I’ve started throwing away what I write. Really. I’ve started writing and writing and writing and then deleting what I’ve written or just opening another blank document and starting again. I might write about the same thing or I might write about something completely new. I might write about nothing or I might be inspired by a particular quote. There are various methods of writing but I’ve settled on this one. I’ve never been one for highly structured outlines prior to writing my papers. My brain simply doesn’t think like that. I don’t think in “beginning, middle, end” linearity or in outline format. It just doesn’t work for me. While some writers think that it is simply a lack of planning on my part to throw away so much writing I’ve finally determined that I simply work that way and it is better that I realize it now and go with it than try to fit myself into a format that doesn’t work.
So I pre-write. I put my thoughts on the page without worrying about them being good or perfect or even relevant to the final product. I write in order to find out what I want to write about. The ideas and themes and structure emerge all on their own. I’ve found that this helps me make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas in order to employ them in my research. Somehow all of this pre-writing taps into my mind in a way that I can’t tap into it consciously. Through the act of writing and thinking on the page I figure out what it is I need to write based on what keeps coming up in my writing.
What is inevitable in using this method, however, is that you must start early for it to be effective. While I think that this is true for any type of research project you might write it is especially true when you’re going to find your thesis and/or topic through writing. This is a long way to say: start early this semester. Get to work early so you don’t have to worry later on. Good luck.