1: Just do it.
It sounds obvious, but the first step to becoming a good writer is, well… writing. Make sure you devote some of your time to sitting down and writing with no outside distractions. Just stop putting it off! It can be as simple as a haiku, or as complex as a piece of a novel you’re working on. The important thing is that you’re sitting down and generating new material, as well as exercising the “writing muscle” in your brain.
2: Don’t make it a chore.
I know it sounds kind of contradictory to “just do it,” but if you force yourself to write as if it’s a chore, it will start to feel boring and you won’t want to do it. A good rule of thumb to avoid this is to make sure you tell yourself, “I want to write” instead of “I have to write.” Make sure that you write because you have a desire to do it, even if it means cutting out a chunk of your day to lock yourself in your room and write for a bit. Writing is dedication, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore.
3: Write daily.
As mentioned before, there’s a part of our brain I like to call “the writing muscle.” Similarly to a dancer stretching before a routine, writers must keep themselves “in shape” by writing daily in order to perform to their best ability. In order to write well, you must write often, even if it’s just copying a sentence from a book or writing down a quote you overheard someone say. The important thing is to get in the habit of writing on a daily basis. When you write every day, you make a habit of fitting it into your natural routine, and it will eventually become habitual if you do it enough.
4: Have writer friends.
Having friends that are interested in the same craft as you is indispensable. For one, writer friends offer a kind of “support system,” and they understand the struggles that can come with writing. They also understand the benefits and rewarding parts of writing, so they can celebrate your accomplishments and successes with you because they just get it. Also, there’s nothing more valuable than peers who love editing and are willing to offer suggestions to make your piece even better. There’s a certain notion that writer friends are competitive, but contrary to that belief, having them actually gives you an opportunity to build a supportive community that cheers one another on and celebrates each other’s successes.
5: Eliminate all distractions.
It’s hard to write when your electronics and your writing are battling for your attention. An easy way to get rid of distractions is to turn all of your attention-stealing devices off, such as your phone and computer. If you use your computer for your writing like I do, you can turn off notifications for certain apps through system preferences, turn off your computer’s sound, and close all other tabs. When you’ve gotten rid of your distractions, writing becomes easier and less forced. Additionally, it will come to you more quickly because you’ll be devoting more of your focus to the task at hand.
6: Shut off your inner critic.
When writing the first draft of anything, try to hush the critic/editor in your head. A draft is a space to pour everything out onto the page, and if you spend too much time criticizing yourself, you’ll never get anything done! It’s better to have a finished draft that needs to be edited than a blank page with nothing to work off of. It’s great to have an inner editor when going back to revise, but try your best to mute that voice when writing a first draft.
If you want to be a good writer, you have to read often. You can’t expect to become a good writer without looking at other peoples’ work. When reading, ask yourself “What works here? What doesn’t work here?” and use that as a guide for your own writing. A good writer is able to “steal” aspects of someone else’s work and use it in their own, and reading often will allow you to do this effectively. Additionally, reading books within the genres you like to write is a great way to create a model for your own work. However, when you’re actually writing your piece, it may be a good idea to step away from those types of books so you’re not constantly comparing yourself to them.
8: Give yourself breaks.
If you’re planning on devoting a day/several hours to writing, giving yourself a few breaks to read, eat, or just relax in order to recharge and keep your energy up. Allowing yourself a bit of break time will ultimately result in a better outcome because you won’t get tired, thus letting your writing get sloppy. A few small breaks here and there will really benefit the flow and energy of your piece.
9: Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal is a great way to inspire you, in addition to helping you generate new material that could be used in a future project. It also helps you get in the habit of writing something daily. If you want to read more about journaling, you can check out my blog post about it here.
10: Write what you want to write.
Ultimately, the most important piece of advice I can give is to write what you want to write. If you don’t write things that you’re passionate about, then you won’t enjoy what you’re doing, and it’ll show in the overall outcome of your piece. If you have an idea that seems risky, write it anyways! It can always be edited or altered later. It’s important to listen to your intuition when you have an idea. It may seem silly or dicey, but there’s no harm in writing it and seeing what happens. Oftentimes doing this will result in really great and original pieces!