School’s Write Around the Corner

19 Aug

It’s the middle of August, which means that schools in the South have either started up or are taking the proverbial preemptive deep breath. And that also means that I along with countless others can’t the “Back to School” from Billy Madison out of our heads.

Now that’s out of the way, I’d like to devote a post to some tips I’ve learned over the years for the unbelievably strenuous task of college writing. I’ll do it list-style, because, frankly, writing it out in paragraphs just seems to scholarly for the last weeks of summer (weeks of binge film-watching, record playing, and, of course, other illicit and “unacademic” activities not suitable to be told to either future college professors or graduate school admissions personnel).

Tip #1: Write Yourself

The most important thing everyone can do to improve their writing is to write as often as possible. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to write for yourself, by yourself. Writing is just like any other skill. Yes it requires some natural talent. But this pales in comparison to how much time and practice you spend training that talent. I’m a believer in the idea that everyone can write, everyone can be poetic or say meaningful things. We often get bogged down by this voice that tells us we can’t. Or that if we do, if we try, we’ll be like Icarus. We’ll crash and burn a fiery and feathery death. But writing for yourself can show you, as it’s shown me, that the space of a page isn’t an enflamed ball of magma and burning hydrogen. It is touchable. Put pen to paper every day. The little critic will slowly turn into a tiny coach, showing possibilities rather than pitfalls.

Tip #2: Read Out Loud

When most people revise their papers, if they revise them, seem to miss a lot of simple grammatical and spelling errors. The easiest solution for this is simple and slightly thespian––read that sh*t out loud. Another hidden reward to this is that you start to see that you don’t sound like what you probably think you sound like. Reading out loud is basically like shoving words back into your own mouth. You realize, as you read, what you really mean to say, and you start to see where the words and syntax you use don’t say what you want to. I would recommend reading aloud to someone, but I understand––oh do I understand––how nerve-racking such a thing could be. I found a way around this by actually reading to a little stuffed piggy that my sister made for me. His name is the panoptopig, by the way, because he also watches me while I write.

Tip #3: Pocket Notebooks

I don’t know where my writing would be if I didn’t have a pocket notebook. More often than not, the genius will strike whenever it feels like doing so. For me, it seems to happen at grocery stores. I used to try my hardest to hold in that thought as I went through the rest of my shopping and waiting in lines. But often, the idea would congeal into this flimsy and waxy thing in my head, a hardened gloop, that I just couldn’t do anything with. Then, I found little tiny steno pad notebooks––in the grocery store, oddly enough. I keep one and a v7 on me at all times and by my bed, never knowing when a good thought will strike, but ready for its impact.

Tip #4: Read for Fun

I know a lot of people who read for fun during the summer but don’t keep up that reading throughout the year. I personally think that your writing suffers if you stop reading voices that you actually like to read. If you like reading dry academic-writing, then, well, I don’t know what to say to you. But if you’re like me and most people I know, you like the exciting stuff. Stuff with crazy ideas floating under the surface, stuff that makes your head go bang and boom like the old Batman shows. Why would you want to leave that kind of stuff? I know why. You have too much “homework”. Or, you are too tired from drinking so much last night. Or, your significant other thinks reading is for pansies. The excuses run ad ∞. But if you really want to get better at writing, you’ve got to read more. So why not add on reading that you know you’re going to like? For cereal, all it takes is a novel a semester. Or a short story a week. Something. Anything.

I hope these tips help somehow. If you have any more tips, hand them over to the proper authorities.

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2 Responses to “School’s Write Around the Corner”

  1. Jon Schwartz August 20, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Man I love your writing. Between the panoptopig and the ad-infinity I enjoy it dev. I have blogger’s block, I guess I will post once I beat mind tetris.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Beat Alcoholism 101 - August 20, 2010

    School?s Write Around the Corner…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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