“I’m just not a good writer,” he told me, dejectedly. David went silent on the end of the other line and I felt powerless.
I was his tutor. It was my job to encourage him in this, but I was at a loss. What could I do? What could I say?
His largest paper of the year was due in three days, but he hadn’t started and didn’t even feel capable of finishing.
But, you know what? David did finish that paper on time. And he did get an A on it.
Even though I couldn’t say much in the moment, getting over the hurdle of “can’t” and being “not good” by actually doing and doing well was huge for David and his confidence.
It wasn’t as much that he was actually poor at writing and needed a writing tutor; it was more that he needed someone to help him over the mental block of believing so.
And David is not the only one with these kinds of mental struggles! We all allow ourselves to be trapped into different mindsets, whether that means believing we can’t do something, can’t do something well, or whatever else!
Over the past few years of tutoring, I’ve run into so many students who are a bit confused on the concept of skills and talents.
Don’t buy into the lies! You aren’t born being a great writer, singer, or acrobat. Sure, certain aspects of your personality or genetics might lend you to some talents more heavily than others, but you can do and succeed at anything, with enough practice.
I’m writing this with practice in mind.
As you’ve probably noticed, writing is an important skill! Here are four ways to practice to become a better writer.
If you want to be better skilled in writing, write! You wouldn’t expect to open your mouth and sing an opera perfectly if you never practiced opening your mouth to sing anything at all. Just the same, a novel won’t come out of your fingertips if you’ve never put pen to paper (or Word document) before.
Most of my students who’ve lacked confidence (and finesse) in their writing skills have also been poor readers. Not to say they aren’t good at reading, but just that they don’t.
Read good books—fiction, non-fiction, big books, small books, books from every genre section at the library! Visit the library often enough that you have a working understanding of the Dewey Decimal system and challenge yourself to read double the books you read last year. You’ll be shocked by what this can do for your writing skills!
Once you’re reading more, assess what you’re reading. Write book reviews or join a book club. Be able to identify what you liked and didn’t like in a particular reading. In my experiences, this helps you find your writing voice and understand better what you want to say.
I was about fifteen years old when I read my first fiction novel written in the first person, and I realized right away that I loved that perspective! I’ve been able to hone in more of my fiction reading to include more novels from the first person perspective, and now I’m writing my own novel in the first person!
It all started with being able to assess and identify what I liked about what I was reading.
I’m not saying you should publish your journal entries on Facebook. In fact, I’d advise you don’t! But in the effort of growing your writing skills, some practice methods might take you out of your comfort zone.
The first time I remember sharing my writing was when I was about seven years old. I specialized in knock-off versions of stories I had already read in those days. Later I had a personal blog, and today I write here and on my own site at DegreeHackers.org!
It does get easier!
Writing gets easier; being brave to share your writings and tell the world what you want to say gets easier.
But, nobody is born a naturally amazing writer. Allow yourself to be a beginner.
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