How To Improve Your Writing In 2018

How To Improve Your Writing In 2018

Tips and exercises to help you sharpen up your writing skills and become a better writer in this new year.
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As the new year kicks off to a start, many people set out to fulfill their resolutions made from the night before. Some of us aim to improve in certain areas like our health or self-control, while others aim to quit habits altogether, such as smoking or binge-watching. It is a time where we feel revitalized and ready to take on the year ahead, as new and improved versions of our past selves.

For me, January 1st often gets treated just like every other day of the year, as I rarely set specific resolutions. Instead, I aim to grow and learn from the lessons of the previous year and to improve my skills in areas of my interest, such as writing.

For those of you seeking to become better writers in the new year, or hoping to incorporate a new hobby into your lifestyle, hopefully these tips and exercises will provide you with some new methods for creating, and give your writing process a new spark.

For Generating Ideas:

previous article of mine, inspiration doesn’t come from nothing, and our best ideas for content usually come to us when we are doing something other than staring at the blank page of our notebook. Here are a few ideas to help with the ideation process and ease the stress of coming up with the perfect topic.

1. Always carry a notepad with you

This makes an unbelievable difference. Inspiration strikes at odd and unexpected times and if you are able to record every interesting thought or question that occurs to you throughout the day, you will already have many ideas to build off of when it comes time to sit down and write. Don’t worry about filtering through your recordings, just write down the raw thoughts as they come to you, and revisit them later.

2. Practice mind-mapping

This technique is helpful if you have a general idea of what topic you want to cover, such as music. Write down your idea in the center of the page and circle it. Then start to write down every little idea, word, or phrase that you associate with the original word. This helps to narrow down your writing so that you can write in detail about some pinpointed concept, rather than writing a broad and generalized article.

3. Timed free-writing

This is one of my particular favorites and I use this strategy regularly during my writing process. Say you want to write a poem with the theme of dystopia. Write “dystopia” at the top of your notebook page, set a timer for seven minutes, and write. The trick is to make yourself write for the entire seven minutes, without necessarily thinking about what you’re writing down and instead just letting your hand fly across the page. Even if you end up writing “dystopia dystopia dystopia” for two lines straight, keep your hand moving and by the end of the seven minutes, there will usually be one or two ideas that really stick out and give you a thesis idea for your poem.


For Drafting and Redrafting:

Although the saying goes, “we are our own toughest critics,” when it comes to writing, that may not be the case. It is difficult to notice flaws in your own writing and to think of better ways of saying something. We each write in a style that makes sense to ourselves, even though it may not make sense to others. Here are two techniques I use during the drafting of almost every piece I create.

1. Make an outline

Many of us were taught how to create outlines for essays back in high school, but now that it is no longer required by a teacher, we tend to skip past this initial stage of drafting. Always remember, outlines are your friend! Before beginning with a written first draft, outline the points you want to discuss and organize your paragraphs and topic sentences. Sequencing is key to a well-written piece and with an outline, you will have a clear idea of where to begin and where to end your writings.

2. Make a new outline after writing a first draft

This exercise might sound like it will add unnecessary time onto your creation process, but it is a great way to come up with better ways of expressing your ideas. After writing out your first draft, turn to a new page and write a new outline for your piece, including topic sentences for each paragraph. Approach the subject as if it was your first time writing about it.


For sticking with it:

1. Join a writing platform

If you really want to take your writing to the next level and force yourself to be consistant with content output, consider joining a writing platform or starting a blog. Since I became a creator for Odyssey, I am constantly practicing my writing skills and gaining inspiration from the community of writers of which I am a part. Also, with the presence of an audience, my writing has taken on a greater sense of purpose and I feel obligated to write consistently, and not just for myself anymore.

2. Set aside time each day for writing

Dedicate a specific time of day to your writing. Maybe it will just be the 10 minutes after you wake up in the morning and your writing will consist of your sleepy, waking thoughts. Even if your schedule only allows for a few spare moments, incorporate writing into your daily routine, as improvement is always accompanied by practice.

3. Branch out of your comfort zone

If you tend to write personal, blog-style pieces, take a stab at flash fiction or poetry. Don't be afraid to experiment with a new style, for it may end up being your new favorite genre.

