It can be a common belief that more “artistic” pursuits, like art or writing, are inherent talents that you’re either born with or not. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t dedicated savants, this simply isn’t true. Writing is a skill that can be learned, cultivated, and improved—no matter what your starting point is!
Here are 3 quick tips that’ll help you develop your writing and become a better writer.
1. Embrace ritual and routine
Ritual and routine don’t have to be the death of creativity. In fact, numerous famous authors swear by it for producing their best writing. Taking a page from Kurt Vonnegut’s book: “I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare. When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town. There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten.”
Establishing good writing habits is as simple as figuring out what puts you in the most constructive mindset, and then building your writing rituals and routines around it. Do you need a cup of coffee or tea before you can officially feel “ready” to write? What time of the day is the best for productivity? Whatever it is, make it a must-do every day. That consistency is key to connecting and associating that routine with fruitful writing—which is now something you can make happen, instead of just waiting for inspiration to strike (it’s never often enough, is it?).
2. Wait to revise
Nothing interrupts a good writing flow than not quite liking that last bit of text you just typed out…and going back to make it “perfect” before moving on. If you’re constantly stopping and starting just to polish, you risk two things: 1. delaying your work (because let's face it, you’re going to have to do a final edit anyways), and 2. producing subpar work.
Resist the urge for immediate perfection and separate “writing” and “editing” into two mindsets—and two separate activities. This will: 1. speed up your writing process, prevent delays, and allow your writing to advance more organically, and 2. give you the separation from and perspective on your text that’s necessary for quality editing. Editing a completed text as compared to an incomplete one will also result in a more cohesive and comprehensive final piece since you have the context of the rest of the writing to factor in to your editing, instead of that endless stretch of blank page still waiting for you to fill it after you’ve nitpicked that last sentence.
3. Put yourself out there and seek feedback
Is there anything scarier for a writer than someone actually reading their work? It seems counterproductive for this profession, but it’s a common reluctance. After all, you’re inviting criticism of something you produced. Oof. But the truth is, feedback improves performance.
Don’t just seek any feedback, though—initial drafts will benefit more from another experienced eye, be they a writer, editor, or just a prolific reader themselves. You want to solicit feedback from constructive sources, and hence receive constructive criticism (aka the only good kind of criticism).
Though writing may be an artform, you don’t have to suffer the restriction of having been born with the “talent” for it or not. Writing is a skill like any other, and can be developed as such.