Improving your writing skills is not an easy task, although it is possible to become more proficient if you are prepared to work hard at your craft.
There are many different forms of writing, but the general principles for producing quality content remain the same regardless of the particular type involved.
Like many other creative talents, it is important for writers to remember that there are always new things you can learn.
Writing lends itself to the ethos of continual personal development and keeping an open mind will help you to hone your abilities on an ongoing basis.
Wherever you are on the writing ladder, there are numerous tips you can follow which will help you become a better writer. Here are a few of our favourites.
Keep honing your craft
The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ can be applied to many skills and it definitely holds plenty of resonance where writing is concerned.
In simple terms, the more often you write, the better you will get. In some ways it can be likened to sport, with regular training proven to improve athletic performance.
Whatever your level – from casual blogger to paid journalist – writing on a daily basis will undoubtedly help to improve your skills.
Best-selling author, Jeff Goins, puts a different spin on practicing, saying that it ‘doesn’t make perfect’ but ‘makes habits’.
“Real writers practice,” he said.“They show up, every day, without excuse or complaint (okay maybe some complaint). This is the work of a professional.
“I’m not talking about rehearsal. I’m talking about doing what musicians and boxers and lion tamers all do in order to get ready for their work. To become awesome at their crafts.”
Spend some time reading
If you want to be a great writer it naturally follows that you should be reading other people’s content on a regular basis.
This will serve to broaden your knowledge base, while also helping you to find your own voice within the myriad of different writing styles.
Famous animator, Chuck Jones, once wrote to a class of students about the importance of reading in fuelling his own creative output.
“I found my first experience with Wile E. Coyote in a whole hilarious chapter about coyotes in a book called Roughing It by Mark Twain,” he wrote.
“I found the entire romantic personality of Pepe Le Pew in a book written by Kenneth Roberts, Captain Hook.
“I found bits and pieces of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and all the others in wonderful, exciting books.”
Establish a writing routine
Although writing is a creative process, many of the leading exponents of the art believe that establishing a clear routine is the key to producing quality content.
It is advisable to work out your optimum time to write – for instance, some people do their best work in the morning, while others prefer evenings.
In the 2009 biography ‘Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King’, the best-selling author extolled the virtues of establishing a writing routine.
“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning.
“I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places.
“The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”
Remove yourself from distractions
If you want to get the creative juices flowing when you are writing it is important separate yourself from any outside distractions.
Working in an office environment can be hugely difficult for writers, but using headphones with a little light music playing can help to block out any background noise.
It can be a similar story at home, with disturbances by family or interruptions from technology devices making it difficult to concentrate.
Marketing strategist and business coach, Wendy Maynard, has also worked extensively as a freelance writer. She says it is imperative to eliminate distractions in order to maximise creativity.
“Either turn off your internet, email and phone — or move away from them,” she said. “Other apps you can use are Self Control (Macs) or Cold Turkey (PC) to block yourself from social media and other sites you use to waste time.
“I like Cold Turkey because you can create chunks of time for the entire week.Making a habit of unplugging for a set amount of time each day can go a long way toward accomplishment of top priorities.
Practice regular self-reflection
Taking time out to reflect on your content and thinking about ways you can improve is an integral part of the creative process.
It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security as a writer, particularly for professionals who are churning out work on a daily basis.
Looking back on old articles and identifying areas for improvement is a great way to ensure that you haven’t slipped into any bad habits.
Author Cathi Shaw, who alsoteaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College, says regular self-reflection is vital for any writer.
“As a mature writer who regularly navigates through academic, professional and creative writing contexts with little thought, I have to remind myself that the novice to intermediate communicators I have in my classes need guidance when finding the right genre for their messages.
“This forces me to engage in rhetorical thinking about my own communication style on a regular basis. To slow down and think about how I approach these now routine writing tasks so I can share that expertise with my students. And to remember that this doesn’t come naturally to beginning writers.”