Becoming a Better Writer

Published May 24, 2016 by nruhwald

relax-working-on-the-garden-picjumbo-comAll writers go through stages of believing their work is utterly fabulous, and believing their work is awful, even the best ones. Though when you’re thinking clearly, flawed is a better word than awful.

After all, what you wrote yesterday is better than the chicken scratch you were churning out ten years ago, right?

So you know you’re somewhere between complete drivel and genius. But where, exactly, are you on that spectrum? “I know I write well, but am I good enough” is the recurring theme.

Answering the “good enough” question, even if it were possible, probably wouldn’t be very helpful. You want to know, but really only if you’re going to be told you are good enough. In which case you would get complacent and stop seeing your errors.

All you can do is get better. Keep learning the craft of writing.

You’re not as good as some people say you are. You’re not as bad as other people say you are. You’re learning. We’re all learning.

Here’s how you can do it.

I’m not going to go into a bunch of techniques, there is a lot out there already for you to find. I’m talking about attitude.

First, you need to get into a headspace where you can see your mistakes, let’s call it the editorial mindset. It’s not as much fun as the writer’s mindset I’m going to talk about next, but it’s not the “every word I write is trash” mindset either.

Taking writing workshops and the like is helpful, I imagine. I’ve never done much of that, but I probably should. I like to get out and observe people calling out writing mistakes in the “wild”. You can do this three ways, by getting critiqued yourself, by reading the critiques other people have written about other people, or by critiquing other people’s work.

The middle option sucks the most, and you may very well need to time to move out of the “every word I write is trash” mindset before you can think clearly again. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most effective methods. Learning correct writing principles is one thing, applying them to your work is another.

Having someone do that for you shows you what mistakes to look out for in your work, and it makes the lesson difficult to forget. Like, impossible.

Secondly, you must put aside (not forget) everything you learned in step one, and enjoy yourself. This is the writer’s mindset.

Are you good enough? Good enough for what? Why are you doing this anyway?

You do this because you enjoy it, and enjoy it you must or your writing will be as dry as toast. And you probably won’t do very much of it. Dry toast crumbs.

Some parts of writing are just for you. First drafts mainly, anything you write from scratch. Mr. Fancy Pants Critique Man is not invited.

Just write, enjoy it. Do you unreservedly love what you just wrote? No? Wonderful! You’ll fix it later. Keep going.

To learn to write better, you have to write. Make a mess. Then fix it.

And get those people who love whatever you write no matter what to critique your work, too. You may not learn anything from them, but you need them. When you do get published, these will be your readers.

Some people will love what you write, some people already do. But keep getting better. Keep writing.

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6 comments on “Becoming a Better Writer

  • I ride a see-saw; up(brilliant, I love this, I’m going to be famous) down(this sucks, I’m a horrible writer) It’s good to know others struggle with the same problem.
    I like your advice, though I wish I could put on a mindset like a hat.

    Liked by 1 person

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