Third grade. That is when I wrote my first real paper. It was a 500-word research piece on penguins. More specifically, I wrote about emperor penguins. I do not remember anything about penguins, or even what grade I got on the paper. But I thought I wrote the perfect paper. I was probably wrong. Since then, my writing has developed, my vocabulary has improved, and I know that I still have room for improvement.
My history as a writer does not truly start until my junior year of high school. Up until then, I had no real writing process or routine. I would sit down wherever and begin writing whatever came to mind. It did not matter where I was, whom I was with, or what was going on around me. Because of this, my writing was inconsistent and usually suffered. But once I started taking Advanced Placement classes and writing longer papers for them, I developed a system for doing assignments. Whenever I had a paper to do, I would go down into my basement so I could get away from the distractions of my family. Once I got away, I would throw on my headphones and play music loudly. From there, I would just write. Anything that would come into my head that was relevant and necessary for the paper, I would write, revising as I went. I would only stop to get a drink, change the song, or check the sports scores of the day. It was like this for every paper; English, history, psychology, or anything. Was this the best process? Probably not, but for me, it worked well enough to get me through high school. Most of the papers I was writing for high school were straight forwards. The only exception was a position paper for AP United States History, which was seventeen pages. But even this mammoth paper was not complex, just overly long.
With this process, I saw myself as someone who wrote because he had to, not for pure enjoyment. This was especially true with analytical, non-creative papers. However, even since the end of high school, my mindset has changed some. Starting with the last month of high school, I began to write poems. Originally, it was for a creative writing class final portfolio. But as I started to work on it, I started to enjoy writing the poems. I was able to inject my own emotions and experiences into them, something I could not do for any analytical piece. I ended up omitting several poems from my final portfolio solely because my teacher would not accept as many as I wrote. When it comes to creative writing (like poetry), I have opened up into someone who can write for the enjoyment of writing.
This semester, I want to improve as a writer. One goal that I will set for myself to help achieve this is to procrastinate less. Previously, I have waited until the last day to finish (or in some cases, even start) an important paper. I even saved the last twelve pages of my seventeen-page position paper for the last night. In order to achieve this goal, I will have to change my mindset regarding writing assignments. More specifically, I need to treat each assignment like it is a big one. If I can do that, I will be able to start papers earlier and complete them with a higher quality. Another step I can take to avoid procrastination is to write drafts. Like Anne Lamott said, most every writer writes “shitty” first drafts. For me, it would not be about improving my writing (although it would be a positive side effect). Rather, it would force me to write something well in advance of the final due date. I could also try simply spreading out the workload to avoid procrastination. By this, I mean setting up smaller, shorter due dates for myself that force me to get certain pieces of an assignment done before the final due date. For example, I could write a page or two per day in order to avoid cramming it all in at the last minute. This would also likely help improve the quality of my writing.
Another goal that I will set for myself is to keep track of all of my writing assignments. Although this is a more general goal, it will help me to improve my writing because I will not be hastily writing papers late at night. All throughout high school, I had trouble keeping up with assignments. One big reason for this was because I had an aversion to writing them down in my planner. To help me achieve the goal of keeping up with all my work this year, I am going to try to write every writing assignment down, even if it is not due for weeks in advance. Of course, this will do me no good unless I continually look at my planner, so I will need to do that too. A second step I can take is to take time and write during class. This year, it appears that there will be a significant amount of time in class for me to work on writing assignments. If I want to achieve my goal, I will need to take full advantage of this time. This sounds easy enough, but in previous English classes I have had trouble staying focused during free work periods, so keeping my mind on my writing will be pivotal. Like my first goal, keeping up with my assignments will also improve the overall quality of my writing.
A third writing goal to set for myself this semester is to write more efficiently. By this, I mean that I want to maintain a high quality of writing while speeding up the rate at which I write. A big step in achieving this goal will be to avoid constantly checking Facebook, Twitter, and my phone while trying to write. Although checking these things occasionally is okay and can even be helpful, checking them too much can hurt both writing quality and speed. Another step I can take is to stay away from watching television while working. For me, I need some background noise to function. But television, though entertaining, can be very distracting and can waste time while writing papers. I will try to stick to listening to music this semester and beyond to help me write in a more efficient manor.
Throughout my career as a writer, I have improved. In the past few years, I have developed more of a process to help improve the quality of my writing and make it more consistent as a whole. Though I have come a long way since third grade, I still have a lot of room to improve. I need to avoid procrastination, keep up with all of my assignments, and I would like to write more efficiently not just for this semester, but also for the rest of my time at the University and beyond.