We can always become better writers; that is perhaps what motivates us to write and, at times, keeps us from finishing our work. Writing is a constant effort to learn and grow in our profession. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “we are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Here is a list we’ve come up with to keep us on the right track.
1. Choose a subject you personally care about. If you have ever tried to write about something you don’t care about, you know how extremely exhausting and difficult that can be. All good writers start by choosing something they personally relate to. Maybe start with the place you grew up, or a person who inspired you. You have to love your story before your reader will.
2. Stay Organized. There is nothing worse than having a bunch of good ideas and not being organized enough to get them down on paper or remember where you put your notebook. It may seem simple, but staying organized as a writer by keeping your writing in a notebook or having an organized folder on your desktop can be life saving.
3. Have an outline. This is an extension of staying organized. Even though you might not write your book from start to finish, it is crucial to have an outline. The outline makes it possible for you to know what parts of the book need to get done. It also keeps you focused; you can leave and come back where you left off.
4. Work through the first draft. No first draft is perfect, but once everything is on paper, it’s so much easier to work through and edit. You may find that you often change most of what you originally wrote, but at least you’ll able to work through it once your ideas are already written down.
5. Keep yourself inspired. This may be as simple as writing in a place that inspires you—in a park, on a street corner, in an art museum. Some people find that they can think clearer in a quiet place, usually outside around something beautiful. Whether you prefer being around the hustle and bustle of the city, or the quiet confines of your home, put yourself in places that inspire you.
6. Unplug. In this day and age, it is difficult to stay focused. There are so many distractions on the Internet, especially if you have Twitter, Facebook, and a personal blog. Take time to allow yourself to not be tempted by the distractions on the web, and don’t even open your Internet browser—you can even look up apps to block social media for you while you write (try SelfControl or Freedom).
7. Have no fear. Even the best authors know that writing is not a skill that can be completely mastered. We have to keep writing regardless of if we think our work will ever be perfect. Because, honestly, writing is a skill that will constantly be shaped by your experience and your knowledge. Don’t compare yourself to others, and write from the heart.
8. Read. Good writers read…a lot. Of course there are techniques that we can learn about writing, but when a person is well read, they know the ins and outs of what good writing looks like. Keep reading and allow it to improve your writing without you even knowing it.