When they think about writing, most people don't think about the importance of practice. Practice is a discipline associated with athletes, artists, craftsmen, or any other skilled activity but, for some reason, people usually assume that great writing just pours out of writers like water. This assumption is simply not true. Great writers practice, they hone their skills, and they put in the time and effort it takes to become better. If you are reading this blog to find the top three tips that will make you a better writer in less than 10 minutes, you are in the wrong place, because great writing, like fine wine, takes time and patience to fully come to flavor.
1. Write All the Time!
The best way to become a writer is to start writing. The best way to become a better writer is to keep writing. You cannot expect to improve your writing without picking up a pen. How you go about practicing depends on the genre in which you choose to write. If you are an aspiring fiction writer, consider creating characters with exciting back stories to practice characterization. Or write a short story just to practice creating a cohesive plot or theme. If your writing is not in the realm of fiction, pick a topic of interest or a topic within your field and create a one-page analysis. This is a great way to keep your writing and thinking fresh.
It is important to remember that your practice writing is just that—practice. Treat this activity like going to the gym. You are not (should not) be at the gym to impress the people there. Similarly, when practice writing, your goal is to strengthen your skills so that you will have new tools in your toolbelt when you sit down to write your next work. With intentional practice, you can sharpen your skill at writing well-crafted, grammatically correct sentences; developing memorable characters and plots; or mastering any number of great writing techniques.
2. Read All the Time!
The best writers are also readers. If you want to learn new ways of writing, you need to look at works by others who have written before you. From your reading, you will learn what sounds good, what sounds bad, and what rules are to be kept or broken to convey messages effectively. Of course, your reading does not have to be limited to one genre. Writing techniques can be picked up from any genre. For example, if you have difficulty using descriptive words and finding ways to vividly convey images to your readers, read Robert Frost. Look at how he creates a relatable and vibrant world with his poetry. Read to fill your mind with new words, styles, and techniques.
3. Learn All the Time!
Being a lifelong learner is a sure way to build your skills as a writer. Expand your mind through study and rich experiences that help you stock your mental library. Informational interviews with knowledgeable individuals is a great way to get new perspectives on familiar topics or to get a guided look into a field that you know nothing about—sometimes, for little more than the price of a cup of coffee. Traveling to new places (even places near where you live) can provide you with new settings and images to draw from as you describe the worlds you write about. You could even take a class to gain an academic overview of a new subject. The main point is to stretch your mind and add to your mental library. A growing mind is one that is ready to put pen to paper.
These techniques, if practiced vigorously, will not only shape your writing, but they will shape your thinking and your lifestyle. Give yourself space and kindness to make mistakes, and learn from those around you. Your neighbor down the street may have just as many lessons to teach you as Leo Tolstoy as you prepare for your next writing adventure.
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