The advice you hear most about how to improve your writing is to read and write. I have given that advice myself. It’s where every writer needs to start. But in order to truly improve, you need to have the intention to do so and you need to do it on a regular basis.
Here are a few ways to use reading and writing intentionally for the improvement of your craft.
Work with a mentor or editor
The back and forth of working with someone who is a few steps ahead of you or better yet, a professional editor is the apprenticeship of the writer’s craft.
I learned more about writing through writing papers in college and getting feedback, having my editor husband go over my work and getting feedback and in poetry workshops than I would have just reading and writing on my own.
If you’re a pro and getting your work out there, you’ll have the opportunity to do this often. Working with a mentor periodically can help keep your skills sharp.
Give yourself writing assignments out of your comfort zone
If you’re used to writing short essays, try your hand at long ones. If you’re used to writing fiction, write a well-researched, long nonfiction piece. Expand your repertoire and you’ll expand your abilities. We all have preferences in what we write, but stepping outside those now and then gives us new skills and new ways of looking at the world.
Study the work of writers you admire
This is beyond just reading their work. Study it. Write in the margins. Pick it apart. Understand the structure. Join a reading group that does critical reading. Take a class. Get inside a piece of writing and learn how and why it works. And bring what you learn to your own writing. In fact, do so immediately so you can practice what you just learned.
Consistency takes discipline
If you want to be a professional writer, it takes practice. Professional athletes practice often. Professional musicians and artists do, too. They also look for ways to improve on what they do.
There are thousands of people out there who are writers. How do you stand out? You take on the mindset of a pro, do the work, improve, get it out there and you do it consistently.
It’s not always easy. It takes time to build up discipline. But remember your passion for the work, for the written word. That’s what discipline is about. It’s about valuing what you do and binding yourself to it. You will grow into a pro as you do this. And we need more pros so the industry prospers.
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