Practice isn’t the thing you do when you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.
– Malcolm Gladwell
Depending on your muse to make you a better writer is too iffy. Good writing takes practice. To be a better writer, you need to practice better writing. There is no shortcut.
Awwww crap! That means I have to work, doesn’t it?
Yup, ‘fraid so. It also means producing lots of writing that no one may ever see, much less pay you for.
Thankless, non-profitable writing? But I don’t wanna!
True, it sounds like downright drudgery. But here are some ways to make it more effective (and maybe even give you more time to play when your homework’s done).
- Set a timer
Sit your butt down and write for a specific period of time. Even if it’s for only 30 minutes, you’re not allowed to do anything else until that buzzer goes off. No snacks, no chores, no bathroom breaks (go beforehand), no passing Go and collecting $200. Just write.
- Get bored
Set that timer for long enough, and you’ll eventually start writing because you have nothing else to do. More often than you think, you’ll find yourself on a roll that takes you past the “I don’t wanna do this” whine. You’ll write longer and like what you write.
- Focus your writing
It’s tough to practice when you don’t know what to write. Choose something you know you need to work on and just practice that. Eventually, you’ll strengthen those weak areas. And you’ll reduce the risk practicing of what you already do well because it’s easier.
- Try new styles
Write a poem, news article, blog, brochure, political commentary, a review on your favorite rubber rain boots – step outside your comfort zone. The goal is to practice, not win a Pulitzer. So get creative.
- Examine your work
Once you’ve plopped some words on the page, ask yourself how it can be better. What questions doesn’t it answer? Can it be tightened? Does it make your point? How are the punctuation and grammar? Even if you don’t hit gold, you’ve still flexed your writerly muscles.
- Enjoy your progress
Compare your old writing with your new writing. You’ll see where you’ve gotten better (good feelings!) and identify areas for improvement (“everything” doesn’t count).
Being a better writer takes practice. How do you sharpen your skills?