One of the things that I “knew” before I started grad school, but am only now having beaten into my brain, is the importance of being a good writer if you want to succeed in academia (or life). Almost all of my education from here until I’m Dr. Gilmore will consist of reading and writing- ad nauseum. So making sure that I’m as good at these skills as possible is one way I can keep my life from becoming hell.
Which shouldn’t be too hard, considering reading and writing have always been two things I’ve been exceptionally good at. I’m not particularly talented in many fields, and I would definitely say I’m not creative, but I’ve always been able to put my ideas on paper in a way that, if it won’t be earning me any Nobel prizes in literature, will at least communicate my ideas effectively.
Plus, I love to write. In the same way that a musician is always thinking about melodies and lyrics, or a painter is drawn to the colors of the world, I can’t help but express myself with the written word. I’m drawn to words and sentences with an uncontrollable need to use them as my soul’s outlet to the world. Which means going into a field that requires almost nothing but reading and writing was probably a good idea 😉
But I can always be better, and tonight in class, my professor gave us some extremely helpful advice on how to improve your writing skills. These tips were mostly for academic writing, but I’m sure they could be tweaked for artistic writing, and since I am good friends with many kindred writers, I figured I’d share what I learned.
1) Writing is the sociological imagination in action- it is the perfect embodiment of the tenuous divide between public and private. Learn to embrace this relationship.
2) Write with your audience in mind, even if that audience is yourself.
3) Writing should not be a linear, nor a rushed, process.
4) Look for a mentor in writing who will allow you to make your own mistakes, while showing you how to correct them.
5) If you are struggling to write, it may be because you don’t actually know what you’re trying to say.
6) Trust your mind’s creative process, even if it feels like procrastination. You may think you’re just doing the dishes, watching Netflix, or walking the dog, but if you let your mind simmer on the assignment, insight will come.
7) Learn to let go of a passage if it needs to go. Don’t get so attached to your writing that, if a word/sentence/paragraph/chapter does not serve its purpose, you are unable to excise it from the work. It will be hard, but the final product is worth it.
8) Along those lines, make sure nothing is in your paper that doesn’t need to be there. Go through your paper sentence by sentence, if necessary, to make sure every word serves a purpose.
9) Never repeat yourself (unless you’re in the intro or conclusion, then it’s pretty much necessary). Make sure every sentence contributes a unique, necessary point for your paper; don’t make that point over and over again with different words.
10) If you get to a place where you’re not sure what to say next, put a period. There’s nothing wrong with short sentences.
Does anyone else have any tips on writing that they would share? Strategies for jump-starting inspiration, or ways you make sure that your writing is as polished and effective as it can be?