Academic writing can be tough, and even tougher for those who are not naturally predisposed to it. However, if you are not talented at it doesn’t mean you cannot be good at it – practice can solve any problem. And while the advice to write as much as possible is good enough, there are exercises that can maximize your returns.
1. Setting a Time Limit
Very often you have to write an essay in a very limited amount of time, and some people tend to be paralyzed in such situations. Solution is simple: pick a topic for your essay and give yourself very little time to complete it. Exactly how little may vary depending on your skills: at first it may be a couple of hours, but the exercise wouldn’t be exercise if you don’t make progress. Give yourself less time whenever you repeat the exercise. This will teach you to think on your feet and do away with wordiness.
2. Setting a Word Limit
It can be combined with the previous exercise or used separately. Academic assignments are usually limited in size, although this limit is generally reasonable. So, in order to improve your writing skills you can make it unreasonable. What about exploring a complex topic in a hundred words? When each word counts, you have to put as much thought behind them as possible.
We are usually taught to concentrate more on planning than actual writing, and in most cases it is correct. However, sometimes it leads to your being simply afraid of starting: everything is planned, you know which part fits where, but cannot make yourself write the first word.
Freewriting is aimed at, well, freeing your writing abilities. The exercise is as follows: you simply write down everything that enters your head, either for a certain period of time or within a word limit. No other limitations, no plans, just writing.
4. Use an Arbitrary Limitation
Limitation leads to creativity, and you may explore and exploit this tendency of human nature. For example, write an essay using only one-syllable words, or only present-tense verbs, or 2nd person, or open a dictionary ten times, select ten words at random and write a meaningful text featuring all of them. Or something else entirely – once you start practicing this exercise you will be surprised at your own bursts of creativity.
5. Write Down Plans
Freewriting is good to free yourself from limitations of planning, but a lot of us don’t know how to plan properly in the first place. And a good plan may save you in a tight spot. That is why it is a good idea to write plans without actually writing anything based on them. Thus you train your abilities to organize thoughts, make logical conclusions and use supporting evidence.
When all is said and done, writing as much as possible is still the best way to improve your skills – using proper exercises can accelerate the process, but effort is always the basis of everything.