5 Habits for Improving (and Maintaining) Reading and Writing Skills

Posted by MG on 5/31/16 9:30 AM

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The first few months after my college graduation, I began my 9-5 job and was disappointed by how much less time I had to read.  After majoring in English and becoming accustomed to finishing multiple novels a week during the semester, I wished that I could dedicate more time to that hobby.  Furthermore, after a few months of working 40-hour weeks, I fell out of my writing groove, and it became difficult to draft anything more creative than a work email with the same alacrity I once possessed.  Noticing that my reading and writing skills had begun to rust, I attempted to find ways to reclaim my affinity for language.  Below are five recommendations for doing so; whether you are in high school, college, graduate school, or the working world, hopefully, these tips will help hone and maintain your verbal skills. 

Read Before Bed

Set aside a half-hour before bed each night for a book.  Instead of scrolling aimlessly through your Instagram newsfeed or re-watching hilarious JLaw clips (as great as she is), assemble a reading list and slowly work your way through it.  You will find yourself more fulfilled, intellectually stimulated, and able to fall asleep more readily

Diversify your Reading List

While I gravitate more towards fiction than other genres, I have tried to vary my list.  Choose a month for poetry, then another for a historical text, and a third for a fantasy novel.  Different types of writing are often accompanied by different vocabulary and styles, so it is worth your while to broaden your horizons to learn not only new information, but also new ways of presenting said information.

Listen to Audiobooks & Podcasts

If you have a long commute to work, or even if you are walking to class, listen to an Audiobook or a podcast segment (NPR has awesome ones).  I began listening to The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman, and I was amazed by how wonderfully different an experience it was to listen to his language instead of read it.  It saves time, but also will provide you with new insight into the cadences of people’s writing.

Build in Time for Vocabulary Review

Learn one word a day! Apps for your phone like Dictionary.com, Vocabulary Builder, and Vocab Genius have Words of the Day and games that allow you to build your knowledge base.

Make Creative Writing a Daily Habit

Creative writing is arguably the hardest to sustain when other responsibilities take hold.  It is difficult to fit it into a working schedule, and often, attempting to write after a day of working, when your body and brain are exhausted, is unproductive.  Choose a set amount of time a week (2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours) and set aside that time for your writing.  Even if it is just a brainstorming/outlining session, try to stick to your weekly goals.  If you slowly get into the groove, it will not only acquaint you with your own writing style, but also hold you accountable and keep you focused.

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There's so much more to read!  Be sure to check out these additional blogs on conditioning those reading and writing skills here:

The Writing Tutor: How to Love a Poem

The Writing Tutor: The Vital Importance of Writing Badly

Study Skills: Reading Like a Pro

Tags: creative writing, expository writing