The only way to get better as a writer is to practice. But do you know the ways to practice writing?
Original photo by Rucksack Magazine
Sure, you get better the more you write, but that’s a long con for sure. If you want to improve in quick and measurable ways, you need a plan.
Before we jump into it, I want to encourage you to figure out what it is you want to improve on. Also, if you don’t know what kind of writer you want to be, make sure you define that first.
Having an idea of where you want to be as a writer is the best way to determine what kind of practice you need. And it will make it easier to focus in on the things that matter.
For example, if you want to get better at blogging, you should focus your practice on that style of writing.
And if you want to be a better poet, you definitely don’t want to just practice by blogging.
There’s some overlap, and definitely all the skills I’m talking about are important for writers. But make sure you’re focusing on the skills that will bring you the most return on your time investment.
I’m not saying you can follow these tips to become the Next Great American Writer.
But I am saying that you can use these to become better at what it is you want to achieve as a writer.I'm not saying you can follow these tips to become the Next Great American Writer. But I am saying that you can use these to become better at what it is you want to achieve as a writer. Click To Tweet
7 Ways to Practice Writing
001: Try short sprints.
I’m a big fan of short sprints when it comes to writing. I love to set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just write until the timer goes off.
If you know exactly what you’re going to be working on during those 10 or 15 minutes, you’ll find that your writing speed will increase. This is why I always advocate using an outline.
(We talked about this in the how to write fast post.)
Short writing sprints are a great way to improve your writing speed, and to improve your writing intuition. By setting a timer for a specific amount of time and focusing on writing only for that amount of time, you’ll see how much faster you can write, and how easily the ideas come when you’re in that focused state of flow.
002: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
There’s a time for editing, and there’s a time for just getting your ideas out.
One thing that writers tell me over and over is that they don’t know grammar rules and spelling is a pain.
I completely empathize.
I’m not saying that grammar isn’t important. And spelling is too. But here’s the thing: When you’re writing, you want to just write. When it’s time to edit, you can edit.
So if the notion that you don’t know all those grammar rules your teachers droned on and on about is holding you back, I’m giving you permission not to care.
Sure, you’ll have to go back and edit. But writing is all about getting the ideas out and making sure you know what you want to say.
Grammar and punctuation and spelling are just set dressing after that. You can add it when it’s time.Grammar and punctuation and spelling are just set dressing. Click To Tweet
003: Flow, don’t edit.
On that note, let’s talk about flow.
The reason that I tell people not to edit when they write is you can’t ever achieve that state of flow if you keep stopping to fix what you’ve written.
So, while you’re writing, let yourself get there. It may take a while to feel that flow kick in, but you’ll know you’re there when it feels like the words are pouring out of your finger tips.
And while I can’t tell you exactly how to get there, I will say this: The more time you spend in that state of flow, the easier it is to get there.
That’s why you need to practice it.
So, take some time and just sit down and let yourself write. Keep writing. Don’t edit. And keep going until you feel like the words are just flowing.
004: Read way more often.
We’ve all heard the platitudes about how writers can’t write if they don’t read.
But here’s the deal: It’s completely true.
If you aren’t reading a broad range of books and finding style and content inspiration from other writers, you can’t write.
I won’t be one of those harpies who tells you that you can’t watch TV or movies. There’s some damn fine writing there.
(Here’s some shows I recommend, by the way.)
But I will tell you that if you want to write, you need to examine all kinds of writing. So add a book to your TV and movie watching routine. Subscribe to magazines and newspapers that have those really good long reads.
Basically, you need to find the things that inspire you. And by taking in more and more, you’re exposing yourself to the types of writing that will make you a better writer.Basically, you need to find the things that inspire you. And by taking in more and more, you're exposing yourself to the types of writing that will make you a better writer. Click To Tweet
005: Find a critique partner.
Critique partners are great because they’re one part editor, one part accountabilibuddy. They read your stuff and tell you if it works, and you both have deadlines to each other.
Critique partners are great for those writers who have some years of experience under their belts. If you haven’t been writing for very long, I caution you against taking advice from the outside.
(Part of being a writer is knowing what advice will work for your writing and what won’t, and discerning that when you go over the comments and critiques you get.)
Finding a critique partner can be tough, but it’s a great way to practice writing because you’re getting feedback on what you’ve written, and figuring out how to reshape the words you’ve written when you’re editing.
006: Find a class.
I’m a big fan of creative writing classes for a number of reasons. I love having an instructor to guide you through the process, and I love the creative environment of a workshop where your fellow classmates are critiquing your work.
The biggest drawback of classes is generally the cost, and how hard it can be to find one that works for you.
I recommend looking at the local library or votech/adult education center. I’ve had really good luck in those places. You can also take classes at a local college or university if your budget can handle it.
And don’t discount the idea of holding your own class. If you’ve been writing long enough, you can lead a creative writing discussion and workshop group, and invite local writer friends who you think would be a good fit.
007: Use some writing prompts.
For the writer who would like to work on generating story ideas, I suggest writing prompts.
Whether you find some on Pinterest, or just look at pretty photos to inspire a story, writing prompts are great jumping off points for a story.
In high school, a creative writing teacher would write a famous line from a book on the board, and then let us use that as the first line of the story. It was fun to see how different everyone’s story became, and it was a good way for us to get words down in class.
(Don’t use that first line if you plan to publish that work, though.)
However you find them, writing prompts are great for practicing writing when you don’t know what you want to write about.How do you practice writing? Click To Tweet
How do you practice writing?
What’s your favorite way to practice writing? Do you like to read different genres to feel inspired? What kind of prompts are your favorite?