Pandemonium in an English Language Arts classroom reminded me just how important three vital elements are when it comes to productive writing. Once these missing elements were in place, the students began cranking out assignment after assignment. These disciplines should help all writers become productive.
Many writers say they cannot write without a deadline. Others say they don’t like the pressure. In any case, a deadline pushes us towards the keyboard. If we don’t meet the deadline we see several consequences: we may not get paid; our readers may miss out on something valuable, give up on us or feel disappointed; or we may miss a contest or publication opportunity. Deadlines motivate.
Consistent deadlines, such as those generated by a writer’s group or a writer’s course, are effective. Even when our writer’s group dwindled to just myself and one other gal, I still felt a duty to write something for our monthly meetings. It was a productive season of my writing life. If a deadline draws out the story in you, consider signing the dotted line for contests, courses, commitment to blogs, or a regular column in a magazine.
Writer’s courses do far more than pack new information into our brains. They encourage quality workmanship. Think of a marathon runner. They don’t train merely to learn the latest new technique but rather to maintain their edge, to stay in shape, and to be ready for the next race. Likewise, while we as writers train to learn new techniques and skills, more importantly, we need training to maintain our skills, stay sharp, and be ready for the next project we may undertake.
Some courses and training platforms that I have found practical include The Institute of Children’s Literature (which was excellent training for all ages and genres of writing, not just for children), Writer’s Digest courses, Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers courses, how-to articles in our Fellowscript magazine, InScribe’s Spring Wordshop and Fall Conference, and courses offered by the authors of InScribe, such as Marcia Laycock’s devotional writing. As we grow in writing skills, our confidence increases, along with our writing repertoire.
Admit it. With each text or post on Facebook, you love the sound of that “ding!” when you get a response. That instant gratification speaks to our need to be heard and affirmed. Without feedback we flounder. We wonder if the reader understood our work. Did they get our drift? What kind of emotional response did our piece create? Comments, whether negative or positive, inform our next writing. They guide our content, style, audience, and other inputs.
How can we solicit feedback that is constructive and helpful? In our writers’ group we switch manuscripts, take them home, and pencil in comments. We circle sentences that we don’t understand or jot questions in the margins. Suggestions about characters or plot threads can be taken with a grain of salt but still appreciated. Feedback is the echo from our tentative “Hello! Are you there?” that guides us in the foggy world of writing. Put your voice out as often as possible and listen closely for the response, allowing it to keep you on track, whether it be from peers and instructors in writing courses, from contests when critiques are included, blog comments, or book reviews.
Meanwhile, back in the ELA classroom, the inbox on the teacher’s desk piled up with assignments once the students had due dates, training, and feedback. Include these disciplines in your writing life, and hopefully you will see your writing stack up as well.
Pamela is an “English as an Additional Language Instructor” and “Language Assessor” in Saskatchewan. She loves baking, reading, and spending time with her family, which has grown to include a sweet grandson. She writes for her local newspaper and, as Acquisitions Editor for Fellowscript, she enjoys working with writers to see their ideas in print. Contact her at email@example.com