I took a writing class! Yes I did. I probably shouldn’t admit it, really, because now you’ll all expect me to have improved immensely, and that makes me nervous.
The class was with Stacey Solie (@StaceySolie), and it was fantastic. I learned a lot and here are a few of my favorite tips:
Freewriting: Every day, set aside a dedicated chunk of time to just write. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, or anything. It’s great for writer’s block: you don’t even need to start at the beginning or anything. It just helps get the ball rolling and get you out of whatever funk you’re in. I’m trying to do at least 15 minutes per day (minimum).
Read your work out loud: Admittedly, this is one that I knew about before, but it bears repeating. I don’t do it nearly enough and I really should because when I do, I always catch mistakes.
Stop apologizing for your work: It’s a terrible habit of mine and doesn’t really accomplish anything. For example, when giving an essay to someone to proof-read, it’s pointless to say things like, “Oh, here you go. It’s really bad, sorry.” It’s probably got some bad parts, and some good parts, and whoever is reading it will figure it out without you telling them.
So I’m working on building confidence in my writing…
Know when to stop: Try to recognize when you reach the point when your ongoing efforts cease to result in significant improvements. The “sweet spot”. Stacey talked about this, and so did one of our guest speakers, Katie Arkema. Here’s my own interpretation, in graphical form:
Thanks to the terrific @realscientists followers, who pointed out a couple of important points that I missed before!
READ! Yup, to become a better writer, you have to read. A lot. I mean, you should read every day, and be critical about it, too. Ask yourself, what is it that makes a certain piece of writing excellent or terrible? What techniques does the author use? Is there anything about their writing that could be improved upon? These observations will all eventually sink into your brain and make their way into your own writing. Hopefully not word for word though, because that’s not cool.
Practice. This sort of goes with the “free-writing” point above, but let’s give it a whole section unto itself. Because that’s how important it is. Like many skills, it’s more about hard work than innate genius. Have you read that book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell? In it, he talks about what all of these wildly successful people have in common. Sure, there are loads of factors that lead to success, but the one in common between them all was that they’d put a metric butt-load of hours into their craft. Ten thousand hours, minimum, to be exact. So put in your time!
Well there you go. You know I’m not a writing expert, I’ve just listed/regurgitated things that I thought were useful or inspiring. Hope it helped! Feel free to add to the list in the comments.