3 Ways to Constantly Improve Your Writing
And the mindset you need to keep the ball of improvement rolling
Every writer’s looking for the secret ingredient. The one thing that can take them from good to great. You’ve read hundreds if not thousands of articles that list exactly what you need to improve. You’ve tried most of them, but it’s impossible to tell if you’re getting anywhere.
We’ve all been there. Heck, I’m there all the time. If becoming an excellent writer was easy, there wouldn’t be so many of those advice articles. There’s no one way to become a great writer, but as usual, the journey is just as important as the destination.
What if there weren’t things you had to do to be great? What if they were more like mindsets? Ways to adjust your thinking?
It’s not about wanting to get better, because what does “better” look like? You need to define it. You need to chase a certain aspect of your writing and do it well. And most importantly, you need to escape your comfort zone.
1. Try New Things
If you write the same type of story or article over and over like clockwork, you’ll drive yourself insane. You don’t know true despair until you’ve hit burnout. To prevent the deterioration of your sanity, you’ll need to branch out every once in a while.
I spent all of last month editing a fantasy book; the latest of my projects. There was a deadline I wanted to meet, so I invested all of my spare time into revising lines, rearranging paragraphs, and rewriting chapters.
I got two things out of it: a more coherent book and a completely wrecked mental state. I got so burnt out from editing the same thing over and over that I considered quitting. I thought I’d lost the love for writing. I thought I was a talentless hack because my old pal, Imposter Syndrome, decided to pay me a visit.
In reality, all I needed was a reset. I needed to write something new instead of fixing something old. I wrote some short stories, and even entered them into a contest.
Writing brand new content didn’t just refresh my mind, it also improved my skills. If you’re a fiction writer, I highly suggest the following:
- Write short stories in a new or pre-existing universe.
- Develop conversations between your characters.
- Plan out future chapters, even if it’s not usually your thing.
Even if you’re not looking for a break, you should look into the activities listed above. Each of them can help you get past an obstacle.
2. Do Something Fun
Yeah, here’s the part where I tell you that it’s okay to goof off. Believe it or not, having fun is a huge part of a good work ethic. You can’t perform your job to the best of your ability if your mind is screaming for relief. Whether it feels like it or not, dedicating too much time to work will eat away at your mind.
If you’ve been writing for a while, feel free to do literally anything else. Even if it’s just getting up for a drink of water or a trip to the bathroom. As long as it takes your mind off of work for a second, it’s an acceptable reset.
One of my favorite things to do when I need a break is play some video games. A fun level or two is all that it takes to give me a satisfying break. Then when I’m done with that(or when I force myself to stop playing), I go back to writing, only now I’m refreshed and ready to work.
If you want a good balance of work and play, try reading a book. Not to say that reading isn’t fun (it is, please read more), it’s just that it’s a good way to learn and relax at the same time. Whether you’re a writer or not, there’s a lot to learn from reading what others put out. What you read could even end up influencing your style.
I definitely wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t spend half my childhood reading all the Percy Jackson books. Next time you read something, study its contents, its sentence structure, the way characters grow with the story, everything.
3. Maintain a Continuous Improvement Mindset
It sounds easy, but this might be the trickiest step of all. Not only do you need a continuous improvement mindset, you’ve got to stick to it. No getting complacent or slowing down. You need to be constantly chasing improvement.
If you asked me to list off the traits that would make me consider someone a great writer, the list would look like this:
- Understands and prioritizes character development.
- Is skilled at worldbuilding.
- Has excellent prose.
- Understands that no writer is perfect and is always trying to improve themselves.
That last one is the most important. I don’t trust any writer who thinks they’ve learned all that there is to learn. It’s just not possible. Even I’m still learning. I swear I relearn how to develop characters like every other day.
This applies to all you nonfiction writers too. It doesn’t matter how factual your writing is if you write it like a kindergartener. You need to examine your writing and figure out what needs improvement, then work towards that.
Make sure you don’t work yourself to death chasing perfection. Don’t try to learn ten things every day. Go at your own pace.
Writing is a balancing act. As you balance writing and editing, you’re also balancing your sanity. It’s important to seek improvement, but don’t lose yourself over it.
Take as many breaks as you want as long as you’re determined to learn and improve once they’re done. Keep chasing advancement and watch as it happens before your very eyes.
Kesten E. Harris is an author with four books and counting under his name. When he's not publishing those, he's writing self improvement articles.