Writing is a necessary evil for some of us in the academic or even professional world. Students in particular often feel the squeeze as essay deadlines begin to approach. Unfortunately this need to constantly produce written pieces will never fade away. Undergraduate students across the nation are required either by law or their university to enroll in and pass classes that specifically include lengthy writing assignments in order to prepare them further for the tasks that lie ahead in professional life. Often times these essays can feel like learning to swim in the deep end, but writing doesn’t have to be painful. Taking a step back and considering the material you have already produced can be a great way to refocus and put yourself in control of the writing process rather than feeling like a hostage to the essay. This begins with the thesis statement; in short this is a sentence or two that summarizes the main theme of your essay. A well-crafted thesis statement captures both the idea and the emotion that you want to impart on your reader. It can be difficult, however in order to tackle this tricky necessity with grace, it is crucial to go back a few paces first.
It is important to understand that when dealing with a lack of confidence or weak writing chops, the problem can usually be boiled down to an issue of training. This means that writing quality essays seemingly falling outside of your wheelhouse is not entirely your fault – but only if you chose to do something about it rather than relying on being a ‘bad writer’ as a crutch. Middle and High School students are often required to write short essays that help to reinforce grammar knowledge and build out a vocabulary that supports broad word choice. But High School graduates rarely enter college programs with the structural proficiency necessary to reach the next level of writing; this runs in complete contradiction to the overwhelming efforts by math teachers working to build a ‘foundation’ of mathematical skills that can be drawn upon in approaching more difficult algebraic functions that would present themselves in later courses. This push for math skills begins with addition and subtraction, but writing is left relatively alone for years until students are felt to have grasped basic grammar stylistic elements that can be leveraged into an essay. However, school age writing often focuses on explanatory or persuasive writing, suffering from a distinct lack of the analytical synthesis that will come to form an essential piece of good college and professional writing.
The first step to better writing is to simply write. This may sound a little trite, but it is a tried and true method to producing better content. This stripped down approach will be difficult to get used to; we are often our harshest critics and rudderless writing is a magnet for rebuke. Getting out of your own head in order to let the words flow will surprise you, you will write more, and faster. After getting a baseline down on the page, the second step to better writing is to critique yourself: fairly, and without venom. Letting yourself feel bad about writing that you don’t particularly like is not constructive. Instead of dismissing a passage, work to make it better – there is a reason you wanted to include those thoughts, so don’t toss them away before considering how to improve them.
This guiltless approach leads naturally into better thesis statement construction and essay writing. By practicing writing as a cycle that allows for creation and then refinement periods you will naturally begin to build better arguments with refined language directing your reader precisely to the conclusion you are trying to draw.