Ah, 2015. Another year, another winter break’s worth of probably not writing much of anything and forgetting most of the things you actually did write last semester. We all get rusty after a break, but it’s the start of a new semester, and chances are you already have to write emails and papers. So here are seven miscellaneous writing-related tips for helping you start the new year off right.
- Keep reading for pleasure. Most people think of winter break as some glorious bonanza of free time that they can spend reading all the things they never had time to read during the semester. Don’t fall into this mindset. Keep up with your homework and reading for class, but continue reading for pleasure as well. This will expose you to different lines of thinking and writing as well as keep you sane and entertained.
- Keep (or start) writing for pleasure. Most classes will require you to take notes and write papers in order to be successful, but few of them require you to write for pleasure. Start a journal, or just scribble down thoughts you have, particularly after leaving class or after reading your homework. You might find that it reveals connections you had previously missed, especially connections between different classes and disciplines (which is good for writing papers—consider this part of the brainstorming process). Writing for pleasure can also be very therapeutic.
- Take good notes during class. It’s near impossible to remember everything (or even all the important things) you learn. Taking good notes helps solidify the information in your mind as you receive it. These notes will also allow you to look back at that trove of knowledge your professor dropped on you that one class you totally forgot you even went to. This is especially helpful come exam time. When taking notes, work on summarizing and paraphrasing what you hear and discuss in class—your notes will be more useful to you, and you can use the paraphrase in later papers and assignments.
- Ditch the highlighters. In general, research shows that highlighting things will not help you remember the information any better than simply reading or listening to it. If you’re going to highlight, do so in an efficient way while still taking regular notes. For example, if you have three different types of information, you might use three different colors of highlighter to help you distinguish between them. Some people are visual learners: Know thyself.
- Don’t wait til it’s too late! Sometimes it takes a while to get into the swing of things at the start of the semester. Even (or especially) if you feel sluggish or unmotivated, be proactive about any upcoming reading or projects you know you need to accomplish. Plan early, draft early, and finish early so you can perform everything to your potential and not fall behind later in the semester when it really counts. Keep an agenda (electronic is fine) to help you remember your various responsibilities both inside and outside school.
- Don’t forget where you came from. It’s easy to complete a semester and assume all the information you learned and wrote about is now ingrained in your memory. But it isn’t. So catalogue your growth. You won’t even realize what you’ve forgotten until you remember it, and the best way to remind yourself what you’ve learned is to look back at notes and papers from previous semesters. Are you in ENGH 302 this semester? It would probably be wise to look back at your papers from ENGH 202 to get an idea of where you stand and where you need to go from here. After putting aside a piece for that long, you will inevitably catch mistakes both in terms of the writing and in terms of the logic or content of the piece. Looking back at previous papers, then, is a great way to be more self-aware about your writing. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and all that.
- Come into the writing center! We are here to help with any phase of your writing process, including brainstorming, final drafts, and general writing questions/tips/practices. Shameless plug—we are also all pretty awesome, and our services are free. Free and awesome. So if you want that extra little bit of help, or if you just want to talk writing, come on in. We’re happy to have you.
February 08, 2015