I was in a conversation the other day on Facebook about how difficult it is to write anything. The quote that started it all was by my friend Tommy.

He asked,

“How do you write a song/sermon/essay…etc? I have found that when you sit down to do those things, every time without fail, you haven’t the foggiest idea how to do it. Only when you are finished can you look back and say “That’s how I did it”, but no one really knows how to start anything. Every day you sit and try and learn it all over again.”

I really and truly agree. Most of the time, getting started is the most difficult part of getting anything done for me. Once I get the ball rolling, things flow. But up until that point, I often sit around and seem to have forgotten how I did it before, even though by this point in my life I have written many, many papers, blog posts, and other documents.

Last June, after a doctoral seminar I took, I jotted down what my process for academic writing. I did that so I could return to it when I needed to write something else. I thought this would be an appropriate time to share it here.

  1. Start in Scrivener with an outline (Sometimes I start with a mind map, but usually it’s an outline in Scrivener)
  2. Put research in Scrivener
  3. Get as far as I can by just “putting thoughts down” (Just spit it out already–at this point it’s definitely not very good)
  4. Transfer it to Word template (Templates are your friend)
  5. Keep writing until it’s almost ready
  6. Format footnotes and Bibliography (this site is helpful when using Turabian)
  7. Proofread and polish
  8. Send to editor/proofreader (Get an editor/proofreader!)
  9. Make edits/adjustments
  10. Turn in final product

That’s how I do most of my academic writing (so far).

What do you do?