It’s quite powerful to start a question with how!
Because you’re looking for specifics. Ideas, tips, suggestions. Something new to learn. And the best part—what’s implied in your question is that you want to learn. That’s the key ingredient to improving any skill!
On to the how.
Here are 7 writing tips on how to improve your writing skills.
Writing tip #1. Don’t listen to your ego.
If you are truly serious about improving your writing skills, you’ll want to curb your ego and not let it do all the talking. If you’ve finished writing something, whether it’s one sentence or one page, and you hear that voice in your head saying, That’s amazing writing, how clever of you, you’re a genius! — that’s your ego talking. What happens when you let the ego take over? You get complacent, blasé, or just plain lazy. You don’t learn anything new. You just write for the sake of pleasing yourself. Isn’t that contradictory? Because, if you want to improve your writing skills, aren’t you saying you want to get better at communicating your ideas, thoughts, and feelings? And for that you need a community, you need readers, you need other people. Always keep this in mind.
Writing tip # 2. Feed your curious mind.
Before you even start writing, it’s a good idea to think about the brain food you’ll need. What will help you select that brain food? Your curiosity! Being curious is critical to the creative process. It’s impossible to be a good writer if you’re not someone who is curious and always in learning mode. Let’s think about what being curious means in daily life. It can be trying to get to the bottom of things to understand their meaning, or finding out how something works, or observing people’s behavior, or listening to others tell stories. When you have the word why in your daily thoughts, when you try to deconstruct a concept in different ways to make it easier to understand, and when you discover more ideas along the way that need to be explored, you will know that you’re moving in the right direction.
Writing tip #3. Make it a personal goal to read more books.
In the pursuit of becoming a writer—which you may choose to do for pleasure or for your career—your role as a reader is often ignored and undervalued. That’s a missed opportunity. If you care about the act of writing and possess a deep love for the written word, then you should expose yourself to works of literature on a regular basis. This isn’t a vague or abstract goal. It means that you are proactive about always being in research mode, you’re discovering authors and topics they’ve written about, you’re creating lists of what to read for the month and even the year, you’re going to the library or making trips to the bookstore on a weekly basis, and then you’re devoting time to absorbing the books you’ve selected. As you’re reading, a good idea is to do it always with a pen or pencil in hand so you can take notes, write down sections you find interesting, and list page numbers of sections you’ll want to revisit.
Writing tip #4. Select topics that can provide value to others.
Don’t be surprised if you experience some resistance as you’re reading this. Let’s say you’re committed to keep your ego in check, but then you go to the other extreme and you start doubting yourself and engaging in negative self-talk. It might go something like this: But I don’t have anything valuable to say! Maybe I just like writing things that are interesting to me, but are boring to other people! Instead of giving in and giving up before you’ve even begun, practice adjusting your mindset. Ask yourself, What could I write about? You may have an original idea or an in-depth look at how the human brain works. Perhaps you experienced a life-changing event that dramatically influenced the way you view your personal or professional life. Maybe you mastered a skill you find enjoyable such as practicing yoga or playing a game of chess. The key is to become aware of the main reason why you are writing about something, and to think of an audience that could potentially benefit from what you know.
Writing tip #5. Create a dedicated space for your writing.
In order to make your writing habit stick, it’s helpful if you turn it into a ritual. When you do, you train your brain to get used to the activity and start looking forward to it. Make sure to have a desk in a quiet corner with plenty of natural light. If you’re sensitive to noise, be sure to have noise-cancelling headphones ready and queue up several playlists to help you stay focused. Next, prep the tools of the trade: your computer, notebook, pens, highlighters, and loose leaf paper for jotting down notes quickly. You might also need reference materials such as a thesaurus. Use your phone or watch as a timer to divide up your work into segments to get more done, and don’t forget to switch the setting to silent or Airplane mode so you don’t get distracted. Finally, prep some refreshments—a thermos of hot coffee or tea, a bottle of water, and a snack such as fresh fruit, dark chocolate, or a handful of walnuts and almonds to give you energy.
Writing tip #6. Work on developing stronger self-discipline.
Here’s a habit that many famous writers—from Ernest Hemingway to Maya Angelou to J.K. Rowling—incorporated into their daily lives, which you can benefit from as well. If you are under the impression that all writers write only when they hear the call of their muse, think again. That’s not exactly how it happens! It will benefit you to understand what’s at the core of the writing process. In essence, it’s less about waiting for inspiration and more about mastery— making a continuous effort to improve your skill of writing. If you’re serious about improving this skill, then your writing needs to be a habit, a necessary part of daily life, and a dedicated time to sit down and get your work done. What does that mean? Make it a priority and not an option. Nurture your skill daily, water it like a plant, and give it plenty of space to grow. And most of all—treat your writing seriously. Make it your most important and favorite part of your day.
Writing tip #7. Stay humble, keep improving, move forward.
As you keep honing your skills, you’ll find an audience for your writing. It could be a close friend if you’re just starting out your writing habit, or it can be your boss or co-worker if writing is part of your job. No matter the scenario, it’s likely you’ll get some sort of feedback. Sometimes it will be flattering, other times it won’t. Always keep your ego in check and stay humble. The trick is in seeing your writing as a process, not as an end result. Every moment in which you’re dedicated to your skill will add up to better writing, more confidence, and a greater joy in staying connected to the beautiful world of language and words. So rather than avoiding a situation where you can hear something negative, stay open to feedback. You may hear a piece of advice or understand a point of view you didn’t consider before. Either way, this mindset will allow you go keep growing and moving forward—and that’s how you get better at writing.