By tamara Have you ever wondered where Stephenie Meyer got her inspiration for Twilight or how William Shakespeare created such monumental works of art with just a pen? For some, writing just seems to come naturally; their words dance across the page like a ballerina on a stage. And then there are those who sit for hours, stare at a blank page, feel tortured by every syllable, and wait for inspiration to strike. If you count yourself among the latter category, you probably steer clear of writing contests or essay scholarships, but why? One of the best ways to become a better writer is to write more often and there is no time like the present to begin! Here are just a few writing scholarships you can use to improve your writing skills and hopefully bank some college cash along the way. 1. Mesothelioma Help Scholarship Any U.S. or international college student may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must submit an essay (750 to 1,500 words) on one of the three topics listed on the provider’s website. Ten awards are available, ranging in value from $100 to $5,000. Deadline: September 21, 2012. 2. L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest International and U.S. amateur writers of any age may enter this contest. Students must submit an original essay that is no more than 17,000 words in length and has a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme. Three awards ($500, $750, and $1,000) are offered each quarter. Next deadline: September 30, 2012. 3. CouragetoGrow.com Scholarship Any U.S. high school senior or college student with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher may apply. Applicants must submit a short essay (250 words or less) on why they should receive the scholarship. One $500 scholarship is awarded each month. Next deadline: September 30, 2012. 4. Barnes Scholarship Applicants must submit an essay of 1,000 words or less describing an obstacle in their life and how they overcame that obstacle. To be eligible, applicants must be high school seniors and reside in one of the following Florida counties: Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, or Hillsborough. The scholarships are valued at up to $15,000 annually and are renewable for three additional years. Deadline: October 15, 2012. 5. Education Matters Scholarship Any U.S. student, 13 years or older, is eligible to apply. Applicants must submit a short response (250 words or less) to the following: ‘What would you say to someone who thinks education doesn’t matter, or that college is a waste of time and money?’ One winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship. Deadline: October 31, 2012. 6. Profiles in Courage Essay Contest This essay contest invites U.S. high school students to consider the concept of political courage by writing an essay (1,000 words or less) on a U.S. elected official who has chosen to do what is right, rather than what is convenient. Up to seven scholarships will be awarded, ranging in value from $500 to $5,000. Deadline: January 5, 2013. I often get my best ideas in the shower or driving, neither of which provides a good place to write, but it does help to get my mental juices flowing. The point is, if you find yourself struggling to come up with ideas or committing pen to page, take a break. And if you really find writing intimidating, start with a smaller essay contest first, gradually building up to larger word counts as you feel more comfortable. Over time, you’ll begin to see a difference in your writing and may even start winning a few scholarships! But one thing is for sure, you’ll never know if you don’t try.