Writing is a very complex process because your brain must tend to many different things at once: you must form your idea, put it into words, think about how to spell those words, consider what to capitalize and how to punctuate, and remember how to form letters (or find them on a keyboard). In addition, while you're writing one sentence, your mind is likely racing ahead to what you'll say in the next sentence!

One way to make writing easier is to break the process into parts so that you can focus on each step individually. At any time, even when you're trying to decide what you'll write about, you might find it helpful to talk about your ideas with someone else.

1. Clarify your writing task. Choose a topic that is specific enough that you can deal with it thoroughly in the space and time available to you. Be sure you know whom you're writing for and why. Don't think of your audience merely as your teacher. It would be good if your writing would be read by others—classmates, perhaps, or readers of a newspaper. Even if your parent or teacher is the main person who'll see your work, imagine that you're writing for a specific, perhaps broader, audience—your peers, younger students, a famous author, a relative. Also have the purpose of your writing clearly in mind. What do you want your writing to accomplish? What response do you want from your readers?

2. Once you've determined your audience and purpose, spend some time jotting down ideas and planning your writing—whether you're writing a story, a poem, a report, an essay, or something else. How will you accomplish your purpose? Your ideas might be in the form of an outline or a web, or they might just be scattered randomly on a page. The important thing is to record them somewhere so you don't have to worry about forgetting them. That frees your mind for writing.

Write down anything you might possibly want to include. You want to develop your narrowed topic as completely as possible. For example, if you were trying to persuade someone to do something, you'd want to use the best arguments or those that address various aspects of the subject, not just the first ones that occur to you.

As you talk with others about what you'll write, try to choose people who'll ask questions and encourage you to talk about your topic. Your conferees don't need to be experts on your topic. In fact, people who aren't familiar with your topic might be better able to help you find ways to explain it clearly. As you talk about your topic, you'll use words that you'll later use in your writing. Talking provides an excellent rehearsal for writing.

3. Once you've gathered your ideas and put them in order, write your first draft as quickly as possible. Don't worry about wording, spelling, or other mechanics. Record your ideas on paper, on a computer disk, or even on magnetic tape. If you're working on a computer, save your work often and create one or more backup files on different disks. If you're writing by hand, write on only one side of your paper. If you later decide to reorganize your composition, you'll be able to see the whole thing at once. You can even cut and paste if you want to. Obviously that's impossible if you've written on front and back. Skipping lines also simplifies revision. The important thing is to record your ideas.

If you did thorough planning, you might find that writing your first draft is simply a matter of writing a few sentences about each point in your plan. If you have trouble, though, remember that you don't need to write your composition in order. Often the introduction is one of the hardest parts to write. If you're stuck on the introduction, skip to whatever part you do feel ready to write. After you've written parts of your composition—or even all of it—the introduction might be easier for you to write.