Saturday, October 6, 2018

Two Heads — and Sets of Skills — Are Better Than One

All writers ask for help at some point, whether from a friend, family member or peer. One of the best ways to get assistance is from a writing instructor.

The fallacy about writing instructors is that those who can do; those who can't teach. But good instructors write and critique, and most have been where you are and understand the writing life. They may not become your best friend, but they’ll balance between objectivity and nurturing your talents.

Why Get Outside Help
Writers at all levels eventually opt for help because when we look at our own work it’s hard to see our mistakes, whether simple or complex. Simple mistakes, such as grammar, punctuation and spelling, can be easy to fix. But complex problems, such as structure and development, can be tricky. Instructors have invaluable knowledge of and experience in these areas and know how to apply their skills to your project.

Working with an instructor can save time, energy and money because a professional will help you complete your project correctly and help you achieve your goals. Why spin your wheels because you’ve missed an essential craft element needed to do well?

To advance your writing, you’ll need an outside perspective. If you want to make writing or communications a career or want your work published, it will constantly be read, analyzed and critiqued. Why not learn to work under these conditions with an instructor now instead of later? Writing instructors also have contacts in the literary field, and many have worked in it. As a result, they not only have wisdom but contacts.

What Writing Instructors Do and What You Can Expect
Writing instructors come in various flavors, but most will both proofread your work and help you improve it. Instructors scrutinize for big ticket items, such as overall form and structure. They also provide another set of eyeballs, a sense of the work’s weaknesses and strengths. They read to see whether your writing flows and make sense, and for gaps, such as missing transitions, explanations, examples or details. Practice is the stuff of all good communication so don’t be surprised if your instructor suggests another draft.

How to Work Well With an Instructor
To pair with an instructor who will be a good match for you and your work, ask someone who knows you for a referral. If one instructor isn’t a fit, try another.

Avoid reacting immediately to corrections, which are often more extensive and different from what you expected. Instead, put the comments aside, and review them later. When you return to the corrected work, review the corrections before passing judgment. Then test a few changes by implementing them. You’ll should see improvement and understand the methodology because you’ve seen both the before and the after.

When in doubt, ask questions. Even when you work with an experienced instructor, miscommunication can still occur so it’s best to understand each other upfront. Each instructor relationship is unique, so don't be surprised if your experience differs from that of others even after a referral. Critique, even when valid, is rarely easy to accept, but it can be an opportunity to mature. How you handle criticism now will set a precedent for how you handle it in the future. Remember, this is a learning experience—often for both sides.