A True Writer Never Stops Learning


A True Writer Never Stops Learning

8 Ways to Make Your Writing Better

There are a variety of reasons people take up writing. You may write as a creative outlet, to heal past trauma, for income or as a hobby. I’ve discovered a true writer never stops learning.

For me, writing has become my full-time income. I love writing and sharing knowledge which is why I worked so hard to figure out how to make it my full-time job. For others it could be a side hustle in addition to a day job, a way of relieving stress, or your method for expressing your inner desires and thoughts. For some, writing may be more than one of these.

How you write and why is mostly a matter of personal preference. There is one thing about writing where most, if not all writers, will agree. Very few, if any writers will master the skill as it seems there is always more to learn if you are willing to try something new.

Below are the ways I’ve found over the years to make sure that I’m always learning.

1. Write with Intent

It really doesn’t matter why you write. At least not to other people. But what can help the clarity of your writing is that you write with intent. It’s a good idea for you to know the purpose for your writing.

  • educate
  • comic relief
  • just for practice
  • warm up or release your creativity
  • for fun or to entertain
  • inspire yourself or others
  • record or share memories
  • inform
  • persuade
  • sell

The list above is not all inclusive because it’s really an unending list. But I’ve found that when I am clear in my mind why I’m writing before I get started, it helps keep me motivated and helps me focus.

2. Challenge Yourself

My writing is clearer when I write with intent. I find that knowing my intent for a post or session allows my mind to make better decisions about character development, word choice, and even pacing. When I sit down to write with intent, the finished draft often needs less editing too which allows me to be more productive.

  • Set a goal for your writing. Decide that you will write a set amount of words per week, per day, or even per hour. If word count is too specific, set a page goal or chapter goal.
  • NaNoWriMo: During the month of November each year, thousands of people across the country come together to write 50,000 words, an entire novel. There are online cabins you can join so you have accountability and support as well as in person local write along sessions.
  • Other Contests: If you prefer to do something more structured that has a more objective and tangible reward, you can look for writing contests. Thousands of contests are available and they range from simple, informal prompts to full-blown structured contests with cash prizes.

3. Uncage Your Creativity

“Every story there is to tell has already been told”. Most writers hear this or some version of it very early on. And it’s true to an extent. Just about every story can be stripped of all the details about setting and character until all that’s left is plot. And pretty much every story is based on one of less than ten plots. Those plots have been recycled by writers for centuries.

But it’s the details of the story you are writing that give it originality. The development of your characters, the pacing of your scenes, subplots, and the details of your settings are what dress your story up. The more you can uncage your creativity, the better you, as a writer, can turn one of those tired old plots into an original story that grabs the attention and admiration of your readers. Your ability to unleash your creativity is what makes your story like no other.

Below are some tips for tapping into your creativity:

Free writing: Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and write. Try this by hand with pen and paper and also using a keyboard as you may find each method provides different results. This is a pre-writing technique that can work to help you find new solutions to a problem, bust through writer’s block, and connect to your subconscious. The main rule to free writing is to keep your pen (or cursor) moving the entire time. There is also no editing allowed, not even correction of spelling mistakes or typos. It’s okay if what you write is repetitive or seems ridiculous, just keep writing.

Word Games such as crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, even Scrabble, can boost your vocabulary. When you expand your vocabulary and give your mind permission to look at how pieces create the big picture, it uncages your creativity and allows you to generate new twists and ideas, make intriguing connections and write more engaging content.

Journaling: This can be a terrific way to practice writing and uncage your creativity. You can use creative writing prompts as a jumpstart and to help you write with intent.

Writing Prompts are a great way to chase away “blank page syndrome”, uncage your creativity, jump-start your imagination, and call your muse to attention. Writing prompts are especially effective when used in combination with freewriting. Set your timer, choose a prompt, and keep writing until time is up!

Stretch your Imagination by deliberately asking an odd question that challenges the norm like:

  • what do clouds taste like?
  • what sounds does the number five make when angry?
  • how would the world be different if children could vote?

4. Know Your Reader

If you’ve been writing for any length of time you’ve probably heard it’s very beneficial to know your target reader. This doesn’t mean your writing is not available to everyone, it simply means you know what you write will resonate with a specific subset of readers. The reason for taking the time to think about who your audience is before you start writing is it makes it easier to draw your reader in and keep them hanging on your every word including:

  • Writing on their level
  • Connecting using a personal story
  • Answering questions they have about the topic
  • Providing value

5. Take a page from the writing legends

(I have no affiliate relationships with any of the links in this post.)

The best way to be a writer that never stops learning is to keep reading those who have come before you. There are many, many excellent writers who have written books dedicated to helping you learn to write better. Some of the classics include:

  • Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style
  • Stephen King’s On Writing
  • William Zinsser’s On Writing Well

6. Just write till it’s done

If you’re writing a blog post, a scene, dialogue, novel, a poem, or even a journal entry, you will reach a natural stopping point.

That moment where you feel it’s done.

One of the lessons I’ve learned through experience is to write just enough. When you reach that natural stopping point and you try to push beyond to make a certain word count or because of some other arbitrary reason, it rarely makes it better.

Writing till it’s done is different than making sure you dig deep enough or cover all the angles. It’s different than getting stuck or running out of ideas.

When you reach a natural stopping point, you’ll feel it if you’re paying attention.

If you find writing a piece has become a struggle, remind yourself of your intent for the piece and then make sure that you haven’t inadvertently pushed beyond that natural stopping point.

7. Turn off the inner critic during draft stage

It’s important to understand that different sides of the brain are engaged when you write versus when you edit.

This is one of the main reasons to delay editing when writing your first draft. If you allow yourself to edit as your write, it requires your brain to switch between two modes and it means it’s easier to get distracted.

When you edit, your muse is off duty and during the time it takes for you to get back to writing, your muse just might get bored and wander off.

8. Edit with fresh eyes

It’s always best to edit with fresh eyes no matter what type of writing you are doing.

Whenever feasible, set your draft aside for several hours or even overnight. If you’re writing a novel, finish your entire first draft and set it aside for several days or longer before you begin to edit.

If you simply must edit without a break in between, try reading your writing out loud or in reverse order from the final sentence to the first sentence. This will help you to see typos because it’s not as easy for your brain to “fill in what should be there”.

You can also have someone you trust on standby to read your writing. As recommended by Michael Masterson and Mike Palmer in Copy Logic, ask them to edit your writing by letting you know which sections are confusing, unbelievable, or boring (CUB).

Each of the writing tips above is designed to help you write more often and to write better than ever before. Use the ones that work for you. Shelve the others for another time.

As a writer understand we can never completely master all there is to learn. With the right tools and an open mind we can improve our writing if we are willing to challenge ourselves as a writer to never stop learning.

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Meg Stewart has been freelancing for nearly two decades. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. Freelance Ladder was founded to help writers get paid and help solopreneurs do tech stuff better. Meg and her family, (along with two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos), live in Northeast Ohio.