1. Climb that mountain: write something every day.
I know, I know, you’ve heard this before. But are you doing it? It’s a super-key to developing writing skill.
Artists learn to draw incredibly well by carrying a sketchpad with them and drawing at every opportunity. Carry paper and pen or at least a digital audio recorder with you always. Besides, you never know when that fantastic idea will pop into your brain without warning.
To get good at anything, do it a lot. If you miss a day, no big deal. But try not to miss too many.
2. Read the best books on writing.
You don’t have to struggle all alone and get discouraged. Learn from successful writers who have a history of struggling themselves—and winning. What they teach you can accelerate your progress.
There are many excellent books on writing—for writers on every level. Read them and do any available exercises:
Need help with grammar? There’s a free guide here:
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ Scroll down and find where you can subscribe. Look for the photo of the book Basic English Grammar, sign up and download it. You should be subscribed to emails from this website and reading them daily anyway.
Want to get better at revising your first drafts? Getting the Word Right, How to Revise, Edit & Rewrite by Theodore A. Rees Cheney is one of the best. Probably the best.
Been writing a while but still feel a need to improve? My favorite is Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing by Gary Provost. Or, his 100 ways to Improve your Writing features key help.
Or, simply go to one of the major online bookstores, do a search for “writing” or “better writing” and read the reviews to help you choose.
3. Realize you don’t need to worry about talent.
It’s overrated anyway. What does that word “talent” mean really? Most of the time it’s an inadequate explanation why some people are better than others at doing things like drawing or painting or dancing or poetry or ice-skating.
Michelangelo once said: “If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”
What you need is a desire to write well that is strong enough to motivate you to stick with it. What you need is to fill pages with words (or your hard-drive’s memory).
And listen to the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “”Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
Reading, second to writing every day, is the most important training you can get. Read especially the writers who write the way you’d like to—excellent advice from Ray Bradbury, the celebrated author of stories that are pure magic (Zen in the Art of Writing). Read writers you admire: novelists, poets, copywriters, technical writers. Good writing is always good to read.
You’re an artist, and words are your medium. The more your brain processes them, the better—and the more fluent you become.
5. Get crazy-occasionally.
By “occasionally” I mean in your first attempt to write a piece. Your first draft. Again, Ray Bradbury makes a good point. He includes all the crazy stuff he comes up with, the wild ideas when he writes that first version. True, he will edit out a lot of them later—you always can—but not necessarily all of them. A lot of your best ideas will come to you when you write in a hurry, in an enthusiastic rush. But many of them can all-too-easily be slaughtered by giving your inner critique permission too soon in the game.
Writing is work, but it should be fun too whenever possible. Be childlike in those early attempts. Then later, be a tad more sensible when editing.
6. Be more like a human and less like a professor.
The style today is more conversational. That doesn’t mean your writing should be chatty or filled with slang or street language. You will likely find yourself writing more formally on occasion. But it does mean we writers are using a style that is more like we talk.
Try this key technique: The next time you are struggling with a sentence or two, pretend you’re talking a friend. Say it out loud if you need to and write down your words.
7. And don’t quit.
I can’t guarantee how good of a writer you will eventually become. But I can guarantee if you quit trying to improve, you won’t. At least not a lot. But if you follow the advice in this post, you will improve.
If you like to write, whether its blog posts, poetry, stories, love-letters or a manual for using Microsoft Word, then look to your future. Imagine what it would be like to be so good that you can compose words that move people to take action, that make them laugh, and that give them hope.
And go for it!