Have you ever had a writer or a professor tell you to “keep on writing” if you want to become a better writer?
“Write a lot” or “write more” is another way to say it. Well-known, successful writers like Stephen King are often quoted as saying exactly that.
And it’s frustrating. How can you become a better writer just by writing a lot? Don’t you need to learn a few things?
There are so many important aspects of writing, and advice like this just isn’t helpful. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. What’s going to change? And how?
If your writing isn’t making you (or anyone) happy right now, it seems unlikely that writing more of the same old thing over and over will make it get any better.
And here’s the thing.
If you’re not fully committed to becoming a better writer, “writing more” isn’t going to help you.
If anything, you’ll quit out of frustration.
And that’s why advice like “keep on writing” and “write more” just won’t work. Not by itself.
And do a lot of reading. When you find something that’s particularly good, read it carefully. Try to figure out what makes it so readable, and look up some information about it.
Maybe it’s an article with a great headline, a kick-butt introduction, or a powerful closing. Or maybe it just pulls you along, transfixed by every word, and you wonder how the writer did that.
You can find loads of information about writing online and right here at Simple Writing. Look it up—or take a look at the list of articles to the right—and do your best to incorporate the new tricks in your own work.
You could even make a goal to include some new technique in your writing every week or month, and keep practicing until you get the hang of it.
If you’re a blogger, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use the new skills and see results. Even if you’re an experienced writer who’s been honing the craft for years, you know you can always get better.
What writer doesn’t want to get better?
And if you simply take the advice to “keep writing” or “write a lot,” you won’t get very far any time soon. You’ve got to put in some effort to learn new skills and incorporate them in your writing.
I’ll tell you to “keep writing” and “write a lot” if you ask me how to improve your writing. But that’s not all there is to it.
If you’re not a serious writer, just writing 1000s of words won’t make a difference. Quit now while you’re ahead if you think that’s all it takes.
But if you’re serious and don’t quite understand how “write a lot” could help you, you’ll feel frustrated. Confused. Maybe even pissed off. And you might not like me very much.
And you’ll thumb your nose or flip a finger and give up. But if you’re smart, you’ll find specific, helpful information you can use right away to improve your writing.
And you’ll keep writing. And you’ll incorporate the new skills. And you’ll get better and better.
And that’s exactly what I want you to do: Write a lot. Give it your all. Don’t stop. Keep writing, but be sure to learn and use new skills, tricks, and techniques as you go along. You’ll be wasting your time if you don’t.
Edited 09/16/2015 for clarity.
Photo credit: Pinguino
Thoughts? Comments are always welcome.