What It Really Takes to Improve as a WriterGuest Post by Andrea Shay
According to the 10,000 hour rule, it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become an expert or a master of something. This equates to roughly 10 years of practice at 3 hours per day. If you want to master the art of writing - or even if you simply want to go from "okay" to "great" – you're going to need to put in some serious hours. One of the major components of improving any skill is putting in the time and effort to practice regularly.
In addition, creating any form of art requires the ability to think both creatively and linearly. Practicing other creative hobbies like visual arts, music and even cooking can help you improve your writing. Trying new things both in your writing and in your real life can also open up new worlds and give you new skills.
Also, it never hurts to take a few lessons from the masters. Learn about rhetorical devices and stylistic tricks you can use to make your prose as evocative as possible.
Practice A LOT and Learn New Techniques
Many aspiring writers make the mistake of doing only one of these two things rather than both of them. Writing a significant amount each day is important for improving your skill level, but you also must learn new skills and techniques and try them out in your writing as well. Writing alone isn't enough, and simply learning new techniques without practicing them won't help you improve.
Study and imitate your favorite authors and learn rhetorical and stylistic devices to create effect. Set aside a specific time to write, and do just that. Keep those fingers moving regardless of whether or not you write something profound or incoherent. You can always go back and edit later.
Put Your Whole Brain to Work, Not Just Half of It
For several decades people have promoted the mistaken belief that "artistic" or "creative" activities use only one side of the brain – the left side. Along with that idea went the notion that logical activities use only the right side of the brain. New evidence has emerged in the last few years that suggest that the two halves of the brainwork together during activities we tend to label as either "creative" or "logical."
To improve your writing, examine how you write.
Do you work more creatively with minimal structure?
Or do you work more logically, structuring everything down to the last detail?
Whichever you do, try to incorporate more of what you do least. If you're a structure freak, spend more time just letting your writing flow and see what happens. If you tend to sit down and write whatever comes into your mind with very little structure, try working in the opposite fashion and spend more effort structuring your characters or the events in your stories to see how that impacts your work.
Try New Things
Try new things, both in your writing and in your real life. Try a new technique just to see how it works out. If you've never tried a flashback, write a scene with a flashback. If you tend to conceive of the end of a story first, try starting in the middle and working your way out, or try starting at the beginning. And if the converse is true and you always start at the beginning, start somewhere else first.
If you always plot out your characters' personalities, try writing a few chapters before you fully understand your characters and let them become revealed to you. Additionally, practice other creative arts as well as logical tasks like math or organization. The more you can create flexibility between the two halves of your brain, the more flexibility you'll have as a writer as well.
Andrea Shay is an editor and writer, living in Sarasota, Florida. She holds a B. A. degree in English from U.W.-Oshkosh. She also works as an alternative healing practitioner and teaches the art of energetic healing.