By Alexandra Janvey
Writing for the profession is something I regret not starting sooner because it has made such a difference in my life. In fact, I attribute my improved writing as the reason I was able to land a full-time job at the start of my career. Being able to write effectively is important because it allows you to express your ideas clearly, which is essential in any position, and enhances one's critical thinking skills. Even though the publishing process can seem overwhelming and stressful, it is also extremely rewarding. Whatever your reason may be for wanting to write, whether it's a requirement of your job or a desire to contribute to the profession, here are some tips to help you get started.
Author Stephen King once said about writing, "the scariest moment is always just before you start." Writing is hard and often frustrating work. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to get the ideas from your head onto paper. That is why when you first begin a piece of writing, the focus should be on getting your ideas down first, and editing later. Editing as you write can interrupt your stream of thought and the flow of ideas. Errors that are made in the first draft can be fixed at a later stage in the writing process. After all, that is why it is called a "first draft." After completing the first draft, it is always a good idea to take a break before returning to do the editing. Taking a break from the article allows you to edit for spelling, grammar, and structure mistakes with a fresh pair of eyes. Reading over it both silently and out loud is also a good way to avoid missing any errors. Having someone else read over your writing is also a good idea. Sometimes writers are too close to their writing to notice the errors.
Practice Makes Perfect
Writing is a skill that can be improved and honed with practice. That is why the best tip that I can give anyone who has the desire to write, is to write everyday - this will help get you into the habit and then you'll be able to write well at anytime. This doesn't mean you have to write everyday for a long time - as little as twenty minutes a day is perfectly acceptable. The more you write, the easier it becomes, and the better you will become. If you stop doing something, you can get rusty so writing regularly helps keep those skills sharp. This will also help to train your brain to come up with new ideas regularly. What should you write everyday? It could be anything that comes to mind from daily thoughts, comments on subject, or a response to a blog post you read.
Ideas for your writing can come from a number of places. Perhaps the most common place ideas come from is personal experience. This can include successful projects, problems that arise, and even failures. Writing about programs and projects that weren't successful can be just as useful and informative. Ideas can also develop out of conversations. For example, two articles that I co-authored for NMRT Footnotes revolved around professional development and resulted from a conversation I had with a fellow librarian about how recent graduates can develop skills when they are working full-time. Other places to get ideas from are articles that you've read, disagreed with, or just have further thoughts on. Don't forget to look at your own past work as well. People are often able to reuse material from posters or other presentations as the basis for a published article.
The number one challenge I often hear that prevents people from writing is the inability to find the time. There are many ways of making time for writing. One way is to schedule the time into your calendar so you're more likely to get it done. And remember, this doesn't have to be a large amount of time. It's okay if you can only fit twenty minutes to work on your writing, as long as you do it everyday. That time will soon add up and within two weeks you could have a finished article. Many are also surprised to find how easy it is to fit in that writing time if you cut out another unnecessary activity, such as watching TV. Getting up earlier everyday or writing during your lunch hour are other ways to fit writing into your schedule.