Writing is a truly marvelous ability as it allows us to express our thoughts through words and exchange ideas easily. It can be immensely therapeutic by helping us to gain a better understanding of not only ourselves, but also of the people around us. If you seek to become a better writer in this new year, utilize these exercises and practice writing daily, as even the best writers did not stem from nothing.

Cover Image Credit: Webster

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The Post Grad Phase No One Talks About

Graduation is all fun and games until you remember everything you're leaving behind.

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"Congratulations!" It's such a small, exciting word. The weekend I graduated from college, this was the only word I seemed to hear. It left me feeling confused. Congrats on leaving all my best friends behind? Congrats on never finding comfort in that morning stroll across campus again? Congrats on leaving a town I have called home? Congrats on leaving the school that has taught me some of the most valuable lessons? I just couldn't seem to find the excitement in this word-- all I could think about were the things I was going to miss.

5 -- The Local Restaurants, Bars, Shops

To be completely honest, it's almost insulting having to leave behind all of the restaurants, bars, and shops in your college town. After years, you have finally found all of your favorite hot spots-- places to day drink and avoid going to class, a spot to grab a pizza to celebrate a Friday, a boutique for a last minute game day outfit, and even your favorite local coffee shop.

So, it doesn't quite qualify as a restaurant or a bar, but the local Target (that closed at midnight!!) was my hot spot. My roommate and I would go there for any and all reasons. We would go to buy school supplies to mark a new school year. We'd go late at night to buy our favorite binge worthy snacks. On our many and short "let's be healthy binges" we would buy a ton of fruits and vegetables we never ate. We spent a ton on Christmas decorations and Valentine's Day candy. The house that built me, ya know what I mean?

4 -- The Campus

You walk on campus so many times during your college career. Unfortunately, most of the time, you take your surroundings for granted. But remember these things: the campus saw you on your worst and your best days, the campus saw you crying to your mom on the phone when you knew you had to change your major, your campus saw you when you got the call letting you know you got into graduate school, and these buildings let you sit on the steps when you needed a chance to breathe between classes.

You'll take all of these buildings and campus surroundings for granted, until it's your last walk. My last walk around campus as a student was hard. It was suddenly even more beautiful than I remembered. It had been my home for four years, and somehow four years had gone by in a blink of an eye.

3 -- Game Days

If you're fortunate enough to go to a football school, you know how fun game days are. Game days in the south are all about dressing your best, getting up early to tailgate (because you can't drink all day if you don't start early), and cheering on your team. You get to spend an entire day with all of your best friends at your favorite school.

It's weird leaving the student section for the last time. I remember we all looked around and said "Thanks Bryant Denny," knowing we'd for sure be back in the fall as alumni, but our time as student fans had officially come to an end. One of the hardest things about this goodbye is that it's the first goodbye you really have as a senior. When the season comes to a close, you have yet to finish your first semester, but you realize how fast it's flying by.

2 -- Greek Life

Similar to game days, if you were lucky enough to join Greek life, you know how hard it is to leave. Going to a big school, you realize how communal Greek life has made your college experience. Somehow, everyone knows everyone. You start seeing the same faces around campus, and it's served as a comfort for you. You have made endless friendships in your house, but you've also made friends in other houses. The people in your house have become your family for four years.

I ate every single meal at my house. I studied for all my exams at my house. I complained to my friends about annoying classes. I celebrated my successes and the successes of others at my house. I found my people at my house.

1 -- Your People

Your people are what you'll miss the most. Your people are the reason the word "congratulations" is so daunting. You're leaving your support system. Your people are starting jobs or continuing their education, but not with you. Your people will be scattered all across the country.

This is the absolute hardest part of leaving college. This is the reason I cried all the way home with my car packed to the brim. My girls have been with me through the good and the bad for four years. Even weeks after graduating, it's hard to write this without shedding a few tears. To my girls: I already miss Netflix and wine nights, I miss Snapchats after a night out at the bars, and I miss walking over to your houses just to do homework. You are all so special to me, and I will be cheering you all on throughout your next adventures. Can't wait to plan many trips together!

You will miss these things, and this phase will be one you'll go through. But the point of the matter is, you'll have these memories and these people forever. So, congratulations! Congratulations on an unforgettable college experience. Your future is bright.

