“I hate writing. I love having written.”- Dorothy Parker.
Writing is a strange thing. It seems, even those who make a career out of it don’t like--or at least have a love-hate relationship with it. Yet, it is a vital part of life. Whether we are writing an email, a professional journal, a speech, or a social media response, the ability to express ourselves through the written word is something each and every person will need at some point. So, how can we shift our feelings towards the written art? The first step is to understand it.
The Writing Struggle
Even using a keyboard requires practice and fine motor skills. If a child cannot physically get what is in their head onto paper, they will quickly become frustrated and possibly give up on writing. This frustration can later manifest as a dislike of writing in adulthood.
Cognitively, writers need to be able to think both creatively and logically, understand the research process, know how to build an effective argument or craft a story that pulls on heartstrings. You must think of an idea, and then you must communicate that idea in an effective way that makes sense to others and fulfills your purpose.
Emotionally, writers must be vulnerable as well as resilient, tapping into their own feelings and experiences while also pushing through the creative dry spells that inevitably arise. Not to mention learning to accept constructive criticism.
Finally, anyone who wants to write must understand the stylistic rules of the English language. Where do commas go? When should you use passive voice? What is a plot? Not only do these rules help make papers and stories stronger, they act as a common shared language that helps us communicate within our culture.
Written English has some strange rules that often frustrate even the most willing of writers. Further complicating matters is the fact that we rarely speak the way we write. Bridging that gap can be a struggle.
A strong writer needs to be able to execute each of these three skills together with enough ease and fluidity to not hinder the ideas which he or she wishes to communicate. If just one piece is out of place, the writer will struggle and may give up writing as hopeless. Is it any wonder that, while 81% of adults express a desire to write a book one day, few ever do?
Building a Love of Writing
So, what can be done? Is writing simply too complex for the average person to master? Absolutely not! With a reframing of what writing is and a new approach to the skill, just about anyone can become a competent writer and approach the page without fear.
Building a love of writing requires 3 key steps:
The first step is to understand exactly what writing is. Helping writers of all ages understand the 3-part nature of writing can help narrow down the issue and assure the writer that they are not necessarily a bad writer, they may just need to work on sharpening one section of the writing triangle.
When you begin to feel frustrated with writing, pause and try to pin down the issue. Is your brain thinking faster than you can type? Try speech-to-text software. Do you have a lot of great ideas, but are struggling to get everything in a logical order? Try writing your ideas on index cards that can be easily manipulated and moved around. By identifying exactly what part of the writing triangle you’re struggling with, you can address the problem more efficiently, while also recognizing you aren’t a bad writer--you’re just struggling with one small aspect of the process.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from others, as well. Sometimes we get so close to our own writing, we miss the forest for the trees. A little perspective can be a big help. When it comes to grammar, there’s no shame in using resources! The goal of grammar is communication, not proving how many rules you’ve memorized or how many words you can spell. Use the spell check, use the thesaurus, use Grammarly, and any other resource you can get your hands on!
Embrace the Journey
As we previously discussed, writing is a skill, which means it improves with time and practice. You might not be good right away, and that is ok! Making mistakes and even doing things poorly at first is all part of the process. Have you ever heard a child practicing an instrument? Unless they are a prodigy, you probably found yourself wincing more than once--and yet you likely found them with a big grin on their face. Children don’t mind as much that they aren’t good right away because that’s most of their life up to that point. From learning to walk to learning the violin, childhood is all about trying and failing and trying again until you get it right. Embrace your inner child and give yourself permission to be terrible.
Along with being a complex skill, writing is a process and a journey. A written piece is less like a table being built of wood and more like one being carved out of stone and lovingly polished to perfection. Learn the phases of the writing process and get comfortable in the beginning stages of exploration. Find the fun in discovering what you’re trying to communicate. Rather than always craning your neck towards the final product, take a step back once in a while and appreciate your writing for where it is. You might just discover it’s taking you somewhere completely unexpected.
Write Frequently and Meaningfully.
Too often, children are only asked to write compositions for school. While this type of writing is important, it can sometimes feel disconnected from everyday life. This feeling can project into adulthood. Rather than placing the focus on writing, place it instead on communication. The better you can write, the easier you will be able to communicate your very important ideas--how exciting! Whenever possible, children should be given writing assignments that are meaningful to them. The same is true for adults--especially those just starting out.
Write often and in different styles. Write a review of a favorite product, write an opinion on the best movie out this year, write a journal entry on what the day has been like, write song lyrics. The more you write, the more you will build both your mental and physical muscles. Frequent writing about topics of interest also helps to destigmatize writing and make it more comfortable and familiar.
Let Your Mind Play
Although writers claim they love to write, they are also the first to admit that it is HARD! But it’s important that you don’t lose the joy of it. If you feel yourself getting bogged down or discouraged with a project, set it aside for a while and do some writing that is just plain FUN. Freewrite, write a new episode of your favorite sitcom, write a ridiculous letter to a friend, or anything that just comes easily. Remind yourself why you love the written word and remind yourself that you are capable of producing something new and creative. Not all writing has to be a New York Times Bestseller.
READ to Write
Finally, one of the best ways to become a competent writer who is excited about their craft is to read often. The more we are exposed to good writing, the more we will internalize the flow and structure of written communication. Reading literature that excites and interests you will also help inspire your own works. So if you’re looking for an excuse to step away from your manuscript and curl up on the couch with a good book, this is it!
