I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I’m so glad you’re here. Yes, you! A blog without readers is . . . well, it’s more like a journal entry. And now, on to today’s topic.
For the sake of this post I’m going to assume writing is high on your list of priorities. Though you may place the following items in a slightly different order, it’s best to include them all when it comes to writing.
I realize this is self-evident, but you’d be surprised at how many writing-related endeavors (and non-writing-related ones) can crowd out time spent actually writing.
READ SKILLS DEVELOPMENT BOOKS, BLOGS, ETC.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about the ins and outs of writing, there is always more to learn. And the industry is always changing, so what you once thought a writing absolute may no longer be relevant. It is crucial that you stay current in your chosen genre or writing style.
APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN
Many skills development books include exercises. It’s best not to skip these. And even if they don’t, you can create your own exercises and write a short piece applying what you’re learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes better.
READ ANYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON
Read what you write (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.). Read what you’d like to write. Read what you can never imagine yourself writing. Read classical works. Read contemporary works. Read blog posts. I’m not suggesting you read something that offends your sensibilities, but do try to stretch yourself.
WRITE SOMETHING BRAND NEW TO YOU
Hopefully something you’ve read recently will challenge/inspire you to write something you’ve never tried your hand at before. Remember you never have to share this with anyone else, but you may be surprised. You might find you truly enjoy this new writing style.
GRAB YOUR NOTEBOOK AND/OR YOUR CAMERA AND GO FOR A WALK
It doesn’t matter what you write, inspiration is all around. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that we forget to keep an eye out . . . or an ear. Snap nature pictures that inspire you. (Be cautious about taking photos of people or property without express permission; written permission is best.) Record snippets of conversations or visuals that stir your creativity. (This is one important reason writers should always carry a notebook and pen—or download a note-taking app for their smartphone.)
FLIP THROUGH YOUR PICTURES AND YOUR NOTES WHEN LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION
The more you have on hand, the less likely writer’s block will ever get the better of you.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND ASK FOR A CRITIQUE OF YOUR WRITING
When a piece is as good as you can make it—for now, ask for an honest evaluation of your writing. If you have been working on a specific skill (i.e. writing believable dialogue), ask that your reader focus on that area. Your reader need not be a writer, but it can help.
REWRITE. REWRITE. AND REWRITE SOME MORE.
The more you learn and the more people read your work and make suggestions (though not all of them will be helpful), the more you must be willing to rewrite. Although what constitutes “perfect writing”—if there is such a thing—is subjective, making your work the best it can be is something that will require rewriting—often.
And as the shampoo bottle says . . .
RINSE AND REPEAT
Wash away those nagging voices that say your work will never be good enough to share with the world and be willing to repeat the above steps time and time again.
Stephanie Nickel, CES Editor, Coach, and Critique Specialist