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?
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.
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.
I always wanted to do a screen capture of my writing process. So using Spector Pro capturing software, I edited down two hours worth of research and writing, using ScreenFlow, into a 1 minute video. The video is a little geeky, I know, but if you’re a writer you can relate.
I have tried on a couple of occasions to use the speech recognition program, MacSpeech Dictate. In fact, I am writing this blog entry using the program.
While my typing skills are okay (30-40wpm), I would like to use MacSpeech Dictate to alleviate some of the typing I have to do throughout the day.
When you first consider using a program like this, you almost think that speaking your words is a lot easier than writing them out. But that is not the case. While it is easy to speak words and see them typed out in less than a second, being able to dictate coherent thoughts is the most difficult challenge. When you write by hand or when you‘re typing you have time to reflect and think about what you want to say before you write it. The same thing happens with dictating words, but is much harder to do so. Somehow it seems that you need to have your thoughts completely developed before you start speaking, otherwise the flow of your words might not be that good.
I recently wrote about the difficulties of blog writing using for the iPad, describing how almost impossible it is to produce a significant quantity of writing using the device.
But beyond the iPad, as a full-time a writer I have found that there are some essential tools that I absolutely could not do without when I’m working at my computer. First off, I‘m one of those writers who grew up doing the age of electric typewriters. Oh the horror of that time compared to now.
Though today’s young generation takes it for granted, the computer itself is a tool that would be very difficult for me to write without. I don’t think I’ve handwritten a page of text in the last ten years. I never look back on those bygone years of handwritten drafts, paper notebooks and the old Smith-Corona typerwriters. In fact I wish they had never existed. The computer is my savior.
So now for the other computer related tools that help me get jobs done: