No writer is perfect. Yet our writing flaws, whether imagined, exaggerated or real, have a way of causing us to question whether or not we’re really cut out for this whole writing thing. You can probably think of one or two things about your writing that you wish could be different, or better. But how can you go about making those kinds of changes in your writing life?
Here are the steps you can take to ‘fix’ the things about your writing that you aren’t particularly happy with.
First, figure out what it is you don’t ‘like’ about your writing
What is it about your writing that makes you want to curl up into a ball and forget the internet ever existed? Is it structural – your grammar and spelling, the way your sentences fit together? Is it your diction (choice of words) – do you struggle to word things the right way or use too many ‘big’ words where you shouldn’t? Do you just not like the way your writing ‘sounds’?
All of us have at least one perceived flaw in our own writing style. I switch awkwardly between refusing to use contractions and using too many, within the same blog posts, all the time. But being able to identify the things you’re not happy about is the first step to improving upon them – and a really good step, too. Once you know what it is that’s really bugging you about your own writing, you can then take further steps to start to “fix” it.
Set writing improvement goals
Set writing goals? Say what? Don’t pretend I haven’t covered this a hundred times already on this blog. You have to set goals to see improvement (which requires achieving those goals). You might not like the idea of holding yourself to a promise you aren’t confident you can keep. But would you rather challenge yourself by setting yourself up to improve, or continue to loathe a certain aspect of your writing that continuously makes you not want to write anymore?
Setting goals to improve is a little different than setting completion goals. Improvement goals are far less tangible than completion goals. Instead of setting a goal to finish writing your novel by the end of July (a completion goal), you might set out to write more actionable blog posts (an improvement goal). How do you set these kinds of goals? Check back for tomorrow’s post. For now, just know that changing what you don’t like about your writing is going to involve goal-setting. If you’re not good at that, it’s going to take some work. Be prepared.
Try a writing course
Whether or not you might consider signing up for a writing course or workshop really depends on your goals. Some writers work better under conditions that force them to focus on a specific task, such as free writing on a specific prompt. Some writers thrive on feedback, and critiquing others’ work while having theirs looked over is both motivational and genuinely helpful. Some writers just want to do it all on their own without help, and that’s completely their choice – nothing wrong with that at all.
Is it worth paying money to become a better writer? That’s really up to you. I’m putting together a list of free online writing courses for those who want to give more formal writing guidance a try without having to spend. Writing classes are not for everyone. I enjoyed my writing courses in high school and college for what they were, but I’m the kind of writer who under-performs under pressure, so for me, this probably wouldn’t be a worthwhile move. But it very well may be for you, if you’re really struggling and need someone to help you get back on track. Or get onto a track in general, if you have yet to find one.
Be patient and just keep writing
I’ve been writing for a very long time; I still have plenty of room to grow and improve regardless. Everyone does, no matter how long you have been a writer. One of the many reasons I write as often as I do is that the more I write, the better writer I become. I learn to catch myself when I start to get sloppy or too wordy. I know my bad writing habits and get better and better at crushing them every single day. Even in the past six months I’ve seen growth. It can be frustrating when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job … but you’re never going to do a better job if you just quit trying.
Writing more frequently, consistently, also boosts your self-confidence. The more comfortable you are with your own voice and style, the easier it gets to trust yourself and believe you’re doing a pretty decent job. Many aspiring writers, especially early on, have issues with confidence. Don’t let uncertainty stop you. Let yourself grow into your potential and believe in all you are capable of.
Despite everything, try not to compare your writing with other writers’ work
We all want to feel like we’re good at what we do. Even more so, we want external validation. We want someone else to say to us, “Wow, your writing is super awesome.” Maybe they will, and maybe they won’t. But if they never did, how would that affect the way you view your own writing? Are you unsatisfied with your work internally – understandable – or is your issue more external?
Comparing yourself to other writers, excessively, does more harm than good. In the end, the most important thing when evaluating your own writing is that you focus on how YOU feel about it. Do you really not like the way you write … or are you more concerned with what other people think? Are you more bothered by the feedback you get (or don’t get) than your own perceptions of your work? If you are happy with what you are writing, then you don’t need to worry quite so much about ‘fixing’ the way you do things. It’s OK to want to improve. But don’t try changing your style to appeal to someone else.
If you don’t like a specific thing about your writing, only you can take steps to change that and strengthen your own weaknesses. But if you think your writing is acceptable, and it’s others’ opinions or greater successes that are shaking your confidence, remember that the only way to trasform things that cannot be changed is to change your attitude toward them.
What don’t you like about your own writing? (Think of what you don’t like, not about what other people think/how other people react.) What do you want to try and do to improve?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.