See also: How to Write Every Day
Just because we write a lot doesn’t mean we get better at it. Writing often enables us to become more familiar with the task. But familiarity with an imperfect writing means you’ll never get a perfected writing.
And we write a lot. A lot of texts. A lot of emails. A lot of notes. You know. Non-essentials.
What can you do to become a better writer? (These guys answer this question brilliantly after you’re done skimming this article.)
Writing is a skill, so practice it
Because I believe that being a writer means being a person who writes, the way we become better writers is by improving our writing. And like most things, writing is a skill.
Our ability to use language is developed over years of exposure and mimicry. Then we go to school and we use more rigorous methods to improve our speaking, our vocabulary, our grammar.
Just as you get better at somersaults by practicing them, or at baking by making cookies, so you get better at writing by practicing it. And if you really want to become a better writer, you really should be practicing every day.
How can I practice writing?
I’m sure you have a couple ideas of your own. Here are my two cents to validate what you’re already thinking.
Practice a form or technique
For example, write short stories. All kinds of different short stories. Every time you sit down to write a short story, try to focus on a specific goal you’d like to achieve with the piece.
Really, pick any form of writing to focus on, and practice writing it. You have all sorts of genres and literary forms to choose from—or you could focus on improving something as mundane as your emails.
Work on different techniques within the form you choose. For example, one of the forms I’m practicing is web content.
Every time I write for this blog or post to Facebook/Twitter, I have a goal. Some goals stretch across different pieces—I’ve been focusing on writing more directly in all of the blog posts for the past couple weeks. The technique of direct writing has been hard to implement in my first drafts, but I’m starting to catch on to it.
Practicing a form with purpose (and accountability) is an excellent way to a) get better at that form and b) boost your writing ability across the board. (Psst… publishing something on the Internet or sharing it with your friends is a great way to create accountability!)
This is obscure and admittedly difficult. When you write, don’t wait for inspiration. Find it. Make it work for you.
There are a lot of ways to practice creativity. Here’s the bunch that first popped into my head:
- Keep an idea journal.
- Exercise regularly (yup, totally works).
- Learn a new skill (a musical instrument?).
- Hang out with kids.
- Use your dreams.
- Don’t reign in your imagination.
The last one is the gist of creativity as a practice. Allow yourself to play and pretend. Just play, period.
If you notice yourself thinking “that’s not realistic” or “impossible,” then you’re stifling your imagination. Start with trying to come up with ways for that something to be realistic. Then allow yourself to be unrealistic.
Okay, but practice is boring and tedious?
The whole concept of practice and discipline raises the hairs on the back of my neck. They’re suspicious and difficult. If you’re with me on that, then we have work to do.
Practice is often taught in really boring ways. If you feel like to become a better writer you have to drudge through 10,000 hours of work… who would want to become a writer?
Yes, practice is work, but work can be fun. Yes, practice can be tedious, but tedium creates the foundation for meaning.
At the end of the day, if you want to get better at a skill you have to practice it. Choose a kind of practice that makes you want to do it. It’s like exercise: if you hate running, why would you run to stay healthy? No; find an exercise that you enjoy and do that for health!
Sure, there are some things that are less entertaining that need to be practiced—like grammar. My suggestion? Only work on stuff like grammar when you’re super motivated.
Or just get motivated, and kick butt at practice.
What do you think? Do you have other suggestions for becoming a better writer? Do you have some fun ways that you practice writing? Share in the comments!