How I stay fresh in my writing and keep learning

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By Nzandi Murry

English is my second language. That means I need to do extra work to keep my writing from getting stale. Over the years, I have tried many tips and tricks to become a better wordsmith. Here are some that have really worked for me:

Thinking with ink

Before I begin reading, I wear my thinking cap and keep a diary to jot down as many new words and phrases as I can. Then, when I am free in the evening, I revise my notes over a cup of green tea. For difficult ones, I make sentences in my mind or say it aloud, until they make it to my memory bank. This is especially helpful with phrases, verbs, and adjectives. For nouns, I google the images and register multiple pictures in my mind. This ‘thinking with ink’ approach works well for me.

Quizzing myself

This is the fun part. After I finish reading a book or any online articles, I ask myself some questions:

  • Why did I enjoy or not enjoy it?
  • What style did the writer use to catch the reader’s attention?
  • Are there any tips I can incorporate into my writing?

Self-assessment improves knowledge retention.

Variety is refreshing

While I have a list of favorite genres, I also like to add new topics to my reading plan. This calls for discipline and focus as I tend to get distracted when I read new genres that I am not very interested in. But, the return for sticking to my plan and finishing is a long-term reward. For instance, many years ago I read the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley even though I am not a fan of fiction. I loved it so much that I ended up reading L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. I was going too fast and my friend had to tell me to slow down. I often surprise myself by enjoying genres that I thought would never make their home on my bookshelf. Variety is refreshing.

Just write

I write for a living, but even outside of work I write whenever I get an opportunity. Be it a product review, a devotional for church, Sunday School curriculum, or even helping high school students with a poem summary, I always seize the opportunity. I also journal a lot and write letters to my near and dear ones. Nothing can replace experiential learning in writing, I think.

Have more tips to add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

Note: MTI asked Nzandi Murry to tell us how she keeps her writing fresh. Nzandi is communications associate for Expressions magazine in Bangalore, India, where she is responsible for content creation and editing of the organization’s publications. She attended MTI’s recent online writing course.

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