This past spring I taught a course on Writing Educational Research to a group of Master’s students, most of whom taught English as an Additional Language as their job. I was surprised how many of them loathed writing. One student said that she was reluctant to teach writing in her EAL courses because it felt like forcing a traumatic experience on them.
Over the course of the six-weeks we learned together, we came up with some strategies that they could use for themselves, and also use with their students. Here they are:
1. Write every day. Saying, “I’m going to write my essay on the weekend,” can turn the weekend into a time of torture instead of a time to relax and recharge your batteries. Instead, commit to writing 30 minutes per day. This helps build the writing habit.
2. Choose a time of the day when you feel fresh and creative. For me, that time is often first thing in the morning. By mid-afternoon I am crashing and after supper my brain seems capable of basic life support only. In the morning is when I feel both creative and clear-headed.
3. Work with a writing partner. Choose someone you get along with and like to work with. Arrange a time to work together to review each other’s writing, make suggestions and do some peer editing. The point of working together is to try to help each other, not to nit pick. Set some ground rules and focus on the positive.
4. Let go. Some students said they hated writing because they couldn’t tolerate being criticized or being asked to revise their writing. They became very emotionally attached to their writing right away. What if the purpose of writing was to share it? And share it in the best form possible? If we start with that idea, then we might become less emotionally tethered to the writing… You can still be proud of your work without having a Gollum-like attachment to it.
5. Edit and revise. It is said that Mozart never revised his music. He sat down, wrote it and was done. Unfortunately, most of us are not Mozart. I recently submitted the second revision of an article I submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal. It was “accepted with minor revisions” when I first submitted it. That was almost six months ago. I made the changes the reviewers requested and re-submitted it. Then recently, the editor came back to me with a few more minor changes. He was right in asking me to change a few more things. I had forgotten to add in some citations, which are important in journal articles. I made the changes and sent the manuscript back again. I had been so close to the work, I could no longer see the errors. Working with editors, reviewers and instructors is really a chance to make your writing better.
Writing seems to be very easy for some people and very painful for others. These strategies may help a few reluctant writers and ease their stress so writing does not seem so daunting.
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