Friday, February 18, 2011

Practice Those Skills

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you heard that writing is a talent and that only the talented should perform it? I’m guessing more than once. I know I have. Well, I’m here to tell you that the idea of writing being for the talented is a bunch of malarkey. Writing is a skill. And like any skill, it must be practiced.

As Dan talked about in his post “Using Your Syllabi to Plan Your Writing Assignments,” it is essential to understand when all of your assignments are due. Having that information allows you the time to strategize your plan of attack. But that is only half the battle. Writing, as I said, must be practiced. It is incredibly difficult to write a larger length piece when you haven’t been writing throughout the semester. Trust me on that one.

For that reason, you need to make sure you are practicing your writing as much as possible. We are at the end of Week 6, meaning there are only 9 weeks left in the semester. That may seem like a lot of time, but it will go quickly, and if you haven’t been practicing your writing, those larger assignments are going to be even more difficult. But here’s the good news! There is still time to build up your writing stamina.

And I know what you’re thinking: “But Chris, what should I be writing? I don’t have the research I need to write that history paper, and I haven’t read that novel for that lit analysis paper.” Well that is a good question, and I thank you for asking it. Write anything. Putting words onto the page will help you. Write a poem. Write a short story. Write some fan fiction. Is that Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Han Solo fighting Dr. Robotnik? I think it is. Now it is up to you to create the story. There. I just gave you an awesome prompt. What? You don’t know who those people are? Well, looks like you have some research to do before you can write.

On a more academic side, you can write summaries for everything you read. If you read an article found on one of the library’s databases, then write a summary of that article. Writing a quick summary will do a few things: 1. It will ensure you understood what you read. 2. It gives you something to turn back to later on and remember what that article was about. 3. It gives you some material you might be able to pull into your actual paper.

As long as you are writing, you will be growing and learning. Write some fan fiction. Write a summary of an article. Take the extra step and write for class and yourself. So as we go into this weekend, take some time to do some writing. Practice those skills. You won’t regret it.


  1. I really like the point about writing summaries about what you've read since that's "writing-to-learn" tactic (WAC) that people use all the time. And it works.

    By writing about what you read, it helps you retain the information. The act of writing helps you internalize the info.

    One of my former colleagues, who was a math instructor, used a summary/reflection tactic with students in her classes. She would have them write descriptions of how they solved problems, and by doing so, the students were able to reflect about how they solved the problems and then use that reflection (about the process of solving them) to transfer that knowledge to similar math problems.

  2. Here's another idea: you could write a response to a blog post. It doesn't have to be EIU Writes--though we would love to hear from you. But almost everything you read on-line has a "comments" section, so you can jump right into the conversation. Putting your ideas into words is not as easy as it sounds: that's why it's a valuable exercise.