The more I write, the more I realize that good writing is hard. Right now, I am grading papers for a SAGES class that I co-instruct. Most of these students are writing much better than I did when I was a freshman. Sadly (for me), they are also writing better than I did as a senior! I nearly always got good grades on my essays in college, but not because I wrote well grammatically. Rather, I got good grades because I was an idea person. I often wrote from a perspective that other students hadn’t attempted before, so my professors were impressed. It really wasn’t until my junior and senior year that I began to freewrite and revise. This made a huge difference in my work and my grades.
I now have my Ph.D., and while I have a huge advantage over my students–in general, a larger vocabulary, better understanding of punctuation use, and realization that prewriting really does make a huge difference in the quality of my work, I still struggle with being a good writer. I make mistakes that I sometimes don’t catch; I occasionally still suffer from writing anxiety; and I sometimes have to push myself to write because I lack confidence.
All that being said, I also know that (as I said above) that freewriting and listing help me tremendously, and when I can spend the time on sites like 750 Words.com, I do improve. When I plan ahead and can “marinate” my ideas, as my colleague Heath Demaree puts it, I write better. And when I can share my work ahead of time with other writers, I know that they will help me spot my mistakes and help me fix them.
Writing gets better with practice. I will never be the best writer, but I don’t have to be. I simply want to be a good and clear writer. If I can do this, I will consider myself a success as a writer.