"I’m a terrible writer.” “I was writing this paper at 3am.”
As writing coaches, we often hear students try to warn us that their writing is horrible, but as we read through the papers, we see that is not the case at all. Many students who meet with us in the Writing Center lack confidence in their abilities because of various factors. However, as graduate students, it is vital to learn ways to increase your confidence in order to make the writing process much more enjoyable and effective (especially because you will be doing a ton of writing throughout your program!). Here are some tips to help you develop your confidence as a writer:
Understand that Writing is an Art
Many students writing insecurities have been reinforced over the years by “the red pen”... you know, the one professors use to highlight all the weaknesses in our papers? While writing requires students to understand both the requirements of the assignment as well as the changing expectations and preferences of each professor, assignments don’t define writers. Writing is a creative art form in which beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing ourselves to others, in any area, more often than not leads to increased self-doubt. This is especially true for writers when they compare their first draft to someone else’s final draft. We can look to others for inspiration and motivation, but as one writer explains, “The only writer you should compare yourself to is the writer you were yesterday”.
Remember that Writing Doesn’t Have to be Perfect
Robert Cormier makes a great point about writing as he states, “The beautiful part about writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time… unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” You can take much of the pressure off of yourself by understanding that it’s okay if your writing isn’t perfect and that you can always make revisions later if needed.
Understand that Writing is a Process
If we had to eat a huge hamburger in one bite, I’m sure we would feel very overwhelmed. In the same way, we easily become overwhelmed when we approach a paper as one large project.That is why it’s vital to approach your paper as a multi-step process. Prewriting, drafting, and revising are all key pieces of the writing process that will assist you in successfully accomplishing your assignments. For more information on how to plan for your paper, click here.
Take a Productive Break
As you’re drafting and revising, spending time away from the paper can help give you clarity and also provides a mental break. You can make your breaks productive by doing activities that help boost your creativity or that are relaxing.
Seek Helpful Feedback
Visiting the Writing Center is also a good way to take a productive break. A writing coach or a peer can help you identify gaps in reasoning, unclear sentences, and other issues. You can then use this feedback to continue revising your paper.
Remember that Change Happens One Day at a Time
Practice makes progress, and improvement happens over time. Have realistic expectations for yourself, track your progress, and celebrate your achievements!
Laci Corzo, MA
Laci is passionate about helping students grow academically, professionally, and spiritually. After earning her BA in Communication Studies from APU, she went on to earn her MA in the same field. She has worked as a Student Advisor, an Online Teaching Assistant, a Professor, and now as a Writing Consultant in the Writing Center.