Thursday, December 3, 2009

What the Best Writing Teachers Do, How We Freelancers Can Improve From Their Teaching Tools

This afternoon I read an article published on Poynter Online titled "What the Best Writing Teachers Do, How Students Can Learn From Them." The points on what the best teachers do got me thinking about freelancers. We are often, our own teacher in the business. There aren't many bosses overlooking our work ethic, our start times, our lunch breaks. We don't have anyone holding us to daily quotas other than our own get-up-and-go. So without these teachers to learn from, how can we become better writers too?

Using the points from the article as a launching pad, here are my thoughts:
  • Encourage students to write every day... For a writer, a day not spent penning words is one we aren't working on our craft. And the more we write, the better we become.
  • Teach writing as a process... Writing is always a process. Don't be discouraged when there are days when writing a paragraph feels like counting all the grains of sand in the world. Sure, it's tedious at times. But that doesn't mean the words aren't there.
  • Confer with student writers throughout the process... Take advantage of opportunities to meet with other writers, especially other freelancers. This doesn't have to be face-to-face, even just creating a relationship via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and e-mail can be beneficial.
  • Connect reading and writing... You're a better writer the more you read. And to really stretch yourself try reading things that aren't in your specific niche. Reading things out of the ordinary can broaden horizons and increase vocabulary.
  • Offer appropriate praise and encouragement -- as well as correction... Take corrections like a pro. Instead of letting them get you down, or fuming over an editors changes take the opportunity to learn from it. Even if the change is off-the-wall-crazy there is still something you can take away from the experience.
  • Give opportunities for revision... For writers - the better wording would be: Give yourself time for revisions. How many times have we penned something under deadline, handed it in and then thought of a way to improve the sentence structure or paragraph flow? Give yourself time. (although I've yet to meet a journalist who doesn't claim to EXCEL under pressure)
  • Believe that all students, not just the "stars" can improve their writing... A personal story on this... in junior high I had to take one of those PSAT prep tests and at the time I had just started writing little stories about my family and friends. When the results came home, my parents wouldn't let me see them. They said it wasn't important. Four years later I found out they kept the scores from me because the area I scored the worst in was writing. It became my best score on all the tests in high school. Writing is inborn and learned.

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