Studies show 81% of adults say they want to write a novel one day, yet so few ever take steps to accomplish this goal. And it’s no wonder. Writing is difficult, and a bit of an enigma. To be a writer requires creativity, but also logic and order. It requires vulnerability, but also resilience. It is a skill of the mind, but also the body. It is spontaneous, but also disciplined. It can be painfully hard at times, but also euphorically satisfying. It can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
If you are part of that 81% that has always wanted to write, our advice is to go for it!! If you fail the first time, go for it again. And again and again and again until you get it right. Because the world deserves to hear your story, and you deserve to tell it.
*Originally posted 11/23/16*
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
― Frederick Douglass
As an exercise, pause right now and think about everything you’ve done today that required reading. Did check your email when you woke up? What about locate the correct aisle in the grocery store? Find the right exit on your way to work? What about simply scrolling through your Facebook feed? Everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, navigating, and even taking in entertainment are made possible largely as a result of the ability to read, yet it is a skill we often take for granted.
As Frederick Douglass stated, reading is the path to freedom. Through reading and writing, we can learn and compare ideas. We are able to communicate our own thoughts, discover the thoughts of others, encounter new customs, and try new things. Reading teaches us about people and places beyond the scope of our own experiences and builds vital skills such as empathy and concentration.
Reading organizes and streamlines our lives; As a result of reading, we can decipher directions to put together furniture and read the instructions of our prescriptions. Reading allows us to make informed choices, to learn new skills, and keep in touch with loved ones. Plus, it’s fun.
Unfortunately, 1 in 7 people worldwide are cut off from these privileges because they cannot read or write. This number does not even include those living in a country in which they do not speak the language. Not only does this mean that those who cannot read are not able to do or benefit from all of the above activities, it also means they cannot inform themselves on important topics, often putting them at the mercy of those with more education.
The true cost of illiteracy is staggering. Those who cannot read or write will have difficulty finding employment, which means they will likely struggle with finances, finding adequate healthcare, and a host of other necessities. According to an article by Central Georgia Tech College, low literacy in adulthood can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:
Voting, getting a driver’s license, or finding a good doctor all become difficult, if not impossible tasks without the ability to read and comprehend. All because of one small skill that most of us use every day without thinking.
THANKFULLY, there are those out there who are doing something to solve this problem. Individuals and organizations throughout the world have dedicated themselves to the mission of ending illiteracy and instilling mastery and a love of reading in both young and old.
There are a multitude of ways that you can join in these efforts. We have outlined a few of the larger organizations that are leading this mission below if you would like to join in their work. However, you can help improve literacy without ever spending a penny or even leaving your own city! Here’s how:
1. Read out loud: Studies show that being read to is one of the single greatest ways to build vocabulary, comprehension, and a positive association with reading. If you have someone in your life who cannot read, whether it is a child or adult, read to them. Read books, read signs, read cereal boxes, read everything! Make it a habit and demonstrate that reading isn’t a chore; it is a gateway to new worlds, skills, thoughts, and dreams.
2. Talk about what you’ve read: Just as important as the ability to read is the ability to comprehend what has been read. When you read with someone, carry it beyond the page. Restate the story in your own words and ask others to do the same. Ask questions such as: What are the motives of the characters? What would happen if the story where to continue or if a plot point were to change? What were the themes and messages to the story? Not only do these actions build comprehension skills, they build social skills such as empathy, listening, and the ability to respectfully discuss ideas.
3. Volunteer: Whether you like working with children or adults, there is sure to be an opportunity to help build literacy in your community. Check out your local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, library, shelters, and centers for English Language Learners. Many of these organizations are in need of people to read, tutor, or even teach courses.
4. Donate: There are a multitude of organizations that collect and donate books to families in need. Organizations could include your local schools, libraries, shelters, Little Free Libraries, and hospitals. You could even leave a few books with a kind note attached for someone to find in a park!
If you would rather join in with already-established organizations, here are a few that are working hard each day to build literacy around the globe:
World Literacy Foundation- The World Literacy Foundation is working in partnership with 3,920 groups internationally across 25 countries, including Australia, UK, USA, and others in Africa and Latin America, with one common goal: to eradicate illiteracy in our lifetime. Through literacy, they aim to reduce poverty, improve health, increase employment and educational prospects, and see lives changed forever.
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy-The mission of the Barbara Bush Foundation is to advocate for and establish literacy as a value in every home. Over the past 25 years, the Barbara Bush Foundation has sponsored 1,500 family literacy programs in 50 states for both children and adults by partnering with a network of high-performing local family literacy programs across the nation.
Book Aid- This organization is on a mission to ensure everyone has access to books that will enrich their lives and to support an environment in which "reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish". In addition to donating books to people around the globe, Book Aid runs programs that give teachers and librarians skills to support and grow the readers and reading resources in their communities.
Reading Is Fundamental- Reading is Fundamental is the nation's largest nonprofit dedicated to childhood literacy. Through literacy programs and book donations, RIF connects emerging readers, teachers, and parents with the resources they need to create a culture of literacy.
These are just a few of the many literacy programs for children and adults across the nation with which you can get involved. To find a program operating near you, click on the organization links above.
The ability to read and write can, quite literally, change someone’s life. It is knowledge, freedom, and joy. Now go read a book, because you can!!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.