So you’re a writer. Or maybe you hate writing. Maybe you’re a student who has been assigned a ton of writing for your class, and you find these assignments frustrating because you don’t consider yourself a writer. Maybe you don’t feel like you have enough experience with writing to call yourself a writer.
Along with assigned writings, most of us have assigned readings for our classes.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: even for readings assigned outside of a writing class, a text can function as a tool box. You can use the tools and techniques an author uses to develop your identity as a writer. So next time your instructor assigns a piece to read, read it as a writer.
Think about it like learning to drive. Many of us have been in cars with good drivers and bad drivers. When we learn to drive, we think about the things we would never do behind the wheel as well as behaviors that are conducive to a safe drive. We select the behaviors we want to replicate when we are behind the wheel because we know that those good behaviors will get us to our destination faster and more safely.
We can do the same thing when we read. Think about something you’ve read that you really enjoyed. What did the author do that made you enjoy the piece? Maybe the author used anecdotes to better illustrate his or her thought. Maybe the author is careful to use clear transitions between thoughts so that you, the reader, are never left wondering how the author moves from one topic to the next.
As you think about what tools the author used to make the piece more effective or more enjoyable to read, you can think about how you might use the same techniques in your own papers.
You can also think about techniques the author uses that make the piece harder to understand or less enjoyable to read. For example, maybe the author used ten dollar words when one dollar words would have sufficed. Knowing that this was not helpful for the reader to understand the piece, you can avoid this mistake in your own writing.
When instructors assign readings, it’s clear to students that there is some information that the student needs to glean from the reading – that’s no secret, right? But sometimes there are secondary lessons that the instructor wants students to learn. Examples and mentor texts help students model successful writing. Many instructors will show students a sample of a successfully completed assignment.
As you read such an example, compare the sample to any rubrics or assignment sheets that have been given by the instructor. What did the successful student do to fulfill all criteria of the assignment? Were the sources cited correctly? Was the paper organized logically? Was the thesis clear and consistent throughout the paper? These are just a few of the things that the student did to ensure that he or she received high marks on the paper, and you can mimic these moves in your own writing.
Speaking of your own writing, once you begin to make these decisions as you complete your assignments, guess what! You’re a writer! And continuing to read as a writer will help you hone your skills.