What’s the first thing you do when you start a new writing project?


Draft an outline? Do a literature review? Well, it probably depends on what you’re writing.


So, it’s extra rare to happen upon a writing tip that might just work for any project you have. Take note, as CSU’s own Dr. Brooke Anderson, PhD, offers a somewhat magical recommendation on visualizing and starting your writing project at the same time.


“I write a lot of academic papers as part of my work, and then I’ve also gotten some funding from the NIH to write some training modules. So a lot of my day-to-day is writing and trying to get products out,” she recently told us.


“There were two problems that led to this [technique]. The first problem is I hate looking at a blank page when it’s time to start a project. It’s maybe the worst thing to look at that and try to come up with something to fill it with, and I think that’s probably true of a lot of writers…the second thing though, that might be more unique to academic writers, is a lot of times I was finding that I would over-write in terms of the amount I needed for the paper, and then not only would spend a lot of time writing, but then have to spend a lot of time going back and getting it down to the length that I need for that journal.”




Dr. Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences. Her research focuses on how climate-related disasters effect human health. She has completed national-level studies on health risks associated with climate-related exposures. Safe to say, she is writing long pieces and writing often.




Her old technique was “to draft out everything that I thought was important to say and then look at the word count and then realize I was thousands of words over.”


Her new and improved method, the “Lorem Ipsum Technique”—something Dr. Anderson is confident she did not invent but did introduce to CSU Writes—works something like this: open a blank document for writing and search for a Lorem Ipsum text generator (like one of these). Identify the amount of writing you’re settling in to do—5,000 words? 500? 2 pages? No limit? Enter the amount of text you need into the generator and copy and paste that into your blank document.


“It’s the kind of thing that maybe it’s so simple it’s actually got some brilliance to it,” Dr. Anderson disclosed.


Depending on what you’re writing, you might want to break down your writing by subheadings. For example, if you need to have an introduction section, mark it off with approximately the amount of Lorem Ipsum text you have budgeted to introduce the reader to your topic. Going sentence-by-sentence, Dr. Anderson then replaces the Lorem Ipsum filler text with her writing.


Lorem Ipsum has a long history—and some Latin roots. According to Professor Richard McClintock (Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia), Lorem Ipsum can be traced to Cicero’s “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil). Fast forward to today, and it’s helping Dr. Anderson write faster and more efficiently.


“I think one of the things about the CSU Writes programming that is really wonderful is it’s nice to always have fresh ideas coming in and new things to try…I do so much writing and I know other academics do so much writing that I think it’s easy for the process to get stale. One of the wonderful things about CSU writes…is the chance for people to talk about their process.”


Check out a schedule of our retreats and other events here, and thank you Dr. Anderson for sharing a writing tip with us!