You’ve been reading other writers’ work for a long time. You remember what it felt like to start writing your own words for the first time. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether or not you’re getting any better at this than when you started.
If it ever feels like you’re not making any progress as a writer, don’t worry. You’re probably doing fine — as long as you’re slowly moving toward these realities.
1. You’re starting to recognize your own flaws.
New writers need someone looking over their shoulder. They need certain things pointed out to them, so they can learn what they need to work on to get better. The more you write, the easier it becomes to recognize these things on your own — and the less you need to rely on someone else to point them out to you. You have the experience to be able to say, “Wow, I could have done that better. Let’s fix it.”
2 You’re seeking out challenges — and they’re worth it.
When you first start trying to figure out what “being a writer” means for you, it’s all you can do to focus on mastering the basics. As you grow, you start to find that your creativity needs more stimulation. You need to try new things every now and then, or you get bored. You need to move away from what’s easy and dive into what’s more difficult. That’s a good thing — it means you’re going to continue to improve. A successful writer never stops learning.
3. You know how to use your strengths to make up for your weaknesses.
No writer can be good at everything. As you grow as a writer, you begin to recognize not only what you’re not good at, but how the things you ARE good at can help you make up for everything else. I’m a pretty decent writer, and I love mentoring other writers — but I’m terrified of public speaking. At work, I get to use my “writing smarts” to talk to people about writing. The talking is not my strong point, but the fact that I know what I’m talking ABOUT makes it okay.
4. You’re proud of your work — and not afraid to share it.
I think most of us start out terrified to show off what we can do. The longer you write, the less intense this kind of fear becomes. As you develop your skills and gain confidence (it takes awhile, but it does happen), you care a lot less about what others think. You learn that as long as you’re proud of the work you’re doing, it doesn’t matter whether there might be people who hate it. There will always be haters.
5. You’re much more selective about what you write about — and where you put it.
In the beginning, we all kind of just throw our words anywhere people might see them. It’s the only way to figure out who those words resonate with and where you should focus your creative energy. Eventually, you stop grasping hungrily at every opportunity, or posting every stream-of-consciousness post that comes to mind. You don’t have to. You have the luxury of picking and choosing — and that’s comforting.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.