In the name of public health, we all find ourselves in a situation now where, with the exception of a trip to the grocery store or a brief moment outside to go for a walk, we are inside our homes for the entire day. Parents are working from home and students are learning remotely, yet somehow we still find ourselves with an overwhelming amount of downtime. There are many ways we can use this time: read a book, watch a movie, clean the house, lounge on the couch, exercise, learn a new skill, spend time with your family, avoid your family, and so on. Some of it is productive and some of it is unproductive—as it should be, for we need not get caught in the trap of turning all our free time into “productive time” simply because we are now at home 24/7. However, if you do find yourself getting a bit antsy or with a burning desire to self-improve while faced with an abundance of free time, you may want to think about using this time to write. When else will you have the time to focus on writing that isn’t an essay for school, a practice standardized test, or a report of some sort? Rather than simply tell you to write, however, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to maximize your enjoyment of writing and increase your skills as a writer.
Follow these steps in order:
- Free write
All writing begins with just that—writing! Don’t focus on how or what at this stage, just write something. Getting something down on the page is the most important step of writing. It doesn’t need to be perfect; in fact, it most likely won’t be. Don’t worry! At this stage, we are just focused on getting your thoughts onto the page.
Task: Free write for 10 minutes a day. In can be about anything and take any form.
No, this is not a mistake. To write you need to read; to write more you need to read more. It’s that simple. Writing and reading are intertwined, and their connection only becomes more apparent as you write more often, in more styles, and with more rigor.
Task: Increase the amount of time you read per day by 10 minutes. For example, if you read for 20 minutes a day, try reading for 30 minutes. If you don’t read at all, start at 20 minutes and build from there. Anything less than 20 minutes is great, too, but keep in mind that we need to read a decent amount to write a decent amount.
Being able to summarize information is one of the most important yet underappreciated skills in writing. A summary cuts down a large amount of information into its essential points. A good summary sacrifices detail but not substance. Even though it is one of the shortest and most challenging forms of writing, it is also one of the most useful.
Task: Write a summary of your daily reading in 2-3 sentences. If this seems too challenging, you may go up to 5 sentences. When you are comfortable with 5 sentences, pull it back to the prescribed 2-3.
The reading response utilizes the skills you build while free writing but focuses your output. There is no “correct” way to respond to a reading, so, like the free write, your reading response can take many forms. Write in the first or third person, be formal or informal, offer an opinion, conduct an analysis—get creative! The only real requirement of a reading response is that you respond to the reading.
Task: Respond to your daily reading in one paragraph.
There you have it: free write, read, summarize, respond. To write more, all you need to do is those four things. And the more you do them, the more your writing will improve. You have the time, so if you’re interested in writing more, why not use it to write more?