Last July, I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was a choice I made to improve my writing and get exposed to something that I actively avoided for most of my life.
The university I attended, Michigan Tech, was the perfect school for the engineering/math geek I was fifteen years ago. The sales closer for consciously choosing to attend a school in a remote section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the fact I only needed to take three English courses to graduate. I used to wear that as some badge of honor, proof of my ability to game the system and avoid learning the skill of choosing and arranging words to convey meaning.
I treated letters as the opposite of numbers with the precision of equations trumping the messiness of prose. That duality started to fade as I entered the world of business. Over and over I saw how success was always tied to one’s ability to communicate. Communication may take many forms, but words can’t be avoid.
One of the exercises I learned last summer was to look at the words other writers use. This makes reading an essential task to becoming a better writer, but my instructor went one step further. She said to find passages from your favorite authors and retype them; put yourself in the writer’s shoes and see the way words and sentences flow as if they were being written for the first time. It’s probably no different than a painter recreating a famous work of art.
I find typing each word creates a more tangible sense for how the meanings are constructed and would recommend to others as a great writing exercise.
I have been doing my rewrites at 750words.com, a great site for building a practice for daily writing.