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Thinking about writing? Just do it!

We all write. We may write different things, of course, for different audiences and purposes, but in a university particularly, writing remains one of the principal forms of communication. 

We ask our students to do it all the time, and then we read what they’ve written and give them feedback, whether on the content, the structure or the use of language. It’s second nature, for us and for them; it’s what university learning is all about. It’s how students communicate to us what they know.

Yet how many of us write regularly? It can feel unusual, even a bit transgressive, to make the time for something that can often appear a bit indulgent, much less of a priority. Moreover, writing is a lone activity and can feel very exposing. Sharing it opens us up to judgement.

So why do it?

The short answer is that it can be enjoyable. It is a part of ourselves, pinned down onto the page, communicating some idea or concept that we’ve had in our heads that we think is worth others knowing about. It is easier to find it enjoyable if you are with other people doing similar things. Join a writing group, share your goals and benefit from the added motivation.

It also helps to know why you are writing, too. Make sure you’ve got a purpose and a deadline, and not just so you can enjoy the sound it makes as it flies past. Your writing group will definitely help with that, as will being part of a bigger project. Dawn successfully edited a collected volume, bringing writers together from around the country and helping them frame their own chapters in the wider context of the book. She kept them all on deadline, too.

You’ve done all of that: how do you know it’s any good?

Feedback always improves a piece of writing, and the first draft should never be the end. For example, the short story Carina is talking about changed dramatically between the first and the second draft. The first is a sad monologue, narrated by an old woman worried for her husband. In the second draft, the use of dialogue allows the reader to understand that things might not be as innocent as they seem. It’s a darker and much more interesting story than originally, but it was a reader’s feedback that prompted the change.

Whatever you write, the main thing is to just write, and set that writing loose. You won’t regret it!

Read Carina’s marvellous short story, The Almost-Widow

Find out more about Dawn’s fantastic book

Join SLTI’s writing group: email claire.saunders@solent.ac.uk