One of the ways I approach papers/essays is what I call (inside my head) writing in a framework. Basically, here's how it looks:
A few things you might notice:
- The first two lines at the top are the prompt. It's always helpful to keep important things directly in your field of vision, and eliminate the rest.
- I use little tags in brackets (like [CITE] and [EXPAND]). These are, obviously, notes to myself to do what they say. When I put these in the writing, I'm acknowledging that the sentence or paragraph will need some extension later — but the point is that I'm not addressing that yet. I don't want to divert my attention from the flow of ideas to anything else.
The result? In about 45 minutes I have 617 words of the basic frame for my essay. The major flow of ideas is quickly and enjoyably done, now I will go through the references I have gathered and add citations, quotes and expansions.
The point here is to just start writing. This is MILES away from being even the shittiest first draft, but that's the point. The ideas are no longer bouncing around in my head, they're out there, on the screen and ready for expansion.
Not a revolutionary approach, but definitely something I would call a bit out of the ordinary. At the end of the day, it helps me write, and that's what matters.
Side note: The program I took a screenshot of is called OmmWriter. It's useful for anyone who wants to get sucked into the flow of their writing, and the basic version that I use is totally free. I have no connection to the program or its creators outside of enjoying it, just passing info along.