Outside of some final paperwork, I have finished teaching my composition course. It was an enjoyable time span for me as I got to read some wonderful work from "non-writers" and share some of my favorite tips and aspects of the writing life. I will miss the course. A friend of mine recently complimented me by telling me I should be a writing teacher. Ah, to dream a little dream...
As usual, lately at least, I've thrown together a hodgepodge of info bits to take away from the experience that I would like to share with my growing audience. I will do my best to not repeat some things I have said recently on here.
Set deadlines that are "just right." I discovered/accepted late in the course that I had put all my major correcting at the tail end of the course. I set up the course this way to hopefully teach my students how to plan and meet a lack of deadline. Not having someone tell you when something is due empowers you to plan exactly how you will meet your goals. I personally love and despise deadlines that are a substantial amount of time in the future. I like having plenty of time to work on a project, but, more often than not, I have found that because I have put my deadlines too far in the future, I waste time not working on something because it is not yet "due." For a project that I am working on right now, I very much need to set shorter deadline spans because I am not working on them. Find deadlines that challenge you yet give you wiggle room, just in case you actually do need it.
Stop reading about how to write. Wait, did I just say that? I was kidding. Keep reading. I have read or at least perused too many books on how to write. They're all the same in the end. It is wonderful to read other writers' takes on the process, certainly. Yet, if that reading is just stalling your writing, stop. But, please finish reading this.
Know your grammar. There are so many resources out there that point out the common mistakes that so many people make. I have written on them as well, so I find it futile to repeat myself here.
Know your grammar. Just kidding.
Let people look at the work you're composing. I can already hear you arguing with me. What, are you insane? I never let anyone see my work until it is done! I respect that. I rarely let people see my works in progress. Perhaps I am being a hypocrite here. I think I know where this is coming from. There were some students whose work I never really got to read until the end. At that point, I wished I could have heard those works before and seen them in progress. Often, I find the process much more exciting than the actual work.
Read only what keeps you interested. This directly goes against one of my earlier posts, and so be it. When I read something that has not captured my attention, I abandon it unless I have to for some greater purpose. I go back and read what and who I love. I devour it but only for as long as it entertains me. Do you know where I'm going with this? Write only what keeps you interested. Yes, it is important to stretch, absolutely. But, if you are not required to write the uncomfortable piece, why be uncomfortable? Stay wear you are. Write about what you know, and dissect the life out of it.
Read and write in a genre that you never imagined yourself writing. As writers, many of us tend to pigeonhole ourselves into a certain type of work. I know I have. Much of my completed work has been in the realms of personal essay and memoir. While I still enjoy and need to continue work in those departments, I have found it awfully constricting. I wish I could say that I have begun to write in a different genre; I have dabbled. Yet, I have tried to read works that take me out of my comfort zone. I have to attach some workable deadlines to creating such new works.
Read your work aloud. This really does work. I have said it before, and I will say it again as I begin a course on skills needed for college-level success. When you read your work aloud, miraculous things happen. You get to hear what the really good parts (wait, it's not all good?) sound like. It is evident when something is missing. I read one too many sentences with a missing word in its final printed form. Most importantly, it gives you confidence that what you have put to paper is worth having someone else read.
Know when to persevere and when to move on. In class, I recently read an article that I had written about abandoned projects. Some projects had wonderful intentions but never went anywhere. It's okay to have these in your career. The more I read about writers (what a hypocrite I am), the more I discover how universally true this is. Since I like to categorize things into collections, it is particularly liberating when I decide that a piece I've started doesn't belong where I had put it. It allows me to refocus its energy into another source. I have one piece that I intend (will) to remove from one project, but it may have opened up the door to a whole other (not "nother") project. One of my literary thorns has been a piece I just cannot continue, but there is something so appealing to me that I still must meet my reasonable deadline.
Start again each time you quit. There are days I don't want to write. I accept this. I don't beat myself up about it. I just get back into the flow when I can.
Kill your distracters. Amusingly enough, many of the writers I have been reading lately have been talking about what gets in the way of their lives, whether it be their writing or personal life. Aren't these two really the same thing, anyway? An amateur psychoanalyst at heart, I often break down my life and try understanding my own thoughts and behaviors. I have recently identified (for the 67th time) a serious time-waster for me, and I am working on ways to not engage in that time-waster. This terribly complicated simple action works wonders. Take a good look at how much time you invest in (inevitably) stress-relieving activities. Are they really all that productive? If you cannot say with 100% certainty that your activity is the best thing you could be doing with that time, stop. Identify your distracter and put it out of your misery.
Well, kids. I'm sure there is more that I could say, but this post, like most of my posts for HubPages, was typed in front of a computer without my usual planning or writing in advance. I look at it as one of my personal deviations from my typical routine. I don't always contribute for that reason, but every time I do, I feel better about life in general. I think there's a life lesson in there somewhere.
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