- Search for ways to make the studying fun (i.e. by turning it into a game. Teach yourself the Montessori way). I love crosswords. Unlike word searches, you actually “learn by doing”. This is great for building vocabulary (most subjects have a lingo of their own, be it computers, engineering, medicine, etc.), because you learn as you create the puzzle, and then learn a second time as you complete it. It also helps to use the word in a sentence.
- Come up with catchy ways to remember things. I like rhymes and acronyms. They may seem silly, but no one else will have to know how you remember but you. It does help to have a creative mind when it comes to studying, as you are essentially becoming your own teacher. Learning P.E.M.D.A.S. (“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”) was extremely helpful to me with solving mathematical equations in high school.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition. It takes me about five times of waiting on a customer before I can remember the name that goes with the face. It also helps to write something down in a notebook, rather than just typing it into a computer. Illustrative objects, like charts and graphs, are also helpful.
- Write! Learn how to write creative nonfiction, and write on the subject you’re studying, even if you don’t plan on submitting it anywhere. You will be able to think critically about the subject, rather than just memorize, which will (ironically) help you remember better. Apply what you know, and study what you don’t. I learned more (and retained more of what I learned) about Ayn Rand when writing a paper on her, rather than just reading a bio.
- Read! Not just your textbook, but the “For Dummies” books are helping me pass my Computer Concepts class. Sometimes just reading about the same subject (with the information presented in a different way) will help that light bulb go off. We all process things differently. That’s why good teachers are so important. I took the same subject in high school with two different teachers, which yielded vastly different results.
- Be organized. Keep notes of what exactly you’re having trouble with. Do what you can, and what you can’t, make a date with your professor to help you. The more organized you are, the more time they’ll be able to spend helping you, rather than going through things you already know. Sometimes, all it takes is the answer to one question, as you can’t build a house without first building the foundation. Also, seek to connect with some of your classmates. I found a very cheap tutor through e-mailing my entire class.
- YouTube. It’s a great resource for learning just about anything. Best of all, it’s free.
- Ask questions. Use social media. I learned how to “age-grade” my work on a Microsoft Word program through a Facebook friend. This friend, who teaches how to blog on WordPress, taught me how to calculate what age group I was writing for.
- Caffeine. Sometimes, it just helps you focus more. I was able to knock out several computer projects in one night with the help of one Starbucks espresso.
- When the weather is nice, take advantage of it. We need nutrition (which means lots of water), sunshine, fresh air, adequate and good quality sleep, etc. Exercise is a bonus. There is nothing like the natural high after exercise that makes you feel like you can conquer the world.
There is not a single writer’s group meeting I attend that I do not learn something, or at least get inspired or motivated. I even got a blog post (this one) out of it, plus a possible regional short story idea. I like to write regional, because as Allison Mackenzie stated (at least in the movie) in “Peyton Place”, there is nothing like opening up a newspaper where the names mean something to you. There is a peculiar sort of delight when I open up a book and see Pensacola (my hometown) or Poplar Bluff (my birthplace) mentioned.
One of the neatest things I learned was that it is possible to “age appropriate” your writing. Just as there aren’t any recommended ages listed on children’s books (which I think is done on purpose, to sell more books; I’m such a cynic, I know), I wasn’t aware there was a way to figure out how to determine at what age level my writing was.
For my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Forks and Silver Spoons” (“Golden Stars and Silver Linings” being the first), in the “Just-so Stories” section (a la Rudyard Kipling), I “graded” my poem, “How the Colon Became a Semicolon” (who doesn’t love semi-colons, the noncommittal things they are), and have realized that perhaps I wrote a book of children’s poetry rather than simplistic nursery rhymes.
Because I am a “For Dummies” kind of person (I am consulting the “Dummies” books, rather than my textbook, to help me slog through the college course known as Computer Concepts), I want to share how grading our work is accomplished, screenshot by screenshot (as I am a visual learner).
Basically, just follow the cursor. In the fourth screenshot, just make sure “show readability statistics” is checked.
That is how I wish all computer programing books were laid out, because I would so get it.
Now, onto my list of writing tips (which have helped me). The 5-minute freewriting challenge that was posed to us at the meeting was on what makes one a successful writer, and this is what I came up with.
- Write everyday. (Stephen King writes at least 2000 words a day.)
- Don’t edit as you go. (For a perfectionist like me, this is extremely hard, but I’ve gotten better, because I’ve found that once I get it on paper, it’s a snap to go back and clean it up.)
- Submit at least twice a month. (I would say once a week, but I haven’t even reached this goal myself yet. I try to count my blog posts as submitting/publishing).
- Become a proponent of lifelong learning. No matter what your major is, there is inspiration for writing everywhere. My Anatomy and Physiology class inspired a series of medical poetry. My ethics (philosophy) class has just plain inspired me.
- Nurture your spiritual side. Just one verse in the Bible can (and has, for me) inspired an entire poem, short story or novel.
- Become proficient in Microsoft Word.
- Stretch your writing muscles by writing in different lengths and genres. (I’ve also written the same story in poem and short story form. However, I have found that before writing a novel, decide whether to write in first-or third-person.)
- Share your writing, but also be willing to listen to others share theirs, and give sincere compliments and constructive criticism.
- Have another creative outlet, such as photography, crafting, etc. Anything that gives you a break from the screen, but keeps you away from the television.
- Don’t watch too much TV, or at least be purposeful in what you watch. Don’t just turn it on for the sake of turning it on. I don’t channel surf. When I turn the TV on, there is something specific I want to watch.
- Be persistent. What one publisher may not take a shine to, another one might. Just look at the rejection as another opportunity to make it better.
- Once you believe a piece is as good as you can make it, put it away for at least six weeks (Stephen King may say six months, I can’t remember), so you will look at it with fresh eyes. However, if there is a deadline, give it your best and send it in. This is where being a perfectionist can be a hindrance.