Lesson Fifteen

problems with writing


As students learn how to write, many of them feel dissatisfied with what they have written to the point where they just give up or turn in an assignment that is poorly done due to insufficient effort. It’s natural to feel unhappy with your work. In fact, that can be a good thing because it means that you see room for improvement. But don’t give up.

Common complaints about writing:

  • I can’t think of anything to write.
  • I don’t know how to fix my mistakes.
  • Everything I write sounds stupid.
  • I procrastinate.

There are many other problems that people have when it comes to putting ideas down in written form, but do you have these same problems when you are speaking with someone? Probably not. Can you tell a story at the dinner table? Can you explain to a friend or to another student how to do something? You already have the basic communication skills for writing if speaking isn’t a problem. Remember that writing is like speaking, but the advantage in writing is that you can fix your mistakes. Let the words and ideas come out and deal with the problems later.

Here’s my advice for addressing problems with writing:

1. Don’t give up. Writing is work and work can be hard. If you give up, you will never finish an assignment correctly or succeed as a writer.

2. Whenever possible, write about a topic that interests you. Sometimes you have no other choice but to write about something that you are not interested in, but even in a situation like that, you have to convince yourself that there is something interesting about it. If you have to write about something relatively boring such as tractor tires, for instance, discover something about the subject that you can relate to and focus on that.

3. Don’t worry about what other people think. Just write. You need to have something written in order to improve it and very few people write something perfectly on the very first try. You wouldn’t believe how often I revise my own work. In fact, the version of the page you are reading right now will likely change.

4. Write as much as you can and then stop. Later, when you return to what you have written if might be easier to see the areas where you can improve your writing or fix mistakes.

5. Look at examples of good writing. They’re everywhere. We learn how to improve by watching what other people do and then figure out for ourselves how to take our own approach.

6. Practice writing every day. Keep a journal, a diary, or a blog. You teach yourself how to improve your own work by writing regularly.

7. Learn to recognize common mistakes. That’s the next lesson.

Next: Lesson Sixteen