Most students I encounter have this “I’m not a writer” attitude, or they think they need tutoring cause they’re writing just “isn’t there.” This is pretty common, and can be followed to bad classroom experiences, harsh teachers, or discouraging peers.
On the other hand, there’s also a lot of students that think their writing is “good” and that’s all there is to it. Well, heads up! Even an accomplished writer, or a writer who “is there” still has more they can work on. You can never run out of ideas, intelligence, or imagination; therefore, you can never run out of ways to improve your writing.
So, what do you do if you feel like you are there? A lot, really.
For this blog, I’m going to provide 5 tips that I share with fellow academics and creative writers, even at the graduate level.
#1 Read Aloud. And Do It Again.
Even good writers make simple typos, and some will write run-on sentences without realizing it. Reading aloud will usually help you find these mistakes because it forces you to slow down and read critically. Here’s the thing though, reading aloud once isn’t enough. The first time you read it aloud, you’ll find mistakes and fix them. But once you read it aloud the second time with these fixes, you can find other larger issues related to transitions, pacing, and organization.
#2 Try Timers and Be Consistent (when possible).
Timing yourself can be a fairly efficient way to motivate you to write. For those days when you have a ton to do, but still need to work on that one writing assignment that you’re dreading, throwing down for 30 minutes can prove helpful for getting your thoughts on paper. You don’t need to keep that draft, but at least you have ideas to work with! For creative writing, this can be helpful when you need to narrow your focus and cut off access to rabbit hole research or side stories. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone, as it can feel stressful.
#3 Stay focused.
Similar to the last tip, staying focused can mean setting timers, but it also means putting away other electronics, turning on some music, and setting up all the snacks necessary to work unbothered. Simply standing up to get water or to snack search can completely remove your mind from your writing. Setting a writing routine can also be helpful! Try writing every morning for 20 minutes or create a safe space where you always feel comfortable writing.
#4 Try new outlining/planning methods.
If you’re struggling with a new assignment and you’ve already tried creating an outline list, try doing the opposite. Write down two or three goals for your assignment and start writing. Let your writing go crazy and branch off into different sections. Then try organizing what you have written into a new structure. You can also try writing your basic outline on paper, cutting it up, and physically moving it around. My point here is to try outlining and planning in different ways. This can spark creativity and new ideas!
#5 Experiment with different kinds of writing.
If you’re a poet, try prose. If you’re an academic writer, try writing a story. If you’re a fiction writer, try writing nonfiction. Experimenting with other genres can provide new ways of communicating, and it’s important to diversify your skill set! Even reading other genres can inspire new ideas or images for your other writing projects.