This page explains a basic process for getting started and how to do preparation writing (brainstorming and freewriting).
Never just sit down and write a whole essay!!!
OK, it might once... twice if you're lucky... but if you're looking to write a good essay and to receive a good grade you have to get used to the idea that essay writing is a process. You also need to get used to the idea that it is not an easy process.
What does PROCESS mean?
When we get a question and try to think about it,often our mind goes blank. It's not necessarily because there's nothing in there - often it's because there's TOO MUCH in there! As we can only think and write about one thought at a time, we need to find a writing technique that helps us empty out our ideas. This technique is called brainstorming. Conversely, sometimes our mind is blank because we really can't think of anything... maybe you need to look at that essay question again (see Interpreting questions/assignments) or, maybe, you need to find a way to loosen up and to let your mind start to flow around and over the topic. This technique is called freewriting and it will actually help you find and generate ideas you never even knew you had. Often what stops us from coming up with ideas and finding out what we think/feel is that we get caught up in our own head where we can only think about one idea at a time and may never discover all the other wonderful ones that we have. Don't worry about organization and correctness. Don't worry about grammar. Don't worry about what anyone else will think; worrying will just get you stuck! Brainstorming and Freewriting are a way of thinking on the paper, but you need to let your ideas flow, and that way everything gets found, nothing gets lost, and you have lots of material to eventually shape your essay from. It's important to also remember that we can't have a lot of ideas unless we start looking for them.
Preparation writing is for you. It will help you to find and make ideas. It is not for presentation for a reader, so it doesn't matter what it looks like! Don't spend any time rereading or proofreading or correcting when you are actually brainstorming or freewriting.We want to find more and more ideas, not judge and change the initial ones. It is important to write EVERYTHING down and not to censor yourself. What might seem like a silly idea now, may turn out to be the seed of your best idea later.