No, seriously: how can I become a better writer?

I use to teach creative writing courses to adults. The excitement the people brought to the class inspired me. They wanted to be there. They had great ideas. They sought ways to become better writers.

They seemed disappointed when I told them the Secret. I believe they expected me to pull out magic pills for them to swallow, like Morpheus gave Neo in the movie The Matrix. They could down the  pill and suddenly they would be able to punch out the next best-selling thriller on their keyboards. If only.

“The secret of becoming a better writer is to just write.”

No, seriously. What’s the secret?

“That’s it. I swear.”

That’s it?

“Well, okay, write everyday. Everyday you can write, write. Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.”

I believe many people who don’t understand the writing process think it’s a talent or skill that some people are born with and others will never have.  Or they think it’s magic. The truth is, everyone can improve their writing skills, but it takes practice.

I always use the analogy of comparing writing to any other skill like playing the piano or playing on a basketball team. My friend Ryan had a piano recital last year. He never practiced one day in his life. Never even touched a piano until the night of the recital. He performed excellently. Wait. That’s ridiculous, right?

Downtown, next to the building I work in, the city built a huge basketball arena. When the arena was completed and ready to serve the community for basketball games and concerts, everyone in my company was offered a free tour. The local university basketball team played their games on the main court surrounded by thousands of seats for spectators, but a whole wing of the arena was dedicated to just practice for the team. During the tour I saw a huge court in the sub-levels underneath the street where the team would work on their craft. The city and the university would not just let the team go out and play without practicing, right?

Writing is the same way.

If you want to improve your writing style, your writing craft, you practice. Just because you write something, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to see it. You write. And rewrite. And rewrite. Some of it will never be seen by anybody else’s eyes. That’s okay. Ryan hit many bad notes on the piano while practicing.

Maybe I’ve been teaching writing for over a decade to adults, college students and children, but I will never be the best writer I can be. I am always improving, but I will never arrive. To me, the journey is half the fun.

View my Consortium SF Series at Amazon.



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