Last week, I gave you a few tips for how to establish and sustain long-term writing improvement. Those included:
1) Self assessment for effective training;
2) Building a strong foundation using the right tools; and
3) Buying a library.
This week we’ll conclude that list with four additional tips. And if you have any others, be sure to share!
4) Schedule your work using the writing cycle.
Many corporate writing trainers will tell you to make writing a daily practice. And most writing training contains advice about how to keep a journal, when to set aside your time, even how to establish your space. But I think even more important is how to schedule your time. And I return to one of the plastic, foundational tools I use in all of my work, The Writing Cycle.
You see, I think that each of the 6 discrete stages in The Writing Cycle requires a different sort of energy, maybe even a different sort of work space and medium. So if you’re trying to perform each task at the same time of day, in the same space, you might be fighting an uphill battle.
I suggest that you keep track of your most and least productive times of day to get a feel for your energy cycles. Work in chunks of 90 minutes, with 15 minute breaks for mundane tasks like email, filing, coffee refills. During your low energy 90-minute chunks, you can do things like brainstorm or copyedit. Reserve your high energy times for stages in the Writing Cycle that require dedicated focus. Tasks like arranging, writing, and revising deserve your whole self.
5) Make time to read.
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the
tools to write.
~Stephen King. On Writing. p 147.
I couldn’t agree more. Reading is the Secret to Becoming a Stronger, Faster Writer. Read widely, in a broad area of disciplines. Keep a reader’s journal. Pay attention to the language. And click on the link to see my earlier blog post about this very same topic.
6) Find a writing partner.
One of the joys of working in academia is that each semester, you are surrounded with a slightly different set of colleagues. When I was working on my dissertation, I took complete advantage of that. So when I wrote the first chapter, I had a wonderful creative writer take a look. He helped me tremendously with perspective and vision. In another semester, I had a social science writer take a look at chapter four. She really forced me to tighten my logic, add transitions, and craft a thesis statement – wow! How did I miss that?
If you’re struggling to find a writing partner, think about what you need. What is your goal? I needed someone to give me feedback. So I sought out fellow English professors. If you’re looking for a critique, seek out someone with editing experience, a professional. Use LinkedIn or other forms of social media to find them.
And before you pay for the service, try bartering. What can you offer in return that would be valuable to them? I always start with coffee. Then I move my way up to lunch. I’m a delightful conversationalist. And with my current critique partner, we swap manuscripts. So I give her as much feedback as she gives me. All of these are valuable forms of currency in the writing world.
And more often than not, I have found that people just need to be asked.
7) Create a collaborative writing culture.
This might sound like a daunting task. But remember that quote about being the change you want to see in the world? This is where it happens. And here’s how–
If you’re a freelance writer supporting yourself with your work, or if you’re writing creatively in your spare time, build a community around you. Check with your local library to see if there’s a writer’s group in your area. See if there’s an art council that might be interested in supporting such an initiative. A university or community college might have faculty members who would like to help your efforts. And the campus is a place you can post flyers (with permission) so students can see what you’re up to.
If you’re a manager or a staff member within an organization and you feel isolated recognize that other people are writing too. Start talking about it. When you get a writing assignment, ask your supervisor questions about related to The Writer’s Triangle to make them aware that writing is a process. Discuss your work in progress with peers and colleagues. When you buy your library, make selective works available to others in the office. Organize brown bag lunches to share tips you’ve been learning. And when you move into a managerial position, don’t just edit your staff’s work. Give them feedback and train them to become better writers.
So there you have it – 7 Steps to Long-Term Writing Improvement. Which ones are you implementing right now? Which ones were new to you? And what suggestions do you have?