As a professional freelance writer and former teacher of writing, I’m very familiar with how challenging writing can be. Most people don’t look forward to writing beyond Twitter or Facebook posts. Writing is a task and a job that many people put off doing until the last minute, or they hire freelancer like myself to do it. So why is writing so hard? The following is my take on why–in no particular order.
1. Honestly, I think most teachers don’t know how to teach the nuts and bolts of writing. Most often, more time is spent in the classroom teaching grammar and spelling rules, rather than helping students build their writing fluency.
2. As with any other skill (and art), writing takes practice. You need to write every day to build your writing fluency. Daily practice might include keeping a journal or blog. If you have never picked up the habit for writing, I highly suggest using 750words.com to do intense free writing (with little regard for proper grammar and spelling) for at least five days a week, for as long as you can. The biggest hurdle to writing is getting over the hump of not doing it.
3. Because many teachers don’t write for publication (and many stop writing after going to college), they have very little understanding of the writing process. Too often writing assignments become a form of punishment, rather than opportunities for students to build their skills. In fact, writing should never be graded, or at least students should be given several opportunities to revise their work for a better grade. Most writing assignments in school and colleges end up turning people off to the effectiveness of writing, and thus they never learn to write as well as they could.
4. To be a good writer, you need to all also be a good reader. Reading well-written books, blogs and articles, and paying attention to how writing is done, can have a direct impact on your own writing skills. Again, most of the reading assignments in school are complete turnoff for students. I highly suggest seeking out topics and authors that you enjoy reading, and not the ones your teacher assigns.
5. Most people don’t realize that writing is a process – of hard-to-get-started introductions, messy drafts, and tedious revisions. Thankfully, writing software makes the writing process a little easier. If you ever had to write a paper or an article using electric typewriter, you will understand what I mean.
6. Writing is also a form of discovery. It makes you realize what you really know and don’t know. If you lack an understanding of a subject, it is difficult to write about it. Again, this is another area where many writing teachers fail their students. They don’t know how to help students use writing as a form discovery. In most classrooms, writing is mainly assignment for a grade, not a tool for discovery and real form of communication.
7. Good writing also just takes a lot of time, which many people don’t have. Unless you’re very familiar with the subject you’re writing about, you may have a difficult time completing a writing task or assignment.
So what do you find difficult about writing? How do you deal with those difficulties?
Just wanted to share that I ordered and received yesterday the USB 3-in-1 TableMike Microphone from a company called Speech Recognition Solutions. First off, I must admit that this is a very expensive microphone, at least my budget anyway. The base model costs $279, though the price does include postage and handling. I’ve only been using this mic for less than 24 hours, but so far I am very pleased. As I am dictating this review, I’m actually playing music in the background — not through my headphones. I am experiencing no problems with recognition quality. This improvement alone is almost worth the price of the product. I prefer using Dragon Dictate with a desktop microphone, rather than having to grab a headphone mic in order to do a quick dictation.
Before I ordered the 3-in-1, I tried using the internal mic that is installed at the top of my iMac. The internal works okay, but only at about 70 to 80% recognition performance. I definitely could not play music in the background while using the internal mic. The 3-in-1 is a high sensitive noise canceling microphone, which apparently can separate ambient background noise from voice-recognition.
While the price tag for this device is something I did not look forward to paying, it’s a great investment for me as a writer. Dragon Dictate 3.0 performs much better than previous versions, and now I do all my major writing using dictation. In my numerous tests, I find that Dictate types 3 to 7 times faster than I do. However, the process of having to think about what you’re going to say before you say it can be a little challenging. This is why using Dictate does not always decrease the amount of time it takes to do a piece of writing. However, it does save you trouble of correcting typos and misspellings.
I will report back on the 3-in-1 microphone if I notice any major changes. If you found yourself using Dictate on a regular basis, and you type at the computer for several hours a day, then this microphone may be a good investment for you. It does indeed seem to give a performance boosts to dictation, though of course it can’t solve some of the existing problems Dictate itself. You still have learn how to use the program and deal with its shortcomings.
Okay this is a seriously lame update about why I rarely post to my own blog site. Between writing weekly articles for MakeUseOf.com and other individual clients, I simply have no other time to devote to this site. I maintain a few other hobby blogs about my jazz appreciation pursuits, as well as a few daily private journals, but other than these projects I don’t have much time to do any other writing.
I’ve been thinking about ways I could merging the writing I do on other sites into this one, but every time I get started, I get pulled away from this site to keep up with job paying projects. I would love for this site to reflect the varied interests I have, including reviews and other writings that don’t get published anywhere else.
