I came to writing relatively late in life. Of course I wrote for work and during school. But I always saw writing as a chore and did not feel that I was particularly good at it. I went to a mediocre high school and then to engineering school where writing was technical, not creative. We wrote in business school, but I don't recall a lot of effort being put into making us better writers. And for almost two decades in venture capital, writing meant memos and quarterly reports and not much more.
Then, at age 42, I started blogging. And I've been writing daily ever since. Something like 5,600 blog posts have been entered into my Typepad CMS. Almost all of them by me. I'm getting close to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours. My writing has improved immeasurably. But more importantly, I have learned to love writing. It's creative. It's a puzzle. How do I tell the story? How do I get my point across? How do I do it crisply and clearly? How do I end it on a strong note?
I've been thinking about this because my son, who is in high school, has been working hard on his writing skills. And my daughter, who is in college, has shared a few of her papers with me recently. My daughter's writing has improved so much in the past few years. She writes so beautifully now, with poise and confidence. And my oldest daughter writes in her journal every day, keeping a private record of her life. My son is still working to find his voice, his style, his flow. I've noticed that the high school my children go to/went to really emphasizes writing and communication skills. I think that's great. I wish I had that kind of high school education. Better late than never.
But I still struggle to help my children with their written work. I find it easy to help with Math and Science homework. I know how to ask them the questions that lead to the insights that help them answer the questions themselves. But when I read a draft paper that isn't the best they can do, I struggle to help them. I certainly don't want to edit the paper. I want them to edit it. But it's hard to find the words, the strategies, and the ways to inspire them to improve it. I've noticed that the best english and history teachers usually ask their students to hand in a draft, which they mark up, and then the students are asked to write a final version. I think that's a great way to go. I guess I suffer from never having had an editor or an editor's job. I'm just a self taught writer.
Communication skills are so important in life. The investment I've made in my communication skills over the past eight years is paying huge dividends for me now. I want to help my kids make the same investment, just much earlier in life. I know it will come in handy and I know it will be a great source of pleasure for them thoughout their life.