Do you put off writing until the last minute? Are you worried that you don’t have enough ideas? Do you have so many ideas that you don’t know where to start? Are you overwhelmed by the task of revising a messy draft? Does your prose need tightening? Whatever writing challenges you face, I’m here to help you overcome them. Bring your notes, a draft, or an almost-finished paper. You’ll come away with a better sense of what you want to say and how to say it effectively.
The most useful writing advice I’ve ever come across is, Write first. For me this means writing early in the day before I get distracted or drawn into other commitments. More importantly, it means writing before I know what I want to say. Writing is a great tool for getting ideas, exploring them, testing them against evidence, finding out if we believe what we are saying. Freewriting – writing quickly without worrying about quality, organization, grammar, or audience – is wonderfully liberating and leads to some of the best insights. I’m particularly interested in this early stage of the writing process because it took me a long time to discover it and once I did, it completely changed my writing experience. As a non-native English speaker who writes mostly academic English, I used to be obsessed with the surface of writing. I spent countless hours looking up synonyms and polishing my prose. I wouldn’t move on to the next sentence until I was completely satisfied with the previous one, and I wouldn’t start a new paragraph until I found the perfect transition. Although I got my writing done, the process was slow and painful. When I finally began to dread writing, I realized that there must be a more productive and less stressful way to go about it. Now I swear by 750words.com, a website where you write 750 words every day and get fun rewards if you don’t break the streak. (If you skip a day, you have to start over.) It motivates me to maintain a writing schedule and helps me get the energy flowing. I use it both as a journal and as a way to start writing projects. I also do a lot of freewriting and note-taking in pencil on big lined notepads. I find that I am better connected to my ideas when I write in longhand.
I have a Ph.D. in American literature from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, where I taught a variety of English courses and directed many senior honors theses and Master’s theses before moving to the United States in 2008. I am interested in nineteenth-century American literature, especially women’s poetry, the literary culture of New England, and the connections between literature and music. My essays have appeared in the Emily Dickinson Journal, ATQ, and in Polish journals and essay collections. In addition to my job at the Writing Center, I work as a music manager and occasionally freelance for Poland Radio.
Email Magdalena Zapedowska