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Saturday, February 6, 2016

My First Steps To Being A Better Writer

Since I discovered exactly what I wanted to do with Everything the Light Touches my goal has been to share with you the backstory on where we're headed. The bottom line around here is self-improvement. The hope is that you will find a place of encouragement and ideas to get you moving toward your personal goals. Specifically for me self-improvement is evolving into becoming a better person, exploring all the things that make up Me, both good and bad, and making them more interesting, bearable, positive, and helpful. The end result is to contribute to, not take away from, my surroundings. A large part of this now includes writing. But I only recently discovered how much I enjoy writing. Until I realized it, I thought writing was an afterthought riding on the coat tails of all the other things I fill my time with - music, blogging, marketing, personal development, research, study. Certainly writing wasn't something that I believed was part of my entire persona.

By choosing to accept that part of me, I've had a chance to review what lessons I have learned about writing over the years. It begins with a story of discouragement (which I turned into stubbornness), and eventually became a thirst for refinement. Read on to see what I mean.

My First Steps To Becoming A Writer - how to use experience to find yourself

The Lessons

At the end of my freshman year of high school I went to my History teacher for permission to take a higher level class. She flat out told me that my writing wasn't good enough to take this class, which was meant to be like a college level course. Her words lit a vengeful fire within me - I'd show her! I would write, and I would write so well. From then on being noticed as the best writer was top priority. I enrolled in only the level she would approve but I would get high marks on every one of my writing assignments throughout high school and beyond. My writing was noticed by teachers and professors as something to be proud of. At least until English 201.

I had recently transferred to a new university and the graduation requirements forced me to take yet another level of English. I thrashed and brayed walking into that first day of class. Of all people, this girl did NOT need to take more English classes, especially one focused on writing. Boy was I wrong…

On our first assignment I received a C, meaning average. That's a long drop from the top of the high pedestal I had built myself. Oh this would go on for weeks because I frankly wasn't willing to give a new way of writing a chance. My methods had brought me this far, what's to say it wasn't my professor being the rigid believer in his own way of doing things that was keeping me from being noticed? 

One day towards the middle of the semester I was staring at my most recent homework grade, frustrated with figuring out what I was missing, when a thought crept up on me. What if I don’t know everything there is to know about good writing? My freshman History teacher had been "wrong," so maybe I could be too. For the next writing assignment I committed to using what the professor was actually teaching. And, you know, it was amazing.

It was logical and engaging. My whole writing process became increasingly better as I applied what I was learning, but not just in English class. Years later I saw improvement in other classes as well. In my final semester of college, an Economics professor (yes Economics!!) left a bright red ink note on my last analysis paper begging me to teach my future students how to write. I was going on to be a History teacher (ironic huh?), not an English teacher. To me that was a noticeably desperate testimonial.

What I Learned

I thought a lot about what I would teach my future students if and when I had the chance. Research is a big one. I'll always be a historian at heart. Then of course there is the basics of grammar, structure, etc. But what really stuck out to me as a worthy lesson was how much writing should be seen as a community process. We use it every day for so many things. In a given day I’ll write multiple emails to clients, social media posts, blog articles, lyrics for my music, checklists and notes, even texts – Communication is literally everywhere!  And that communication involves others to share with, learn from, validate, or critique. It all comes down to words and how we give them away. Heck, it’s how we give ourselves away.

All the time we write back and forth we are learning from each other. Everything is recognized as a part of some context which is defined by our environment. Our presence is molded by our influences just as much as our individuality. The lessons from those two teachers had influenced my writing, and by extension my personality, alongside my personal desire to be better at writing. Without any of it I wouldn't know what writing actually consists of. I found that writing is ongoing, a constant learning experience. 

There is no Mrs. Marrott’s classroom right now, but there is a Facebook group I've created to share this feeling of nonstop learning among writers. And you’re invited! 

Writers Without Limits writing improvement groupWriters Without Limits is a group for anyone who wants to write better by building relationships, gaining perspective, and sharing. And I do mean ANYONE. Bloggers, journal enthusiasts, marketers, aspiring novelists, musicians, poets, they are all welcome seeing as I learned not so long ago that we need each other if we truly want to improve. (That goes for writing and for just about anything else...)

Well Writers Without Limits is waiting for YOU. Sign up for the ETLT email list to get in there and we'll show each other what we've got! Click HERE to join us.

Every developing writer needs ink-couragement. Haha, clever right? But if that doesn't do it for you, I hope my story did. I mean it when I say we need each other. And if that pun truly didn't do it for you, join us at Writers Without Limits anyway and tell me why. I can take it.

8 comments:

  1. It's funny - I think most people I know who consider themselves "writers" have had a similar experience. Someone (usually a teacher) told them they weren't good enough, and that made them determined to learn and grow in a way that "natural" writers never do. Writing was always my worst subject, and then in High School, I started getting Cs on papers and committed myself to becoming a better writer. And now I call myself a writer with confidence! Can't wait to join your FB group. Thanks for sharing your story and creating a place for writers to support each other.
    xo, Haley

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    Replies
    1. Yes Haley! That's exactly it!! I can't wait to get to know you & you're writing better :D

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  2. Dr. Comas was the one who called me on my flowery writing that sounded good but actually said nothing. He would write in the faintest, tiny pencil, "So?" beside my wordy paragraphs. It was like a punch right in the gut. But he helped me sharpen my writing. I am still grateful.

    Teaching people to write well is so important.

    Robbie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yet another important lesson: getting to the point. Reasoning and support is why we share our opinions. Information is high on on the human priority list. Thank you for sharing Robbie.

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  3. I love that you wrote down your experience. I've just started writing on a regular basis. I've always been great with essays and school projects; however, never really wrote as a way of expressing myself. I've only been writing a couple of weeks and the more I write the easier it is to relax and share my real feelings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a wonderful side effect, so to speak, of regular writing. I find that the consistency can take away the stress of a restless brain or share just the right version of a story, both of which I am grateful for. Good luck with your writing endeavors!

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  4. Very good post! when it comes to writing for a blog my only take is that its not like writing a thesis but more writing in a conversational test format. I'd rather write to a the reader as if I know them and we focus on establishing a relationship versus talking at them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree. Different voices are beneficial for different situations. I think learning about writing in general helps a person develop those different voices to be their best in every use. Thanks Anastacia!

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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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