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Category Archives for Writing

Building a Writing Practice: What They Didn’t Teach Us About Titles at School

I never was very good at academic essays. Even while I slowly chipped away at earning my undergraduate degree in English, I constantly got caught up on the title or finding the perfect first line before I’d have a chance to explore the topic I was trying to write about. 

Moreover, while many of my friends seemed to breeze through essays, even writing “A” papers in the hour or two before the deadline, I often got so stuck that by the time I caught a first line, my deadlines had passed.

But I’ve developed a theory.

We Americans are taught to produce essays rather than develop a writing practice in which we might explore topics of interest. The five-paragraph essay is a handy structure that, when executed to its full potential, does make for an easy-to-read experience. However, it’s also quite utilitarian in nature: Tell the reader what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.

I fear that, early on, we learn to fill in this structure rather than to develop a structure based on content. In its nature, this way of writing essays is, in fact, an invention of the U. S. Utilitarian (maybe even Puritan). It strips an essay—both in writing and in reading—from the very definition of an essay.

In fact, even at the university level, we’re often asked to provide a thesis statement and an outline in our first “drafts” of an essay so that professors can identify that we’re on the right track. Though some essays do come to us quite clearly, with easy to identify bulleted headings or topic sentences, many do not. 

I’ve seen far too many smart, capable students, including myself, become completely bewildered at how to proceed when this happens. We weren’t given the tools to work through writer’s block or develop essays organically. 

If you find yourself frequently stuck when an idea strikes, or if you find yourself short of ideas altogether, there’s a dead-simple way to shed those internalized production-based writing methods and free-write your way through writer’s block quickly and consistently. Follow these steps to make that happen.

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writing tips newsroom

Breaking News: Writing Tips from the Newsroom

If you asked what my job as a morning news producer was like, I’d tell you to imagine that it’s 10 p.m and you’ve suddenly remembered a 20-page research paper that’s due at 6 a.m; the next day. You must work through the night, frantically typing away, checking references, editing, and organizing a respectable body of work. 

Then, rinse and repeat that stressful night — for two years. 

Writing the news is not for the faint of heart: the breakneck pace, unforgiving standards, and high-stakes format are all part of the industry. But, the truth is, whether you’re a self-paced blogger, freelance copywriter, or long-haul novelist, your writing task can benefit from applying a few newsroom principles. 

If you want to learn how to produce reliably crisp, concise copy, these seven tips can help streamline your writing, cut unproductive habits, and shorten the gap from idea to final draft. 

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What Happens When Your Hobby Becomes a Chore? (How Finding Fun in Writing Can Boost Your Productivity)

Many of us loved writing as children; we saw it as a pastime. At the same time, a good number of motivational speakers tell us how to find our passion—“Turn your hobbies into a career,” they say. That saying possibly, nudged us into following a career in writing.

However, no one warned us about the likelihood of questioning the career choices we have made based on our hobbies and passions. Sometimes, it would seem, our dreams of spinning careers out of our hobbies insidiously morph into nightmares when we start perceiving writing as a chore.

From interacting with different writers, I realized writing only becomes a chore when we approach it from a place of defeat. Joan of Arc said, “All battles are first won or lost in the mind.” Easy tasks are only difficult in the mind. A defeatist mindset makes us think, “Oh, this looks so hard! How am I ever going to start?” 

The mind holds on to this first impression we have, and you know what they say of first impressions: They last forever, and it is hard to change them. This negative first impression runs in the background while we ruminate on the job at hand. Instantly, we decide we don’t like it, and before we know it, we find ourselves procrastinating on the task.

Then there comes anxiety because a part of our minds is aware of the deadline. Eventually, imposter syndrome enters the group chat. We find ourselves doubting our abilities. The horror of it all! 

Writing was fun while we were younger because we mostly wrote things we loved while there were no deadlines or pressure. However, these two variables are absent in the course of writing at our jobs. To remedy how writing was becoming a chore for me, I found myself coming up with ways to find joy in writing. 

In this post, I will share with you tips I used to find joy in writing. Of course, these are not set in stone. I encourage you to borrow elements here and there from my experience, look inwards, and fashion healthy methods that would work in your personal context. 

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To Be Wordy or Concise, That is the Question

There is something to be said for writing that is concise and to the point, but I have learned that brevity isn’t always better. Sometimes, being specific or adding additional details can provide more understanding of the subject matter and create the full picture for the reader. On the other hand, including too many details can overwhelm the reader and the information will not be retained. 

Finding that balance is key. Yet how do you know which approach to take? 

I’ve always had difficulty deciding whether to be brief or to elaborate. However, over the years, I have collected several tips and tricks that have helped me get the biggest impact out of my writing without comprising meaning. 

In this post, I’ll share these tips and tricks with you. We’ll take a look at different writing formats, context, constraints, how personal is too personal, and getting feedback. This will help you decide whether to be brief or elaborate when writing, depending on your individual needs.

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