Oh well, the above is the only excuse I can give for not posting a blog entry sense last December. I seriously didn’t realize it had been that long.
I will be conducting two Learning Exchange workshops in Sacramento, starting in January.
Getting to Know Your Mac (January 7, 2010)
Get familiar with the powerful tools and features of any Mac computer in this introductory workshop. Explore the basic features of OS X and discover the five system preferences you should know. Practice using Safari, Mail, Address Book and iCal and get started with iPhoto. Also get tips on how to back up your files and find new applications. This is a hands-on class, so bring your Mac laptop if you have one.
Sign up here. $49.00 for 3 hour session.
Apple iPhoto Workshop (February 4, 2010)
Apple iPhoto 11 is a popular photo management and editing application in one. In this hands-on workshop, get familiar with the iPhoto interface and learn how to import images, create albums and edit/enhance photos. Also discover the many ways to share your photos with family and friends. Students will receive instructional videos that review concepts covered in class. Bring your Mac laptop to class if you have one.
Sign up here. $49.00 for 3 hour session.
For over a month now, I have been writing for a new publication titled Apple Magazine. No, it’s not produced by Apple itself, but it is a beautifully designed publication currently distributed by Zinio, the worldwide digital newsstand and bookstore company. Apple Magazine can be purchased downloaded through the free Zinio magazine app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Because Apple Magazine is solely a digital publication, it can offer a lot more content, minus the paper, ink and publishing costs. Subscribers get more for their money because Apple Magazine is a weekly publication, released every Thursday or Friday in the Zinio app.
The only magazines that I subscribe to now are ones I can download and read on my iPad. The size and orientation of the device is perfect for magazine reading, and best of all it means I don’t have stacks of paper issues taking up closet space in my home office. It also means that when I subscribe to a magazine on the iPad I don’t have to wait weeks to get the first issue.
Apple Magazine enables me to write longer and more detailed articles about Apple related hardware and software. But best of all, it is great to see my writing laid out in professionally designed pages, unlike the simple webpage and blog postings that I usually get published in. Don’t get me wrong, I like writing for web publications, but magazines still seem to offer a more professional edge.
Some of the topics I have written about so far for AM include “iPad vs. the MacBook Air,” “iPhoto for the Holidays,” “Using the New iOS 5 iPhone Camera Features,” “Automating Your Mac”, and “iPad at School.”
Apple Magazine is a startup publication and thus it needs subscribers. In a few weeks the publishers will start providing free trial downloads, but in the meantime you can buy single issues through Zinio for $4.99; 12 issues for $39.99, 26 issues for $49.99, and a full year subscription for $89.99.
It is a terrible shame that I haven’t posted on this blog site since last May. I didn’t realize that it had been this long. Well, for the most part I’ve been just too busy writing and keeping up with other the responsibilities.
When I get done with writing assignments for the day or sometimes evening, I simply don’t have very much energy to write personal blog posts. Even though I am finally using Dragon Dictate to write most of my articles, the writing still involves research, exploring or figuring software or a website, and sometimes the difficult task of just formulating my thoughts and dictating them on the screen. Dragon Dictate types faster than I do but unfortunately it can do little more than that.
I will return tomorrow with another post an update about my new job assignments. I don’t think anyone is reading this, but for some reason I feel the need to maintain the site.
If you’re a teacher or educator of any discipline, and you want to really engage your students and help them think critically, then you should integrate popular culture and media literacy into your courses. No one escapes our media entrenched society. Media and popular culture help shape our values, stereotypes, prejudices, and political views. Media is both a powerful story telling institution and a means of information consumption. But it is also a tool to manipulate and misinform those who uncritically consume it.
During my years of teaching, I used the pedagogy of popular culture and media to teach writing, reading, and critical thinking. My students analyzed advertising messages, wrote essays and research papers on controversial issues related to violence in the media, gender stereotypes, bias in the news, and the art and power of story telling. Every student was engaged because they all shared experiences and opinions of popular songs, movies, televisions shows, teen magazines, and video games. Even when I had to teach classic novels such as The Great Gatsby, we studied the work alongside watching Oliver Stones’ Wall Street—both of which focus on class and the American Dream.
Thus, I’m a proud to share the publication of Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, which includes two of my previously published articles (“Seventeen, Self-Image, and Stereotypes,” and “Examining Media Violence”) about how I used media literacy in the classroom. I’m honored to be published alongside the progressive teachers, activists, and educators like Bob Peterson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Bigelow, Linda Christensen, Wayne Au, and Herbert Kohl.