you obtained the text; and what about the text intrigued you. Rather than just reading the text and copy/pasting or highlighting specific quotes that catch your attention, take a moment to write notes about the source. Don’t copy down a specific quote; instead figure out what it is that you like about the source and what they’re saying about the topic that makes you want to read more. Then you need to make a literal note of it. This can help you figure out a “plan of attack” to follow when it comes to writing your own paper, but will help keep you from simply reusing the ideas that your source presents.
Explain Your Quotes
If you come across a quote that you know you’re going to include in your own writing because it’s just the perfect bit of text and you can’t bear to leave it out, remember to always explain its significance. This might sound like common sense, but a lot of writers neglect to do this. The result is that their writing seems to rely more on the ideas of others than the writer’s own thoughts and arguments. To avoid this, you should take the time to really think about why the quote is important to your paper. If you can’t think of a reason, then it’s time to either discard the quote or re-envision your essay.
Have a Clear Point to Make
Building upon the previous tip, one of the most important things you can do as a writer is to understand why you’re spending your time and energy working on a specific text. Why is this topic important to you? What is it that you want to say about the topic? If you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, and about what you’re trying to write, then you are far less likely to fall into the pattern of using another author’s words to “prove” your point.
Don’t be Afraid to Take a Break
Remember that the danger lies not in collecting various ideas about a topic you’re interested in exploring, but rather in the inability to incorporate those ideas into your paper without obscuring your own, original voice. Your paper should be your discussion, not a summary of another writer’s words. If you find that you just can’t get your own thoughts straight, then it’s time to step away from the writing for a bit; take a shower, spend 30 minutes watching an episode of your favorite television show, or put on some upbeat music and forget about the world for a bit. When you get back to work, don’t immediately pour over the same quotes you were looking at earlier. Look at your own paper and see what you have so far, and where you need to go. Try making an outline that organizes your thoughts, and then fill it in with the important points that you want to make. After you’ve created a solid foundation for your work, then consider going back through other articles and studies in order to pull out ideas or quotes that really enrich what you’ve already written.
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