Yesterday I wrote a post called How to write an editorial, which I think was sort of almost-decent advice. The head of the Journalism program at my school pointed out that I had missed one important detail:
@TXWatson Good tips. And also: Take a position.
— Amy Callahan (@AmyCallahanNECC) January 9, 2015
It hadn't occurred to me, since I almost never don't have a position on things, but yes, definitely, the place for neutral reporting on the existence of an issue is in the news part of the paper. The editorial part is supposed to contain a position on the topic.
But my advice was, altogether, really just a specific application of the general skill of putting together a bunch of words and having something at the end. So, here's how to do that.
Step 1: write just, like, a ridiculous number of pieces over a huge period of time.
There is no step 2.
When I was in high school, I took an AP Psychology class, from which I learned a ton about psychology, and also a ton of valuable studying and academic skills, because the teacher was heavily invested in the success of her students on the test and in their academic futures.[1. By the way, Thanks Mrs. Young, you're definitely one of the reasons things have gone as well for me as they have in my adult life.]
One of the things that really stuck with me from that class was a story that Mrs. Young told about college -- about a time when she wrote a major paper just a couple hours before it was due, and got an A.
She was telling the story by way of explaining why we, the students in her class, couldn't do that, and shouldn't try. Because when she was in high school, she had taken a year-long class her senior year on essay writing -- and the entire format of the class, from the first day to the final, was this: Students would enter the room, pick up a writing prompt from a pile next to the door, sit down, and write an essay on that prompt in an hour.
A school year is 180 days. She wrote 180 essays. And that's how she got good enough at writing them that she could write a coherent essay for a college class in two hours and get an A.
People have told me dozens of times in dozens of ways that the only way to get good at writing is to write a whole lot, but that's the story that really got through to me with that lesson. I had it in mind when I started my first blog, and blogged every day for a year. I had it in mind when I started up blogging again, indefinitely, after that, and I remember it every once in a while when I think about this blog.
I've also told that story to other people, a few times, when I give advice on how to get better at writing. The biggest thing -- really, the only thing -- is to just do it a whole bunch.
So -- basically -- the secret to writing a good editorial, or pretty much anything else, is to start a personal blog and commit to it to an unreasonable degree.