As a professional freelance writer and former teacher of writing, I’m very familiar with how challenging writing can be. Most people don’t look forward to writing beyond Twitter or Facebook posts. Writing is a task and a job that many people put off doing until the last minute, or they hire a freelancer like myself to do it. So why is writing so hard? The following is my take on why–in no particular order.
1. Honestly, I think most teachers don’t know how to teach the nuts and bolts of writing. Most often, more time is spent in the classroom teaching grammar and spelling rules, rather than helping students build their writing fluency.
2. As with any other skill (and art), writing takes practice. You need to write every day to build your writing fluency. Daily practice might include keeping a journal or blog. If you haven’t developed a habit for writing, I highly suggest using 750words.com to do intense daily free writing (with little regard for proper grammar and spelling) for at least a few months. The biggest hurdle to writing is getting over the hump of not doing it. So write everyday to build fluency. Write a lot, and get in the habit of reading everyday.
3. Because many teachers don’t write for publication (and many stop writing after graduating from college), they have very little understanding of the writing process. Too often writing assignments become a form of punishment, rather than opportunities for students to build their skills and explore their thoughts. Teachers should regularly write the essays and papers they assign, especially the first time they assign a particular type or topic of writing. By doing an assignment themselves, teachers can show their own writing process and see the types of challenges their students are facing.
Also, if writing must be graded, students should be given several opportunities to revise their work for a better grade. A major writing assignment should not be given over the weekend for students to complete. Good and bad models of writing should constantly be examined, especially when students are working on a major writing assignment or projects.
4. To be a good writer, you also need to be an avid reader. Reading well written books, blog posts and articles, and paying attention to how writing is done can have a direct impact on your own writing skills. Scholastic magazine, for example, is a good resource of writing written specifically for young people.
5. Often times, writing and reading assignments are a turn off to students, because they are based on topics chosen by teachers. Some of the best topics to write about for young people are about controversial issues (e.g., abortion, the 2nd amendment, discrimination in schools and criminal justice system, religion and atheism, racial profiling, drug laws, sexism.) Everyone has an opinion about popular controversial issues, and there always good models of articles and essays that address controversial issues, including good blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, and letters to the editor.
6. Most people don’t realize that writing is a process —of hard-to-get-started introductions, messy drafts, and tedious revisions. Students need to be shown that most writing is not done in a single draft, nor should teachers expect it to be.
Thankfully, writing software makes the writing process a little easier. If you ever had to write a paper or an article using an electric typewriter, you will understand what I mean. Teachers need to help students understand the writing process based on how real writing is done. Some writing such as the WordPress editor actually keep track of revisions. Here’s an example of revisions from the writing of this article:
Again, don’t assign writing to be completed over the weekend or even in a week. Developing writers need opportunities to read and evaluate good and bad models of writing. They need opportunities to do peer responses to each other’s writing, and they always need opportunities to revise their work based on a well-written evaluation rubrics. Before students’ writing projects are graded, they should be very clear about the expectations of the assignment, and they should be allowed opportunities to meet those expectations to the best of their ability.
7. Writing is also a form of discovery. Writing makes you realize what you really know and don’t know. If you lack an understanding of a subject, it is difficult to write about it. Again, this is another area where many writing teachers fail their students. They don’t know how to help students use writing as a form of discovery. In most classrooms writing is mainly assignment for a grade, not a tool for discovery and real form of communication.
8. Good writing also takes a lot of time, which many people don’t have. Unless you’re very familiar with the subject you’re writing about, you may have difficulty completing an essay, research paper, or fictional story, etc.
Share Your Thoughts
So what do you find difficult about writing, and how do you deal with those difficulties?