3 Ways To Better Your Writings

…Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’… No woman has ever written enough.~bell hooks

She coins an attractive point.

Writing is a form of communication. It reveals perspectives, thoughts, perceptions and thinking processes. You often write from your cultural background and experiences. People can use words to convey language via stories, peer journals, research, text, email, letters. etc. Written expression, whatever it is, takes diligence, passion, and practice.

Write Outside the Box
I have written mostly scholarly papers. I prefer creative and non-fiction writing. My teaching career required professional and academic writing. While in undergrad, I made sure to take poetry, short story, creative writing and advanced creative writing to keep my “creative juices” flowing. However, I entered undergrad with a strong religious background. I feared writing “outside the box.” At that time, my religious affiliation projected and imposed teachings that feared “ungodly” writings, books and ideologies. My professors saw something beyond my writings. They challenged me to write from the heart. They were also eager to get into my left side of the brain. Simply put, I was sorely afraid to write what they knew I could do. I eventually “let go” and began to write with liberties. bell hooks contends, “one must reinvent the self to become a genuine and creative person.” I did just that. I reinvented my [self] and became real to myself. My writings flourished and grew beyond measure, and I allowed my teachers to lead and guide them. You need a particular kind of praxis of freedom to express through the writing medium.

“Just free-write, and journal frequently–this way no one can judge your writing. It will make you stronger.”

Embrace Grammar & Vocabulary Always
I retired from teaching 9th grade English 1 and 10th & 11th-grade Pre-AP/Honors English 3. One of the many areas that middle and high school students demonstrate weakness in is writing and grammar. Writing and grammar are essential to standard English, all content areas, for college and most importantly careers. Many adults have difficulties in these sectors as well. Grammar is not one of many people’s strong suits per se. And like most, I relate with noticing grammatical errors after submitting papers, emails, text messages, etc. I once asked an old friend what the best way to improve writing was. She answered, “Just free-write, and journal frequently–this way no one can judge your writing. It will make you stronger.” This advice is the best in the universe.  Try 30 to 40 minutes of free writing each area with a timer. Then, revise and edit one section at a time.

I observe that most aspiring writers are weak in the areas of pronouns/antecedents, subject-verb agreement, and comma usage. (What did she just say? What is that?) Mistakes are constant in these areas because either too much time or no time is given to re-read the sentences correctly. One added area of struggle is revising and editing. I am confident that editing will take many papers to a new desired level. Also, many want to write with an active vocabulary. Sometimes you can feel like your words are too “soft” and or “bland,” especially at certain levels. I teach my clients how to add flavor to their work, and the importance of daily practice and praxis. Vocabulary is essential to any writing and speaking. Vocabulary takes on 3-tiers: everyday words, academic/content words, and challenging words. Vocabulary is very easy to fix. The number one secret is to use a thesaurus and replace the word. But, be careful with this tool. You want to be sure that the synonym maintains the meaning of your sentence, and that the word fits in context. Try not to keep your vocabulary usage balanced. Also, you have to consider the style and tone of the piece.

Stress and Anxiety Roots
Mistakes may cause reactions that provoke adrenaline rushes and anxieties. If allowed, mistakes can lure you into competitive rounds to not look bad. Who wants to look bad in front of others? Henri Nouwen asserts that competition will increase and compound stresses. He contends people are not here to compete, but those systems constrain us into this mode of thinking and becoming. I concur with Nouwen. You can feel stressed reviewing your writings over and over because you desire your works to be that of excellence. Remove yourself from the competitive nature that’s out there. You are unique. Your writings will not be like anyone else. If at any moment you feel overwhelmed, step away from the project. Go into another zone of something you love. Another alternative is to talk to a close friend or partner about your frustrations. Removing yourself and taking breaks are healthy aspects to the life of a writer. Your creative energies cannot flow under pressures that bring restrictions. Restrictions suffocate creativities.

Inspiration From Other Writers
Writing provides escapable journeys. I enjoy watching my clients grow and learn. I can identify with them on various levels. Two, in particular, are writer’s block and confessing that I get lazy and do not always feel like putting thoughts to a page. Conversely, I acquire much inspiration from my favorite scholars and thinkers like bell hooks, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, Parker J. Palmer and Paulo Freire. I love their writings as they reveal such dominant thinking processes. Find other writers and thinkers that encourage and inspire you to write. Reading works from your favorites will create new ideas to help you fill many crisp pages.

Have hopes to become a stronger writer and critical thinker. Try not to “lose” yourself in the process, but rather go through another “re-inventing” experience. Also, read more so that you can write with more detail. When the brain shuts down, it is sometimes because you do not have enough information or prior knowledge to use to expand your thoughts.

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