the (literal) cut-and-paste essay

Remember back in the day when we used to actually DO things with our hands instead of with computers? I know, it seems like such an old timey Little House on the Prairie sort of idea, right? (Speaking of, wasn't Almanzo dreamy?)

article-2030484-0D94E87B00000578-757_468x498
article-2030484-0D94E87B00000578-757_468x498

Anyway. Back to your essay.

You may have vomited all your thoughts onto Microsoft Word and you're not sure what to do next. Or maybe you've been working on your essay and it feels a little flat, a little predictable. In either case, you've hit a wall and you need a little shot of thinking-outside-the-box-style inspiration.

Well here it is!

keep-calm-and-cut-and-paste
keep-calm-and-cut-and-paste

THE (LITERAL) CUT-AND-PASTE ESSAY

STEP ONE

  • Change your font size to a slightly larger one than you're used to, like 14 point. It'll help you view your words in a new way.

STEP TWO

  • Alter your spacing so that each paragraph is on a single sheet--don't let a paragraph straddle two pages.

STEP THREE

  • Print your essay.

STEP FOUR

  • Grab some scissors and cut out each paragraph separately. This doesn't have to be pretty. A simple slice across the page will do!

STEP FIVE

  • Mix up the paragraphs like you're shuffling cards. Then, spread them out on the floor or on a table in any random order. You should be able to see them all at once.

STEP SIX

  • Begin to mix and match, pairing paragraphs together until you eventually determine the best layout for your writing. Don't worry about transitions--you can always smooth those out later. Try new paragraphs to open and close your essay. What feels good to you? What are you missing? Can you leave some paragraphs out completely?

STEP SEVEN

  • Tape your essay back together for clarity (and so that your dog/cat/little sister doesn't come in and mess it up), and rearrange the paragraphs in your Word doc to match.

This is a GREAT activity to infuse some creativity and spice to your writing. It often jogs your brain out of the literal A to B to C of normal thought. On the flip side, you may end up with the exact same order you started with, which will confirm that you're totally on the right track. This technique is most helpful with creative essays (like college personal statements), but I've used it with research papers, too. I can't help it--I just love a craft project. And anything that gets your mental juices flowing is a very, very good thing.

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