by Jennifer Rojas, Peer Consultant, University Writing Center
The Maker’s movement, popularized by Make magazine and Adam Savage (among many others) has spurred a renewed interest in the skills required to produce something by hand. From mini-computers and robots to furniture and clothing, the Maker’s movement inspires people to learn through creating. Books such as The Maker Movement Manifesto, by Mark Hatch, whose manifesto I build off of, stimulate experimentation, creativity, and community.
For many writers, experimentation and creating are a vital part of their process. But you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from stretching your writing skills.
Whatever the reason, writing is more vital now than ever. For many, writing fulfills a need to be creative or to get our thoughts organized on paper. For others, it is a necessity of day-to-day life. Treating writing as a skill set to improve and expand opens up a new world to explore. Think of the following as guidelines, starting points for your journey as a writer. The end can be fun or frustrating, but it is the process and persistence that are the focus.
Write something—anything. Take the time to create a piece of writing that is all your own. Express your thoughts and feelings in a story, a poem, an essay. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as the writing is meaningful to you. Creating a piece of writing that captures your voice. Experiment with new genres, try out new styles, and explore different approaches to organization.
Find a place where you feel comfortable sharing your writing, especially if you are experimenting with a new genre or approach. Getting feedback from others is an important part of the creative process.
When you give someone a piece of your writing, you give them something that could only come from you. If it’s a letter, then handwriting it will give it even more meaning. Put thought into the presentation.
Every piece of writing that you read can help you refine your unique voice and writing style, so take every opportunity to learn. What did you like? What didn’t you like? When you are reading what do you skip over? And why? The answers to each of those can give insights into how writing impacts the reader. Take every opportunity to examine your writing and the writing of others.
Literally and metaphorically. If you prefer to write by hand, the right pen can make all the difference in the world. The same goes for the right notebook or paper. A dictionary and thesaurus may seem old school, but they are an investment that can help when you are struggling to think of that word that you know exists, but you can’t think of it. Seek out tools that will help you build your mental toolkit as well. Writing Tools by Peter Roy Clark gives you examples and exercises that teach different stylistic approaches to writing. The more styles you feel comfortable with, the more confident you will be in your writing.
Be playful when you can. Much of the writing we have to do in life has consequences, both good and not, so take advantage of every chance you can take experiment and have fun with your words. Not all writing needs to be formal to be valuable. Even if your piece falls short of what you wanted it to be, there is still value in the attempt and process. This doesn’t just have to happen when you are writing for yourself. Incorporate play into your drafting process, like the process suggested by fellow consultant Brett Green. While an assignment should be formal, no one said that the drafting stage has to be!
Join groups beyond your normal circle of friends. Find perspectives that differ from yours. Offer your unique perspective on writing to others. Not only will this nurture your writing, but also your creativity as a whole. But taking part in the larger creative community doesn’t need to take over your whole life unless you want it to. Just give it a try—at least once. Also remember to give your feedback to others, constructively. Reading someone else’s work gives you the distance needed to see what it is that you look for as a reader. Using this knowledge, you are better prepared to shape your own writing in response.
Create a support system for yourself that meets your needs. Find someone to hold you accountable, to encourage you, to remind you that you can always start again. Just remember, support doesn’t take the place of your own initiative. You have to be actively working on your own.
As you write more, your writing will change. Maybe you’ll go back and read some of your old writing, thinking that it is terrible—how could you have possibly written that? That is a good thing. It means that you have improved as a writer. Expect that your writing and opinions about writing will change as you grow. Don’t be afraid to revisit an idea or project that you struggled with before.
As Hatch puts it at the end of his version, “in the spirit of making, I strongly suggest that you take this manifesto, make changes to it, and make it your own. That is the point of making.” Try, as a first experiment in writing, to create a writing or making manifesto of your own.