(This is from my writing craft series; you can read more on Patreon. Please note that these first posts are about things that aren’t strictly about the craft of writing, but the craft of surviving as a writer, if you will, because I want to get them out of the way first.)
If you would like to know the “secret” to writing better (which does not necessarily mean that you will publish or sell well), then here it is:
Read; read wisely; study what you read.
This statement is admittedly worthless as given, and of course there are other practical considerations like making time to write that we will cover elsewhere, but there it is: if you want to be able to improve quickly as a writer (or at least more quickly than most of your peers), you have to leverage your reading.
We will be breaking down the tasks into actionable steps in a moment, with “read” and “read wisely” in this section, and “study what you read” in Section 3.
First, however, because this section is about dealing with big-picture writing issues, a word on setting goals.
Goals vs. habits
You can set any goal you like, but if you don’t establish a habit to go with it, you won’t get anywhere.*
Telling yourself “write better” will not help you become a better writer. You have to have a plan. “Writing better” is impossible to achieve on its own, especially when part of writing better is reassessing what writing better actually means.
What “writing better” does as goal (in the absence of supporting habits) is create a vicious cycle:
- You tell yourself to “write better.”
- However, you don’t actually know what “writing better” means (yet).
- No matter what you write, you naturally question whether you’re actually “writing better.”
- Fame and fortune do not immediately arrive.
- You don’t feel rewarded; therefore, you must not be “writing better.”
- Conclusion: you must be a failure!
If I wanted to sabotage someone’s career, I would tell them to “write better” and leave it at that.