Have you ever started writing an academic paper, reread a few paragraphs, and even you could hear, “blah blah blah” in the background as you read over your words? There’s no hook, nothing interesting to grab the readers’ attention and pull them into your subject matter so that they finish reading to the end, full of enlightenment and knowledge given by you – the writer. Do you worry that your paper is going to sound like the hundreds your professor has read before? Do you feel like a machine, writing and spitting out the same thing, over and over again?
Academic writing comes with a set of rules and guidelines for writing a good paper, and sometimes those guidelines can make one write with a straightforward, dry writing style, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Yes, academic writing has stylebooks, preconceived topics, and a set of end-results one must show in a well thought out paper, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative while following all the rules. Academic writing doesn’t mean dry writing. It also doesn’t mean writing the same style of paper repeatedly. You are in control of how your thoughts and ideas are conveyed to the reader. That alone requires a creative aspect of some sort, even if it’s not technically creative writing.
Getting your ideas to flow creatively from point A to point B plagues every writer, whether solely creative or academic. It takes time and in some cases many, many rewrites to logically link your ideas together on paper. That is where the academic part of writing comes into play—following the style guidelines, grammar, punctuation, and reference rules. The creative part that comes out of this is the topic of your paper, how you get those thoughts out, and how you can personalize the “voice” of the academic paper.
Keeping in mind the specific topic of your paper, think about how to get the reader’s attention in the first paragraph. It’s okay to be a bit funny or quirky in your opening, but gage your audience and subject matter. In some cases, such as an English course, you may be able to slip in some real-life examples like conversations and personal occurrences in your life that relate to your subject matter. Think about different ways to relate topics to present-day news. Don’t just copy and paste from references; offer clear, concise, and original thoughts.
Writing styles and rules (there’s that nasty word again—rule) aren’t meant to hamper creativity or make you drown in the awful world of writer’s block. Ultimately, rules and style guidelines create better and more creative writers. If you look at them as roadblocks, that is exactly what they will become, and it’s hard to get rid of that feeling once you start. If you look at them as something to conquer by using your creative force, you’ll be surprised at how much better your writing will become – and how much your professors start paying attention to your papers.