How can I improve as a writer?
Writing is a developed skill, not an innate one. This means that the time you put into developing your writing can make as much--if not more--difference than having "natural born" ability. Writing is a process. The more you write, the better you will write.
How can I avoid procrastinating those time consuming research projects?
For many students, writing is an overwhelming process--one that makes clicking around Facebook or Netflixing welcome distractions. Instead of putting off big writing projects, think about budgeting your time out: Plan to sit down and "fast write" for a thirty minutes to an hour. Fast writing means you write without stopping, even if your ideas aren't fully formed. Often, getting the process started is the hardest part, so a fast writing exercise is a good way to keep yourself from overthinking it. And, don't be too hard on a first draft: Revision is where the magic happens. This means you have to allow time for revision, though, so writing a paper the night before can put you in a bind. That's why you need a "time budget." Even if you only set aside an hour a day the week before a project is due, working on a paper in small bursts can keep you from feeling overwhelmed while also giving you time to think through and develop your supporting points.
How is rhetoric important to the study of English?
While often picking up a negative connotation from political contexts (from dismissive statements like "That's just a bunch of rhetoric"), rhetoric most simply looks at strategies for effective communication. In an argument-driven culture, understanding rhetorical choices from the standpoint of author and audience is important for effective analysis of a situation, a statement, a text, etc.