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For the past few weeks, I have started to write about random things in an attempt to improve my language skills.

I figured maybe writing on forums(all types) about my own problems would help me to improve my English as well as getting solutions.

Two days back, when I was writing on a forum meant for people seeking emotional support, and I was writing something related to a dear one, I found that even though I know exactly what to write and the things I need to mention, I found it so immensely distressful to write a lengthy post that I decided to omit a few points and submit whatever I had written so far.

I was not able to jot down my thoughts because I was not able to come up with proper and suitable words for it. I feel like I understand every word I read but when I want to use them in my own context, my mind goes blank.

I don't have the habit of writing this much ever, except when I was back in secondary school, I used to mug up essays which I knew, beforehand, would be asked in the exams.

I was surprised that I had written a three page article of around 1000 words (I checked it in MS-Word) on my own in one go.

I feel that whatever I had written makes me sound pretty restless and as if I am trying really hard to express myself and it might even be irritating to the readers, I am not sure.

  • Is this feeling of uneasiness prevalent in the beginners?
  • Whenever I feel this way, should I continue and ignore my inner voice which keeps on insisting to take a break?
  • I have read that increasing the physical load gradually on a daily basis improve your muscle strength and tolerance. Is this true for our mind too?
  • Does stressing the brain and pushing it to the limits in any way help me to improve my vocabulary and writing power?
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Autobiographical writing is difficult, because you know exactly what happened. You can't fudge it. Plus, you're writing about emotions and psychological issues, which are notoriously difficult to get right, even in fiction. Combining the two, it isn't surprising that you are having trouble. So, don't stress. Keep at it.

Here is an exercise you can try. Pretend you're a talented 10-year-old, and write something quite dorky and stupid and childish, just for laughs. Write whatever comes into your head, almost stream-of-consciousness, the way you would if you were an older kid telling a bedtime story to a younger kid. Then go back and edit it: fix the spelling and grammar, and the sentence structure, and the word choices. Then analyze it, as if it were a real attempt at a story. Probably it is mostly plot. Find the places where you tell instead of show. Find the places (if any) where you put in characterization, and find the places where you could have put in characterization. Do the same for setting. If you think the story is any good at all, put in some of that characterization and setting. Fix the plot holes, and fix the ending (which was probably stupid and/or trite). All of this should take you about two days.

Your last step is crucial, and the hardest: delete the whole thing. Why delete it? Because you will never be a good writer if you fall in love with every trashy thing you write in two days.

Then do this exercise all over again, but with a totally different story. After doing this exercise a few (3 to 5) times, try your hand at writing some things for real, for keeps, but not commercial.

Ideas: a thank-you letter to a loved one; an angry tirade about injustice; an impassioned but reasoned opinion piece suitable for a newspaper; a how-to article about something you like to do; a meditation on a natural scene; a funny story about your family/friends; a chapter for a fiction book (starting in the middle, or wherever you want).

Some of these you will find easier to do. Ta-da! You just discovered your niche. Write some more stuff like that. Edit, edit, edit.

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One thing I can say is, do not stress yourself out. That would be rule number one.

Other than that, the medium does matter. Writing directly on a forum may put on the pressure for you. Best to dose it correctly, neither too high nor too low.

Different subject matter will require different levels of effort. Writing a light-hearted message about an average vacation day for the home front will (should) be more easy than unburdening your heartache in order to ask for emotional support.

In the end in order to get into the habit, acquiring skill and speed through doing indeed works.

Looks like if you pace yourself, pushing a little bit at a time and giving yourself room to improve day by day you will get there.

A small anecdote may help.
Agatha Christie, having written a pile of books already one day started to work with a professional typist, dictating her text. When she read back the material she was horrified to see that expansive drivel was the result. She concluded that painstakingly typing by hand ensured that each word counted, making for a good read.

Have fun!

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