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Writing can be hard on the best of days. But when you’re writing in your second language, feelings of doubt and inadequacy can be extra soul-crushing on bad writing days. So, what can you do to make things easier? Here are a few tips and tricks that have always been helpful for me.
1. Have a good (and objective) proof-reader
Finding a good proof-reader whose native language is the one that you are writing in can really help you finetune your writing. Not only will you have the opportunity to go over your draft together and correct any vocabulary or grammar mistakes, you’ll also have the chance to get some great feedback to gauge whether the point you're trying to make in your piece is coming across to potential readers. If not, hopefully you’ll have enough feedback to edit your piece further and write an even better second draft!
2. Write first, worry later
This is always easier said than done. However, one of the most efficient ways for me to silence my non-native inner critic is to just start writing. If you make sure you put the right measures in place to go over your writing with a fine-tooth comb at a later stage – like when you sit down with your proof reader after finishing your first draft for example – it’s easier to let those worries go when you first start writing. Your readers won’t see your first drafts anyhow, so don’t worry about getting the perfect sentences down right away! What’s most important is giving yourself the space to organise your thoughts and ideas first in whatever language you want, without judgement.
3. Trust the process!
When I’m wrapping my head around the central ideas I’m trying to articulate through my writing, I often think in two languages at the same time. This mostly results in my brain spitting out notes and first drafts that feel like garbled, clunky ramblings at best. It took me a while to recognise that for me, this was just another part of my writing process and didn’t necessarily reflect on my writing abilities. While others might draw their ideas out on a whiteboard, or have voice memos to work from, I prepare weird notes in a mixture of Dutch and English – and that’s OK! Just because you’re writing in another language doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. You can trust yourself, and your writing process
4. Technology is your friend
4. Technology is your friend
Apps like Grammarly, Scrivener, or even Word’s spellcheck can be a huge help in lessening the feelings of inadequacy when you’re writing. If you’re worried your grammar might not be up to scratch, these apps will correct any small grammar or formatting mistakes on the go, which in turn gives you less stuff to worry about once you finish a draft. It’s a win-win!
Lise maintains and produces content for several of the School’s digital channels, including the website, social media and newsletters.
When not working at La Trobe, Lise is writing stories or obsessing over the latest release videogames. Lise tweets from @lisekarel.