Your goal here is figuring out how to step forward. Your instincts already know exactly in what direction that step should be. Listen to them. Don’t try to logically translate them right away. Just feel them. Try to go beyond the surface; sometimes there’s another feeling hiding underneath because it’s something you’re less comfortable with.
Seven Ways to Grow as a Writer
Like most things worth pursuing, being a writer isn’t always easy. Like any job or artistic endeavor, it takes effort and practice. Shaunta Grimes is one of Medium’s most successful writers, and in her recent post What it Actually Takes to Make $18,000 in 31 Days as a Writer, she wrote:
Still — wrap your head around the idea that this is a long game. Think about the first three or four years as your learning years. Just like any professional, you need to put in the time to study. You might make some money during that time, but consider it a bonus.
Writing isn’t a magic get-rich-quick type of pursuit. It takes more than picking up a pen or creating an account and sitting down to type to become a good writer.
I have been putting words down on paper since I was little, I started journaling prolifically at age 9, and have been through many iterations since. I wrote for my high school paper, then a local interest publication, I wrote poetry, I wrote copy for websites and article marketing. In the past few years I’ve gotten back to writing and started to really find and develop my voice. The most important thing I’ve learned is that if you want to succeed as a writer, working on your craft is imperative.
#1: Read Something – and Think About It
How did the author grab your attention on page one of that novel? How did the blogger keep you reading post after post on their site? What about the subject line persuaded you to open that marketing email instead of deleting it unread?
You can learn something from everything you read. Even if it’s a novel that you give up on after a few chapters, you can pinpoint what didn’t work, so you can avoid it in your own writing.
#2: Learn a New Word or Phrase (or Correct One You’re Getting Wrong)
If you come across a new word or phrase when you’re reading, look it up, and find out what it means. It might not be a word you want to use frequently, but the wider your vocabulary is, the more options you’ll have when you’re writing.
You may also want to make sure you’re using certain phrases correctly. Common mistakes like “for all intensive purposes” when the correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes” won’t do you any favours as a writer. Here’s a handy list of phrases that people often get wrong.
#3: Tackle A Writing Exercise or Prompt
Use a book (or website) with writing exercises, pick an idea from a list of prompts, or simply flick through a magazine and choose an image to write about.
While prompts and exercises can seem a bit artificial, they’re a great way to practice your writing, especially if you don’t yet have a big writing project you want to work on.
#4: Write As Often As You Reasonably Can
You might not be able to write every day (and I think trying to write daily doesn’t work for many writers). However, it’s important to make regular time to write, ideally at least once a week.
If you’d like some ideas for creating time when things are busy, join the Aliventures newsletter. You’ll get a free copy of my mini-ebook Time to Write, which is packed with practical tips. Plus, you’ll get the weekly blog posts (Mondays) and short newsletter articles (Thursdays) to support and encourage you with your writing.
How to Grow as a Writer in 5 Logical Steps
We’re all destined for change whether we’re consciously open to it or not. Even when we’re resistant, life itself forces us to evolve, day by day. However, when we open ourselves to the possibility of growth, this evolution becomes an adventure in which we get to take part. And when we start consciously pursuing it, that’s when things really get rolling.
Growth may feel like some airy-fairy thing over which you have no control. But that’s not entirely true. Become an active participant. Learn to recognize the patterns of growth. Rather than resisting the challenges of personal honesty, start pursuing them with a stick.
1. Be Brutally Honest
Learning to be honest with ourselves is all about learning to see through the subtle defense mechanisms we erect to protect ourselves from the parts of ourselves we are ashamed of. But like all Lies, these mechanisms hold us back from growth and improvement.
The first step in creating an environment for learning how to grow as a writer is to get real about the areas in which you actually need to improve. We’re all familiar with that icky feeling that something is drastically wrong with what we’re writing. Something is off. It just isn’t working.
That feeling, by itself, is of little use. It’s not specific enough for us to learn from or take action on. All it does is make us feel miserable. (Cue flopping on the couch, arm over eyes, and wailing about how somehow the magic genius-writer gene skipped your generation.)
Ironically, however, this feeling is often something we cling to. Why? Because self-pity is incredibly safe. As long as we’re moaning about how untalented we are, we don’t actually have to get up off the couch and do something about it. We get to play the victim under a seemingly admirable guise of humility and honesty.
Sometimes you will feel you are a terrible writer, when, really, you’re not. What’s holding you back is not a specific problem in your writing, but rather a fear of vulnerability in putting your best out there for all the world (and yourself) to judge. If this is where you’re at, you’ve just discovered a huge opportunity for personal growth. When you start really looking at those fears, what you’re going to find will go far beyond the issues of writing itself.
My Best Writing Tips to Help You Become a Better Writer
1. Write Every Day
Whether it’s a diary entry, a blog post, an email or your to-do list, find opportunities to write. Of course, what you write is important. If all you do are make lists, you won’t hack it as a writer.
2. Don’t Worry About Being Perfect
3. Work on Your Storytelling
As an author, you can think of that as well when you write in your characters. You can create a strong bond with your characters so that your readers crave more from you!
4. Work the Hardest on Your Openings
A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
If you’ve always dreamed of being the next Hemingway or Vonnegut (or even Grisham), or perhaps if you just want to write better essays for school or posts for your blog … you need to sharpen those writing skills.
It takes hard work. But it’s worth the effort. And if it seems like an insurmountable task, there are some concrete things you can do today that will get you on the road to improvement.
Personally, I’ve been a fiction, newspaper, magazine and blog writer for 17 years now, writing for a variety of publications … and I’m still trying to improve. Every writer can get better, and no writer is perfect. I think I’ve grown tremendously as a writer over the last couple of decades, but it has been a painful journey. Let me share some of what I’ve learned.
No matter what level of writer you are, there should be a suggestion or twelve here that will help.
1. Read great writers. This may sound obvious, but it has to be said. This is the place to start. If you don’t read great writing, you won’t know how to do it. Everyone starts by learning from the masters, by emulating them, and then through them, you find your own voice. Read a lot. As much as possible. Pay close attention to style and mechanics in addition to content.
2. Write a lot. Try to write every day, or multiple times a day if possible. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Writing is a skill, and like any other skill, you have to practice it to get better. Write stuff for yourself, write for a blog, write for other publications. Write just to write, and have a blast doing it. It gets easier after awhile if you practice a lot.
3. Write down ideas, all the time. Keep a little notebook handy (Nabokov carried around index cards) and write down ideas for stories or articles or novels or characters. Write down snippets of conversation that you hear. Write down plot twists and visual details and fragments of song lyrics or poems that move you. Having these ideas written down helps, because they can inspire you or actually go directly into your writing. I like to keep a list of post ideas for my blog, and I continually add to it.