When I taught 3rd grade, my students were at all different stages of learning to read. We would say that up to a certain point, when kids are learning the letter sounds and piecing the words together, they were learning to read. Once they were able to read most words and move on to longer and more complicated texts, they were reading to learn.
The same concept can apply to writing. Are you learning to write, or writing to learn? Many college students haven’t been adequately taught to write research papers, or are returning to school after a long break, and therefore, have forgotten some writing skills. But when you are learning to write, it is much more difficult to learn from your writing. You are spending so much time trying to make the writing sound academic that the intention of the paper – to help you learn about a new topic – is lost.
Instead of waiting for paper assignments to learn to write, be proactive. Take some writing courses over the summer, or look up some sample assignments and practice writing them. No one expects to find success running a marathon without training for months in advance. After all that training, the marathon is fun. Without the training, it would be painful to go out and run for miles.
Similarly, when you already know how to write, you can actually enjoy tackling writing assignments. When you are unsure of your skills, writing each assignment can feel like running a marathon after sitting on the couch for months. You don’t get much out of it, and when you are done, you feel exhausted, sore and unprepared for the next paper.