10 Tips For Great Writing From An Amateur

10 Tips For Great Writing From An Amateur

Put words on a page and erase them. Do it again.
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I've been writing all my life--journaling, short stories, ideas for new books. But it wasn't until college that I started to really have writing become a part of my daily life; I've finished two novels, hundreds of articles, started a blog, and I am also a writer for a few online magazines (The Odyssey, Mogul, The Compass). I've watched my writing styles change and grow in these last two years, I've expanded my ideas to things I would've never wanted to write before, and I've learned how to be a better writer. If you're new to writing, an expert writer, or somewhere in the middle, I've made a list of my top 10 best writing tips from an amateur like me.

1. Just write it

Don't think about it--just go. Don't worry about editing or grammatical errors. Don't worry if something doesn't sound right or if it isn't coming out like you want it to. Write down your exact thoughts, write like you think it, write with your heart.

2. Don't think too hard

When I want my piece to have an extraordinary factor, I try not think too much about it. I let my mind flow from idea to and idea (sometimes not so flow-y) and I just follow it. I find that I learn a lot about myself starting with a general idea and just seeing where my mind takes me. Don't try so hard to make it great--that'll happen naturally.

3. Read it over out loud

If you're anything like me, you can't stand spelling or grammar errors. I read and re-read my pieces over to myself when I am finished and fix all the silly mistakes I made or add in words when I was writing so fast I forgot to type them.

4. Take the smallest idea and crack it open

Sometimes I'll have a clear cut idea of what I want to write about, only to find myself rambling off in a different direction. Thats okay, thats where the best writing comes from for me. It isn't something I plan or make sure that I do, it just happens.

5. Don't stop writing

I think this is a great technique when you have writers block, are stuck on where to go next, or just don't know what to say. Keep typing in sentences, even if they are random, and let your creative juices take over.

6. Don't stop to edit

This only makes me lose my train of thought and then I have to reset all over again. Don't let your mind dwell on the last line, be in the present, you can go back to fix it later.

7. Forget you have an audience

If you are writing for something or someone other than yourself, you're not doing it right. What I mean is that you need to enjoy what you are writing about, putting your whole effort in, feeling passionate about the topic, and not letting an audience scare you away from what you really want to say.

8. Practice your own writing style and hone your skills

I've read thousands of different writing styles since middle school--each unique and their own. I've kind of adapted my own as well, to the ones I like, and although it has definitely changed in the last two years, I feel I have a distinguished voice in writing. Do your own thing and don't be afraid to try something new.

9. Share it

It can be nerve-wracking to share your writing with others and even more so if you let their judgments overpower your own. It doesn't matter if someone thinks you're a good writer or not, if someone has something bad to say about you or not. I've heard terribly, awful things about my writing over the last two years, but its never stopped me from continuing on.

10. Write for yourself

Writing is something that doesn't come naturally for everyone, just like anything else in this world. I think if you follow your own heart and mind, and just let it all go, your writing world is going to become a whole lot bigger. Don't be too hard on yourself, just write. Put words on a page and erase them. Do it again. Write for yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Maddi Burns

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.
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I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 49

Language is a powerful tool.

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Welcome back! We made our way to a meeting with Dr. Shikaki, a Palestinian demographer--basically, that means he takes polls to see what the population's opinion is. It also means he can see how the opinion changes, as the polls started decades ago.

Again, as I talk about his message, keep in mind that this is his unique narrative, and it is different from other narratives out there--both on the Palestinian and Israeli side. He does give a very factual talk, though, due to the nature of his job. He essentially takes all the narratives of everyone else to craft a blanket-statement narrative; however, we should keep in mind that blanket-statements are almost never 100% accurate.

In addition, because he is able to write the questions being asked in his polls, there could be certain narratives left out. Of course, if you've taken any statistics class, you know about nonresponse bias and other biases that come out of censuses and samples. To my knowledge, Dr. Shikaki's polls are only in the West Bank, so Gazan Palestinians aren't even included here.

The first thing he tells us is that a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank are dissatisfied with their government, the Palestinian Authority. The approval rating for the PA is only about 20-25%, and 80% of Palestinians surveyed said that the government is corrupt in some way. A large group of secular Palestinians said that they support the liberal values that are associated with democracy, such as press freedom, gender equality, minority rights, and most importantly, regularly-held elections.

Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Palestinians who support a democratic political system (because they are dissatisfied with the current corruption, as the current system is not giving them a very high standard of living) rose to over 80%.

Some liberal social values are not as widely accepted because many of these liberal values are a very Westernized way of living, and Arab culture differs from Western culture in many ways; neither is better than the other. However, Palestinians do want the freedom of press and less corruption in political parties. Currently, they do not think they have an independent judiciary.

Dr. Shikaki explained that Palestinians can be split, for the most part, into "nationalists," who are mostly secular, and "Islamists," who are mostly religiously observant and non-secular. Nationalists believe in a separation of the church and state, and they are first and foremost Palestinians (compared to Islamists, who are first and foremost Muslims--and Palestinians second). Fatah is the largest political faction within the nationalists.

Within nationalism, there are mainstream nationalists and leftist nationalists. The overwhelming majority of nationalists are mainstream nationalists. They believe that though there is a separation of church and state, there should be cooperation between the state and religion; both can work together. It is not an antagonistic relationship. 55% of the entire Palestinian public would identify with mainstream nationalism (15% would identify with leftist nationalism, and 30% would identify with Islamism).

The smaller section of nationalism is leftist nationalism. They believe that the state can eradicate the importance placed on religion if need be. On the other end is Islamism, which believes that state and religion cannot be separated. Parliament cannot rule in a way that is opposed to Islamic rule and Muslim values. Again, they are first and foremost Muslims, and after that comes their identity of Palestinians and Arabs.

They show more support for a rule by Hamas in the West Bank because Hamas tends to have similar values as them. In the West Bank, about a third of the population supports Hamas over the PA. In Gaza, there is higher support for Hamas, and Hamas was actually democratically elected after the second intifada.

The public in the West Bank sometimes blames nationalists for corruption, and since nationalists are associated with the current government, Hamas could actually win a popular vote right now--which is why the PA has been holding off elections (which, to Palestinians, is another sign of corruption).

Now that we've seen how Palestinians view themselves, we need to see how Palestinians view their Israeli neighbors--and how they view the possibility of peace. It's a lot to unpack, so this concludes this chapter, and I will be talking about it in the next section!

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