How do you get started writing? How do you become a better writer?
One route many people take to become a better writer is through school. You can take classes. You can major in creative writing or English Literature in college. You can get your MFA.
However, that won't necessarily make you a writer. Writing classes might help jumpstart your writing, but you can take all the writing classes in the world and still not have the motivation to put pen to paper, fingers to keys and begin to write.
Alternatively, you could just write. Write whatever you feel like. Write about the weather or how you feel about the last episode of Survivor or about your argument with your parents. This kind of writing is fine. It's good to connect your writing with your soul, but you have to wonder, who is going to read it? Who's going to care?
How you become a better writer writer? Not just someone who takes classes or writes in their journal because they enjoy it? How do you make writing a career? A vocation?
Become a Better Writer by Following the Greats
I studied writing in college, getting my BA in English literature with an emphasis in writing. However, I wasn't a writer because I wasn't writing. I thought the classes would do the hard work for me, that I didn't have to do the tough, confusing, painful job of daily, deliberate practice.
It wasn't until after college that I started to write on my own. At first, I just wrote whatever I felt like. It was freeing, but I knew it wasn't good enough. “Who would want to read this?” I thought.
Then, I remembered something I learned in college.
When Ernest Hemingway was just getting started as a creative writer, he wrote a series of short, terse vignettes. They were only fifty to 250 words long, but he would spend weeks on them, crafting them to perfection.
Write Small Pieces
I started to write short pieces like this. I called them “Small Things.” I would write them during my lunch breaks, then spend hours rewriting them. Sometimes, I would post them to my blog or even submit them to magazines.
I knew my small pieces weren't going to make me a living or win me any awards, but I learned more from writing those pieces than I learned in hours of writing whatever I felt like. For the first time, I felt like I was becoming a writer.
If you're just starting out and you want to become a better, the best way to practice writing deliberately is by finishing short, small pieces. Let's give it a try in the practice below.
What advice do you have to become a better writer?
Today, start writing a small piece.
Tell a story, show a powerful action, or describe an interesting image in no more than three paragraphs. Post your rough draft below.
Then, spend the next few days rewriting and editing it. If you're feeling brave, when you think your piece is finished, send it to a flash fiction magazine.
And if you post your small piece, make sure you help out a few other writers by giving them feedback.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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