The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
You’re probably here for one of two reasons: (1) You’re an aspiring writer hoping for some advice on how to “get good” at writing ASAP. (2) You already read this blog anyway and figure I probably have something useful to say about improving your writing skills. I usually deliver. I hope.
I’m really glad you’ve stumbled upon this post, because there’s something I want to tell you.
There is a lot of writing advice out there for beginners.
Most of it is way, way too complicated.
The last thing you need as a hesitant, overwhelmed beginner is a list of a thousand steps you need to take in order to kickstart your Journey to Writerdom in 100 days or less, or whatever time frame the experts are promising these days.
Don’t get me wrong — you have a lot to learn. Even I still have a lot to learn.
But for now, I’m just going to tell you the most important thing you need to start doing right now to start “leveling up” your skills.
If you want to immediately start improving your writing skills, you’re going to need to start writing. Like, right now.
But sitting down, writing for 30 minutes, and walking away from it for a few weeks (or months … or years …) isn’t quite going to cut it.
You have to write as much as you can, as often as you can, for as long as it takes to not only make it a consistent habit, but also to come to a better understanding of what improvement looks and feels like.
The more I write, the less I doubt myself — at least while I’m writing (while I’m lying awake worrying about everything I’ve written in the past tense is another story). The more I write, the more confident I feel in my ability to take a blank page and make something interesting out of it.
The more I write, the easier telling a story becomes. I worry less about everything being perfect. I worry less about all the pieces magically fitting together. I worry less, and so I find myself writing more.
Many writers get too distracted by trying too hard to “write like a writer.” I know because I’ve been there. I used to try so hard to write beautiful books that I could never finish them, because I could never sit with a project long enough to make it all the way to the end.
Do writing classes, writing groups, and other tools and resources help beginners advance their skills? They can, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t try different external things available to you to help keep you moving forward.
But first and foremost, if you want to write better, you have to write.
Write a lot. Write about a million different things. Don’t stick to just one story. Write terribly, write things that embarrass you and things you’ll never share with anyone else. Write your worst ideas. Write the things you think won’t work. And that’s all in addition to the things you think will work, and the ideas you know might land.
Stop being afraid that nothing you’re writing is good enough, because as a beginner, let’s be honest. It probably isn’t. But you’ll never get past that stage if you stop writing now. You have to keep going. You have to write until it feels more natural, you have to write until you know you can do it. You have to tell basic, boring, overdone stories until you learn — through writing — how to spin more complex tales with depth and reason and emotional weight.
Yes, writing is hard. Writing terribly doesn’t feel great.
But you have to do it anyway. You have to keep trying.
A writer writes. If you want to be one, don’t just hope you’ll get better. Make it happen, one word at a time.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.