I used to be an English teacher and the most dreaded task that I could assign my students was to write a short essay. Perhaps that fear is a product of our technological environment where the art of writing to introduce or share an idea has given way to terse or coded phone messages, happy faces or computer emoticons to convey a thought. Sometimes a student spends hours searching the Internet trying to uncover something that has been written before, in hopes that a teacher will not discover the plagiarized material. Unfortunately, many students graduate from school with minimal writing skills and enter the adult world unprepared to meet the challenges of having to write to survive in many professions.
There are many tips, tricks and gimmicks that are available that would suggest that if you follow this rule or that rule that writing ability will suddenly appear out of the mist and bless the afflicted with a talent that has hitherto been undiscovered – poppycock! Writing is just like any other endeavor in life. One does not wake up and become a football player because they think it will be a good career choice or enter into the field of investment banking without preparation, practice and some set backs along the way.
So what does one do when they are confronted with a mission to write something and they are unprepared? I recommend the well known Nike motto – “just do it”. I can hear the reader thinking now – “yeah sure – fine for you to say, but I don’t know what I’m doing.” Wrong! If you can read, you can write. There are only two obstacles to successful writing. They are fear and lack of desire. Fear can be overcome. Lack of desire is a terminal affliction.
If you lack desire, stop reading now. You are wasting time. If fear is the only obstacle, please continue and I will provide two simple rules for improving your writing. First let me assure you that I had to conquer a fear of writing so I know the difficulty, but I also recognized that my career would be handicapped substantially if I did not learn to write so I set out to conquer my fear and improve my writing. In fact teaching English was my second career – I never would have “thunk” it!
Writing is like a child learning a game. Do you remember when you were a child and entered the playground to engage in some sport with your playmates? Did you know the rules? Of course not – you simple engaged in the activity and learned the rules as time progressed. Here is where Nike enters the picture as rule number one – just do it! Get the paper and pencil or sit at the keyboard and write. What do you have to write – a sales report, a letter of recommendation, a plan to improve some function or some other writing activity? All require a start – so start! No rules – just start! In fact, stop reading this article and begin. You can come back after the first 50 words are written.
Rule number two. The last rule! There has to a beginning, a middle and an end in your writing efforts. You’ve probably heard of the old standby – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. So make sure you have introduced your subject, presented some material to support that subject and conclude with your findings or recommendations.
Alright! I know I have oversimplified a bit, but I’m assuming that if you can read this that you recognize what a sentence is and have at least a basic knowledge of punctuation. If you have those skills you can write! Just like the playground experience, you can learn the finer techniques as you practice the game.
In fact, after you’ve written a bit – I recommend the “50 tools that can help you in writing” that are posted on this website. They offer additional information that can improve your writing techniques and add finesse to your game.
In conclusion, enjoy the experience! You can do it if you “just do it.”
David Richards is a retired teacher and former business owner that lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He enjoys sharing any knowledge gained or lessons learned in his life in hopes that they may be applicable to others.