The process of writing can sometimes seem mysterious, complex, and daunting. Just like training your body to run a race, writing essays takes time and practice (think drafting, editing, and polishing). It’s easy to want to avoid the tired legs and sore muscles that come with pushing your body to start running or tackling a new distance, but the more you run (write), the stronger, more agile, and more successful you will become. So what are some simple tips that will lead you to get your thoughts on the page?
Journal- Journaling is a good way to get in the habit of expressing yourself through writing without the pressure of creating polished work. Just like when starting to run or training for a race, it is helpful to pace for where you are starting from and not overload yourself. Not much of a writer? Start with journaling once a week – 15 minutes tops.
Try to increase the days you write. Work up from one day to a few days to possibly every day. Set a schedule that will work for you and commit to a particular time each day you want to write.
Don’t limit yourself in what you write about. Start with anything that interests you. It’s true that we write best what we know. You could have pre-determined questions that you answer each time you write, or you could write whatever random words come to mind. You could vent into your notebook about the tough stuff. The important thing is to get pen to paper, fingers on the keyboard, thumbs to the screen.
What do you do if you get stuck? Copy. Not steal, not plagiarize, but find a piece of writing, (could be the sports page in the newspaper, a grocery list, or even a recipe) and just start copying it down. Keep copying until you find your own more interesting words and thoughts. You’d be surprised how copying can quickly pivot a person into writing something way more compelling.
Read your writing out loud to yourself or a trusted soul. Even if you just have a sentence or two, read it out loud. Try telling the rest of story out loud. If you can take notes, or tell your story to someone else, you can capture your tone, intonation, and rhythm of your voice.
Write a letter. Pick your audience. Someone you like and will want to hear what you have to say.
Don’t edit as you go. When you really want to get something down on the page, don’t worry about the minutia (grammar, sentence flow, clarity). No one said the words have to come together perfectly on the first try. Editing as you write will unnecessarily weigh you down and dishearten you (who hasn’t written and rewritten a sentence ten times and thought “Why won’t it come out right?”). Can’t think of the right word? Write down the closest thing and make a note so that you can come back to it later. Capturing one imperfectly articulated thought is worth much more than not writing anything at all -- you’ll thank yourself later.
Yes, writing may be hard, and working to be the kind of writer you want to be may take time and practice, but it is not an unattainable goal. The whole point is not to avoid writing or succumb to the myth that you’re not good at it or that it’s too hard. It’s all about building up your writing muscles and your ability to put your thoughts on the page.
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