Is there a difference between good writing and being a good writer? We think so. While it’s important to have all the fundamentals of writing down (e.g., grammar, punctuation, proper use of metaphor), there are certain, less tangible qualities that can take you from simply being a writer to being a truly excellent one.
If you are feeling stuck in a rut, somewhere between mediocrity and international renown, it may be time to shake up your writing habits. These four simple changes in your style could help take you to the next level.
Step 1: Celebrate Mistakes
It’s one thing to ask you to accept your mistakes; it’s another thing entirely to celebrate them. Rather than trying to make every piece of writing perfect from the first draft, let go of the desire for excellence and pay attention to the imperfections. Because what is a mistake other than an opportunity to learn? While we don’t suggest leaving the mistakes in the next draft, this simple reframing of your own expectations can help to remove the type of pressure that leads to writer’s block and can stifle your creativity. So open yourself up to mistakes, and see what you can accomplish when you are fearless.
Step 2: Own Your Opinion
Unless you are writing an academic paper or a piece of journalism (in that case, cite, cite, cite!) you do not need to apologise for having an opinion. If someone is reading your writing, whether it be a blog, a personal essay or even a work of fiction, they understand you are the writer and therefore have your own personal bias. They aren’t looking for watered-down non-statements – they want to be convinced. So don’t ask for permission to make a case for something, just make it. Your writing will be stronger and your readers will respect you for it. So anytime you see “in my opinion” in your writing, delete it. We already know it is. (Disclaimer: this hopefully goes without saying, but just make sure you aren’t being libellous.)
Step 3: Answer a Question
Not having an opinion (step 2) is almost as bad as not having a point. Have you ever read an entire novel, waiting patiently for the “a-ha” moment, only to get to the end and say “Wait – that’s it?” These pieces of writing can leave you feeling like your time has been wasted and it certainly doesn’t make you think it was written by someone great. Avoid this all-to-common pitfall by asking a question before you write, and then make sure you answer it by the time you’re done. Whether it’s an overall question for an entire story, or a series of questions to drive each new chapter, it’s important to make sure there is a reason for writing beyond “for writing’s sake.” And if you really are just putting pen to paper for the fun of it, consider keeping a private journal to meet that need.
Step 4: Be an Active Learner
To a certain extent, it’s true that the more you write, the better your writing will become. But learning from your own mistakes can only take you so far. If you are serious about becoming a better writer, it only makes sense to learn from someone you consider to be great. From taking notes when reading your favourite books to listening to famous authors’ podcasts, there are plenty of inexpensive ways you can improve your writing right at home. And if you have the time and means to take it one step further, you should consider becoming a true student of your craft by signing up for a writer’s workshop or enrolling in an online course. Immersing yourself in the writing world is the only way to help yourself become a real part of it.
From changing your mindset to taking a tangible step toward developing your craft, these four steps can help move you from simply being someone who writes, to being a great writer.
About Paperblanks: 25 years ago, we created Paperblanks to help keep book heritage alive and vital in our modern age, and to offer an inspiring space for people to express themselves. Thanks for joining us on this journey! For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.