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5 Tips For Incoming College Freshman

Remember when everyone told you that high school was going to be the best four years of your life.. and then it wasn't? Well now for some of you, comes the BEST and WORST four years of your life. Here's a little bit you need to know in order to be prepared for the eventful year to come.

Scleigh1
Scleigh1
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Yes, believe it or not your parents, friends, and teachers were right. College is SO much different than high school in so many different ways. Luckily, I just survived my freshman year so I was in your place literally a year ago today. Everyone tells you how different college is from high school but they don't tell you how and that's what I'm here for! Lets just start with the 1st difference....

1. A whole new world

You will feel like your in a new world because in a way you are. You will suddenly be surrounded by so many groups of people, new cultures, different lifestyles, different languages, everything is so NEW. Not only are you not going to class with the same people everyday that you have seen in the hall for years but you are going to classes with complete strangers from all over the states and sometimes even the world. You are suddenly going to have to share a room with a stranger or even a best friend which can also lead to some issues. But what is most important to know is that even though you feel alone the first few weeks or even months... trust me so does everyone else, its okay to feel overwhelmed its normal. We all have absolutely no idea what we are doing we are all just pretending like we have somewhat of a plan. I met most of my friends my freshman year through being completely LOST on campus.

2. Making new friends

One thing that you aren't taught how to do in high school or honestly by anyone is how to make friends. I knew most people in my classes throughout high school so when I started college I hardly knew anyone besides my roommate. It definitely took me a while to branch out and start making friends but I had to remind myself to put myself out there and eventually I met some wonderful humans. Remember to always be yourself and you will attract people that WANT to be your friend. It takes time but once again, you are not alone. It will look like people already have their group and stuff but everyone is struggling just as much as you most likely.

3. Responsibilities 

The new responsibilities you will have... get prepared, they will hit you like a truck or at least they did me. You will suddenly be responsible for cleaning your room, doing your laundry, feeding yourself, doing your homework, remembering specific dates, paying bills, honestly the list becomes never ending because you are slowly becoming an adult :(((( I remember a time when I wanted to be an adult, now all i want to do is be in kindergarten taking a nap LOL, Luckily I already was familiar with most of these things as were others im sure but there are also people that haven't had to do some of the things by them selves before which can be overwhelming at times. You will eventually fall into your own personal routine and get your own system going and things will become second nature. Don't be afraid of this, just be prepared in order to have the most stress free incoming year.

4. Academics...

The real reason we are in college in the first place. Yeah, here is where your parents and teachers were right... high school courses and college courses can be either very similar or very different. It honestly depends on what the course is and who your professor is but, for the most part, college courses and professors are much different. Professors do not like to repeat themselves and expect you to remember any important dates they mention. They expect you to write it down, no excuses. In high school you teachers would give you a break but that's not really how college works. Some professors may cut you some slack but most wont. Do NOT waste a professors time and remember that even though you are paying to go to school there, you can get kicked out in a heart beat so don't risk it. Refrain from talking in class, and show up!!! you can miss one thing and the next thing you know you have a 5 page paper due in a few days. Save yourself the stress and just pay attention for the whole 50 minute or hour and a half class you have.

5. Packing 

PACK LIGHTLY!!! I packed so much unnecessary clothes, decorations, etc, that I ended up not needing or never even using. Safe as much space as you can because your dorm room will definitely get cluttered fast and you will accumulate more things throughout the year. So, pack the clothes and decor you NEED. Try your best to not over pack (as hard as it is (; )

6. Homesickness

No one:

Every college student ever: "Ugh I can't wait to go to college I hate living here!"

You know we've all said it but you will most likely get homesick at some point. My house is not far from the College at all and even I still was homesick sometimes. Its one of those things that everyone goes through so remember you are not alone. Luckily, we live in the 21st century too so you can always video chat your fam and send them some love. Its okay to be homesick just try to get more involved and do things you would do if you were at your own house. I always try to bring a few things from home too just to look at and remind myself that I will see my family soon.

Freshman year was difficult for me to adjust to as im sure it was to others, so hopefully you keep these tips in mind this summer as you prepare for your first year of college! I am excited for you all to start this next chapter, welcome to the beginning of adulthood class of 2023!

Scleigh1
Scleigh1

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