Five Writing Habits to Give Up for Lent

By February 19, 2016Writing about Writing

It’s Lent!! Which means for Catholics, it’s time for the annual “give up something” decision.

But we’re more than a week in, and, if you’re like me, you still haven’t decided what to give up just yet. It’s hard to decide. The two weeks leading up to Lent are spent preparing (hydrating) for Mardi Gras. The next three days are spent in recovery. And Ash Wednesday is designed to remind you that, in the end, we’re really all just destined to be fertilizer.

So I need to think fast: What should I give up? Besides no-meat Fridays and those chocolate chip cookies mom refuses to make this time of year, what habits can I do away with that will bring me closer to God?

To be honest, I probably can’t help you there. But I can help you find some things worth giving up that will really improve your writing.

So, here they are. The five bad writing habits to give up for Lent.

Not planning / outlining / focusing your ideas at the beginning

There’s no right way plan your writing. Some writers like to create outlines, some like to use word maps or visual displays, some like to free write to get their ideas on paper first. But there is one “wrong” way: to not plan at all. Papers and arguments that are planned in advance are easier to follow, easier to articulate, and much easier to write. Arguments that are not planned in advance are at risk for rambling, incoherence, and misunderstanding from readers. Though the planning process might take some time at the onset, it will save loads of time and stress while writing your paper, and it will almost always lead to a better final product.

Not putting yourself in the audience’s shoes

Other than (maybe) personal journals, everything we write is intended to be read. By someone. Sometimes that’s a professor or a classmate, sometimes that’s a family member or peer, and sometimes it’s our multitude of “friends” on social media. Putting ourselves in the readers’ shoes can be a huge help in the writing process. Here’s a good way to think about it: writing is a form of a communication. In fact, it’s the most permanent form, and in this day and age probably the most frequent form of communication. What is the goal of communication? To get the idea that’s in my head, into your head. Anything you can do to make that transmission of ideas smoother is a good move. So putting ourselves in the reader’s shoes allows us to ask, what is the best way they need to hear this? That will help us decide the best way to say it.

Trusting Microsoft Word to catch grammar and spelling errors

Microsoft Word isn’t g0nna catch the entire miss takes. Some times; no, lots and lots of times; Word is a horridness GRAMER and SPELLCHEKCER. It will miss obviate mistakes in grammar, wording comma usage, sentence structure, etc. and others. Olney a human I can catch mini errors in are writing. Don’t trust the commuters. The commuters will take over the word.

(Microsoft Word saw no problem with the above paragraph.)

Not revising

“A piece of writing is never truly finished.” Authors, poets, even songwriters agree that the best writing goes through many levels of revision – self revision, peer revision, editorial revision.  Most pieces of writing we see go through a revision process, whether they are journalistic articles, large books, even emails and letters and academic assignments (and, yes, blog posts). The writing center provides a great way to get peer revision, and reading out loud is a good habit to build for self-revision.

Procrastinating

I mean, duh. This is more of a life problem. But in writing, when we procrastinate, it often leads to skipping many of the above techniques. When I procrastinate, I might skip the drafting phrase, I might forget to consider my audience, I might rely too readily on the quick-fixes of Microsoft Word, and I might run out of time for revision. Like many things in life, procrastination leads to an unfinished, unpolished product. Avoiding this habit will help us to avoid all of the others.

So there you have it! Five writing habits to give up for Lent. Have more? Feel free to include them in the comments below. Or, visit the writing center for additional help. We promise we won’t make you confess your writing sins.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Mike T. says:

    Hey Chris, awesome post! As a Catholic, or at least as someone who pretends to be (especially true around lent), I loved the opening. Great tips and super easy to follow. I think procrastination is something I’ve been struggling with a lot lately, and I think part of the reason is that I get so caught up in the outlining/considering audience/initial phases that I forget one of the most important parts of being a writer is simply this: just write. Silencing that inner critic and pushing out some of the left brain stuff to let the right brain do its job and actually get some exercise is something I feel we can all benefit from. Nice work, Chris!