By Mark Latta, M.A. | August 21, 2017
As a student, you’ll be asked to write quite a bit. Research essays, critiques, reading responses, resumes, and personal statements are just a few of the different types of writing you’ll be asked to complete during your education. For those who relish the opportunity to start a new writing project, perhaps the academic writing requirements do not pose a challenge. However, some of you don’t just dislike writing—you hate it. I talk to and work with reluctant writers every day in my classes and through my work in the Marian University Writing Center.
Whether you like, dislike, or dread writing, I’ve good news for you. There are some suggestions that will help you develop a habit of writing and become more intentional in your practice of writing. These suggestions will not only improve your academic writing but also make the process more enjoyable.
Accept how you feel about writing (and then set your feelings aside)
Here’s something that usually surprises people when I say it: it’s okay if you don’t like to write. It’s also okay if you love to write. Whatever your personal feelings about writing are, what’s more important is that you write. As a student, you aren’t required to fall in love with writing, but you are required to write. It’s easy to become sidetracked with how we feel about writing rather than actually concentrate on doing the writing. Set aside your emotions and instead focus on the task at hand. In other words, what’s more important than liking what you write or feeling inspired to write? Writing.
Set aside regular time for writing (and stick to it)
Yes, you are busy. However, part of being a successful student is being a successful writer. And a big part of being a successful writer is to write. As much as possible. Consider this advice part of the “fake it until you make it” camp. Or, for some, it might be more applicable to say, “don’t put off what comes easy.” Bad writing and good writing still equals writing. What you will likely discover is that the more you write, the more likely your feelings and understandings about it will evolve.
Even if it’s 10 minutes each day, find some time to dedicate to your writing and use that time to write. Mute your phone. Distance yourself from distractions. Write. Rather than worrying about the quality of your writing, worry about quantity. If you make writing a daily habit, for even a few minutes at a time, you’ll likely find you have plenty of opportunities to improve your drafts by approaching writing as a process. Speaking of which…
Understand writing as a process (and engage in it)
Successful writers know that writing is a process. Quality writing emerges over multiple drafts and conversations about the writing. It is rare for excellent writing to emerge on the first draft. Yes, it’s possible to crank out a draft at the last minute and receive a high grade. But this approach is stressful, unreliable, and doesn’t allow you to use your writing time as a time for active engagement with the material. By setting aside time to write each day, you’ll allow yourself mental space as you write to learn and begin to think more fully about the content and your approach. Of course, part of the writing process involves obtaining regular and reliable feedback, which leads me to the final strategy for developing an effective writing habit: developing a team of support.
Develop a team of support (and use them)
A good writing habit continually seeks out reliable feedback from trusted sources throughout the writing process. There’s more than one way to respond to writing, and successful writers know that helpful feedback may sound one way in the early drafting stages while it may sound differently when a draft has been polished through multiple revisions. Whether you receive (or provide) support from a friend who’s opinion you trust, a peer writing group, or the Marian University Writing Center, it’s important that you incorporate regular feedback as part of your writing process. Don’t wait until you have a final draft to seek out feedback. Feedback about your ideas is often valuable before you create your first draft. In the Writing Center, we love discussing ideas before they reach the drafting stage, and this time to explore possible writing topics is a valuable part of the writing process.
These are just a few writing strategies to help you as you enter into your academic career. Please stop into the Marian University Writing Center (or work with us online) to discuss your writing related questions!
Check out "Writing Tips for Business Students" for more writing tips.