For something that’s not terribly complicated, writing can be quite difficult. But here’s the thing: the fact that writing feels hard, or is something you haven’t done in a while, doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer! What it does mean is that it’s time to brush up and strengthen your writing skills. Here are five secrets to getting on track to be a great writer – plus a bonus tip, too!
Write. Then Write Some More.
Developing your strength as a writer is like any other kind of strength: it takes time, dedication, and repetition. Are you going to lace up your running shoes and tackle a marathon tomorrow? Probably not – unless you’ve been training for it! Start today, whatever that looks like. A paragraph, a page, a quick poem – it all counts.
And remember – even if it’s not great, it’s not a waste of time. Even the worst pages have lessons in them! What can you learn from your effort? How will that lesson make tomorrow’s writing stronger?
Lean Into Emotion
Whether you’re writing fiction or trying to nail the language in your company’s latest blog or newsletter, find ways to weave in authentic feelings and emotion. You can throw facts and observations at readers all day long, but chances are your work will resonate on a deeper level if you can incorporate feeling-evoking elements. Emotion invites genuine connection.
Mix It Up
Feeling stuck? Or want to challenge yourself a bit? Try writing something that’s not your usual! (Give yourself permission to write something terrible – see Tip #1!) Dare yourself to write a short story that’s outside of your typical genre. Take a swing at a haiku. Wrestle with some rhyming couplets. It’s a fun and interesting way to keep your pen moving!
Notice & Describe
Challenge yourself to notice details in the world around you that you may have previously missed, or haven’t considered before. Then, think about how you would assign description to what you’re seeing. (A pocket-sized journal is a great space for this, but you can easily do it mentally, too!) Think about how you would describe different people’s features and demeanors. How do they move or speak? What words would capture today’s weather? Or the way your dinner smells as its simmering in the oven?
What Makes This Work?
This is one of my favorite exercises. When you encounter a piece of noteworthy media (a movie, book, magazine article, tv show – anything!) examine it from a new perspective and challenge yourself to identify why it works so well. (Or, conversely, why something doesn’t resonate with you.) Is the pacing impeccable? Is the dialogue authentic and compelling? Does the narrative voice excite you? Are the characters realistic?
Getting curious about the other content you see around you can teach you a great deal, and give you creative new elements to thread into your own work.
BONUS: Read! Something else!
It goes without saying that reading books and articles that are within your wheelhouse genre can be helpful and inspiring. But I would also encourage you to occasionally venture further afield and see what perspective you might cultivate. If you’re used to writing advertising copy all day, take a few minutes to savor a poem. If you’ve been poring over your murder mystery novel, see what stirs as you enjoy a sci-fi story.
Give yourself opportunity and permission to be surprised!