Teaching Writing Skills

All of my friends who have taught composition are appalled when they hear me say that I want to teach writing. But it's true: I would be interested in having the opportunity to give people the kind of writing education that I never got to have. I've even collected a few of these ideas on a very rough "pedagogy" page. This post, by contrast, will be a list of "things I wish I could have learned before I got a job writing."

  • How to write in long form. The skils and process for writing something that's a hundred pages is fundamentally different from the process for writing pieces that are a few hundred words or a few pages. Project management, planning, and organization are totally different skills.
  • Working with editors. In school, the editing process is very conversational. Editors, comment and ask you to make changes if agree with their judgment. Writers need to learn how to gather requirements, write the best possible content, and then hand it over to an editor who will modify the text without comment. Not only is it important to learn how to "get over this," but also in how to learn from this kind of editing
  • How to revise work. While I've learned to avoid making a number of mistakes to which I'm particularly prone, and spot those errors when the slip through, it's really the process of applying for jobs that has taught me how to revise my own writing. Revision is probably the hardest writing skill, and I think there are probably better ways to teach revision than some sort of idealized "drafting process."
  • How to write at volume, even when you're not feeling inspired. We're pretty good at teaching people to write when they're inspired or have done a lot of research. But writing Writing needs to be as instinctive as speech and the kind of thing that you don't need to be inspired to be able to do. Not because anyone writes that much, but it's a comfort thing.
  • How to document things. Which is to say, how to record a practice, wprocedure, or interface, to tell people (and your future self,) how to do something. I had to figure this out on my own, and I think people would be much better writers for being 10% worse at writing essays and 10% better at writing processes.

That would do it! I've included some work in this direction in the pedagogy page, but comments, are always valuable.

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