Not everyone loves writing, and I’m not convinced people should love writing.
It’s hard work.
I have a love-hate relationship with writing that has been cultivated over several years.
I’ve heard students bemoan the fact that they have to write in their classes, as if writing were something to be feared and handled like a hot poker.
I address these concerns every day in the writing classes I teach, and in my own head, as I attempt to type words on a computer screen.
Writing is hard, and no one should ever try to convince you otherwise.
The ability to sit down and formulate sentences and then put those sentences into paragraphs and then put those paragraphs into a coherent structure is hard. It’s time-consuming and exhausting.
However, despite the difficulty of writing, I firmly believe that anyone can and should achieve a working proficiency, since it’s the basis of most communication in our world.
You may never love or even like writing, but you should at least understand writing and the processes that give rise to it.
In college, there is no greater skill than the ability to communicate. We communicate every day. We communicate with our professors in person and through email; with our friends and relatives though social media, like Facebook and Twitter; and with ourselves as well as larger potentially unknown audiences in blog posts and other ways.
We communicate even when we don’t think we’re communicating, and the basis for much of our communication is still the written word.
As you move through your college years, you’ll be expected to write more and more. Here are some pointers I’ve found useful and my students seem to find useful:
1. Write every day.
Most people already do this because most college students have Facebook accounts or other social media accounts where communication is almost solely in written form. However, more than social media, you should get into the habit of writing a little every day in a journal or blog.
It doesn’t have to be much. It can be 200 words about your day, about a class you hate or love, about a professor who you think is unfair or fair, about your friends, etc.
The important thing to remember is that whatever platform you pick, it is your space to express yourself. The habit of writing a little every day will serve you well when you need to write for an assignment.
2. Take your time.
We all have deadlines, and we should work to meet them accordingly.
If you have a writing deadline, then you should set up a schedule to write a minimum amount of time every day until you complete your task. Do not become consumed with achieving certain word limits during writing sessions.
Instead, you should just write and get something on the page. For some sessions, you’ll get a lot of writing on the page, and for other sessions, you’ll get almost nothing on the page.
That’s just how writing works. It ebbs and flows. Some find the Pomodoro Technique helpful. It sets a timer and you just write until it goes off.
Then, you take a break, and you do it all over again. It’s not about writing against a timer but more about writing and taking breaks to let your brain.
3. Quality is always better than quantity.
I know that many students have to write a certain amount of words or pages in order to meet assignment parameters. Just remember: The quality of the writing will always outshine the quantity of the writing.
If you write a solid and well-executed paper, it will show and the instructor will notice. This is not to say that you shouldn’t write for word and page requirements, but that the writing you do to make those requirements should always be the best writing you can do.
4. Ask for help.
Never be afraid to ask for help with your writing. As I said, writing is hard, and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of ideas and not know where to go next.
If you’re having trouble with grammar, ask for help. If you’re having trouble with structure, ask for help. If you’re having trouble with content, ask for help.
Your instructors are there to help you. It’s part of the reason they are teachers. In addition to your instructors, many campuses have writing centers, where you can get help with everything from topic to content to format.
5. Practice proofreading.
Make proofreading fun.
Make it a game. When you proofread your work, make it so that for every error you find and correct you get some rest time or a treat.
Do anything to make it engaging and entertaining. Moreover, when you proofread your work, read it out loud to yourself. This will help you find errors in your work that you may not find when reading silently.
Make fun of the errors you make. It’s okay to laugh at yourself a bit. Every writer makes errors and every writer misses things in their writing.
It’s part of the process. You are not the only person with issues in their writing, and those issues aren’t new.
These five tips can help alleviate stress and concern when writing. You should always remember that writing is a process and at every step of your process, the writing improves.
There are no bad writers—only inexperienced writers.
However, through practice and writing a little every day, you’ll find that history essay or that lab report a little easier to write. Distribute the pressure of writing over days and weeks, and you’ll produce writing you can be proud of.
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