I became a professional writer this summer; it’s something I considered for many years but never thought could happen. Since there is some discussion in the on-line student community about essay writing this seems like a good time to reflect on my experience as a student and as an author. I have learned so much from this study experience that people now engage me to write all kinds of things. Writing is an interesting business so far; it has taught me something about approaching course work.
Approaching writing for course work and exams was something of a mystery and a bit of frustration; then I started writing professionally and, to borrow a handy phrase, the penny dropped. There are several things about successful free-lance writing which affect my approach to exam writing. Speed and organization are essential for success in each experience. For example when I write professionally my clients expect me to research and write six 1500-1700 word articles in two to three days time. Suddenly the exam format of three essays in three hours seems luxurious; especially with a year to research texts and topics of my choice. Imagine the amount of research and writing I can produce this year with the professional lessons of focus and efficiency. I see the exam process from the examiner’s point of view; exam essays require a specific professional skill set which I have put to good use this summer.
While writing this summer I used coaching tips from the Study Skills and Exam Preparation seminars as well as from the Student Handbook. Summarizing my research is indispensable for speed and organization while writing. The ‘handy phrase’ exercise and essay planning practice are very valuable tools. I have learned to begin writing only when I know exactly what I want to say. Putting these skills to practical use requires some discipline and takes a bit of effort to master but it is well worth the work. It saves so much time and lets me work efficiently. Time is of the essence in exams; like many colleagues I have felt this keenly. Training myself to develop and use organization and planning skills is now a critical focus.
Planning and focus begin with understanding what I am being asked to write whether it is an essay or a professional piece. A comprehensive essay or article covers all aspects of the question or topic I am writing about. Discussing, comparing and analyzing are very different approaches. I ask myself what I must know to answer the question or topic; thinking about what questions my reader is likely to have is very helpful.
Writing with a reader in mind means I must adopt a certain register; I have an ideal reader both academically and professionally. My readers are knowledgeable and appreciate following a well-reasoned and balanced approach to the question at hand. Academic register is unfamiliar to most new scholars; but expressing ideas of interest to knowledgeable readers cogently is rewarding professionally and academically.