I am still in high school and therefore (due to AP classes) have little or no time to write. I have tried to make time to write at least half a page every day (not a continuing story, just whatever comes to mind at the time) and I cannot even find time to do THAT! I really want to continue my writing and I want to improve, but I just can’t find the time.
Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to improve my vocabulary, grammar, writing and my flow of ideas that will not take up too much time?
NOTE: This reader is referring to Advanced Placement classes. “AP courses” are college courses made available to high school students. They are generally considered to be more rigorous than general high school courses and usually require more reading and writing.
This note from a young reader made me think of the story about the young man who was in love with a young woman. Her family moved to another town a thousand miles away. Distraught, the young man went to the local sage and told him his sad story. The sage looked at him thoughtfully and then spoke. “How is it, young man, that you love this young woman and she is a thousand miles away?”
Writing is like love. You go the distance. You find the time.
High School Students Have More Time Than Adults
One of my greatest regrets as I head into my retirement years is that I wasted so much time because of the petrifying notion that I had to wait to get serious about writing until after I’d met all my domestic responsibilities.
Women caring for husbands and pre-schoolers, and men working two jobs to keep their children in clothes and school supplies are certainly at a disadvantage if professional writing is their goal. Nevertheless if the desire is strong enough, they’ll steal hours from their sleep to find the time to put words to paper.
Unlike an adult caught up in the necessities of providing for the needs of others, a high school AP student has opportunities built into the work day.
Every situation differs, I know, but it seems to me that an AP student would find plenty of opportunity to “improve vocabulary, grammar, writing and flow of ideas” in the process of doing the AP course work.
A course in any discipline, even math, can provide vocabulary growth as the student learns the specialized terms of the subject.
An AP English course is a gift for the budding writer. It provides the opportunity for close reading of serious literature. Not only will such reading add to the student’s vocabulary, it will do it in a way that cramming on vocabulary lists will never do because the words are presented in context.
AP History will not only provide new vocabulary, it will furnish the student’s mind with ideas and information that one day can be distilled into fiction or personal essay writing.
Nothing is lost to the writer. That’s where writers have it all over non-writers. Even a tedious wait in a doctor’s office provides material.
Like vocabulary, grammar is better learned from reading than from doing isolated exercises.
A common fault that I see in the writing of many young people is the uncertain grasp of prepositions. Many young native English speakers use prepositions as if English were their second language. If they read widely, they’d absorb the idioms.
Writing and Flow of Ideas
An AP English syllabus I pulled up on the web requires eleven essays. How is this not a built-in opportunity for writing practice?
Some of the works of literature being studied for this class are The Canterbury Tales, The Inferno and All Quiet on the Western Front. Like I said, a gift.
Courses other than AP English offer plenty of opportunity for improving writing and flow of ideas.
For example, not all textbooks are well-written. Some seem designed to put the reader to sleep. Students of writing can read textbooks on any subject not just for information, but for style. They can compare the interesting parts with the soporific ones. What makes the writing slow down? Is it sentence length? Is it unnecessarily erudite vocabulary? What about transitions? What words does the writer use to get from one idea to the next? How could the writing be improved?
Make Your Courses Work for You
The young writer who set me this question is to be admired for recognizing the fact that writing must be cultivated.
My advice, try to stop seeing the AP coursework as an impediment to writing and make it work for you. The practice of writing half a page a day was a great idea. Resume it if at all possible. If all you can find is ten minutes, write a few lines. If nothing else, take the time to write the words “I am a writer” before you drop off to sleep.