In my first year of college, I knew I was going to declare English as my major. I was the student who couldn't wait to get to the campus bookstore to buy the many books I would have to read each semester. And of course, I couldn't just read all of those wonderful books; I had to write about them. I remember sitting down to write my first college-level, 10-page paper on The Iliad.
Let's just say my first draft wasn't a winner. My professor for that class taught me a valuable lesson about writing -- one that I continue to practice today.
He told me to walk away from my writing. Not just once, but as many times as possible. His point was that you must always look at your writing with fresh, critical eyes. And it's more effective to do that after you've gained some distance between yourself and your work.
Once you walk away, it is easier to follow another important piece of advice I received: don't fall in love with anything you write. When you come back to your writing after creating some space, it's easier to "break-up" with content that just doesn't work.
So force yourself to walk away from your writing -- even if you only have time to do it once. You'll likely come back to it with a new perspective that will have a meaningful impact on your final product.
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“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King
Let's be honest: writing is tough. It takes focus, discipline and a lot of self-criticism. There is always room for improvement. If you are serious about improving the quality of your writing, try this: start reading.
Sure, you could invest in writing courses, seminars or online instruction. And many of these are worth it. But reading, and I mean reading anything you can get your hands on, will have a real and lasting effect on your writing skills.
Strong readers are strong writers. Read novels, and you learn how to write dialogue, develop characters and plot lines. Read magazines, and you learn how to write an effective interview or personal profile. Read newspapers, and you learn how to extract and report the most crucial elements of a story. You get the idea.
Just as Stephen King, one of the world's most successful writers, advises, make the time to read. It will make you a better writer.
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It's an occupational hazard. I can't look at a newspaper, a blog post, a novel or a cereal box without reading for correct spelling, grammar and sentence structure. I'm searching for mistakes, also known as typos. Or they are searching for me. I'm not quite sure.
I can't explain the small jolt of excitement I feel when I do find a typo. Why the joy? Maybe it reminds me that I am in the right line of work. Or perhaps it's the realization that life really can go on even though an error exists after publication.
Whatever the reason, I have passed this habit on to my children. At least once a week, when reading, one of them will proudly announce, "Mom, I found a typo!" I can hear the exultation in their voices. And I can relate.
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