Paying the Price to Improve Your Writing

WritingPenAn athlete spends time training to strengthen muscles and improve endurance and agility. Musicians spend countless hours in the pursuit of making music flow from their instruments. Even with a natural knack, it takes performance/visual artists years of practice to reach a certain level of expertise in their field. It’s foolish to think that becoming a good writer will take any less of a commitment or sacrifice for the craft.

Whether you’re a beginning writer or one with a list of publishing credits, there are two things that should be done every day to improve your writing:

Read for pleasure, in and out of the genre you write in. Read and re-read the masters and those works that thrill you, those books that grab ahold of you and make you wish you could write like that. This kind of learning creates a subconscious feel for pacing and flow and the power of words, and will eventually pour out naturally in your own writing.

Just write. You know this, I know this, and the greats practice this without fail. Set a daily or weekly word count goal. Play with words. Write in snippets, sonnets, scenes. Finish what you start. Commit, and write every day.

What good writers have over beginning writers is a head start on time spent on the craft plus a testing of commitment and the willingness to sacrifice – they’ve added to their busy calendar the time to do such things as:

Read to learn. Be conscious of what you read and how it makes you feel. Try to determine what an author did to pull you along, to make you turn those pages. Why do you love some characters and hate others? Take the time to break it down.

Join a writing group, spend time with other writers especially those with more experience than you. The old saying “Iron sharpens iron” is true. You will be encouraged in your writing journey and inspired to write.

Join a critique group when you’re ready to share your work. This is something that has to be done at some point. Putting yourself “out there” can be difficult, but it’s necessary to get feedback on your writing (from other than family or friends) in order to improve. And learning to critique the work of others will help you in recognizing the problems in your own writing.

Attend classes, workshops, and conferences. Eventually, most writers have to sacrifice not only time but money to see their writing improve. Target your writing weak spots, network with other writers, and learn the business.

Getting better at anything requires practice. Be an athlete-artist. Commit yourself to your craft and follow the path to better writing.

What commitments and sacrifices have you made to improve your craft?

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236 Candles

The 4th of July is the day Americans celebrate the anniversary of their declaration of independence from British rule in 1776. It is not the day a peace treaty was signed or the day the last warship flying a Union Jack left its eastern shores. It is instead the day attributed to the action of 56 British subjects (and American colonists) signing their names to a document declaring their independence. It was the culmination of years of dissatisfaction sparked by the desire to determine their own destiny, to be free from oppression and tyranny, and to choose how to govern themselves.

It was not an easy choice for the signers of the Declaration of Independence to make. Their signatures would be a test of the importance of their stand, evidence of their treason. War actually began in 1775, not for independence, but as a revolt against British interference with the constitution of one of the colonies – because of their choice more sacrifice would be required, even more blood would be shed.

Everyone’s independence day begins first with the desire to be free from the influence, control or determination of another. But simply wanting to be independent is not enough. Freedom does not happen without courage and conviction, and the willingness to fight for what one believes.

The 4th of July has become a day to barbeque and watch fireworks. I hope it is also a day to truly remember and celebrate independence – won by the bravery of our forefathers who stood their ground and fought, and died, for what they believed was right. Americans, and others in the free world, still fight and die for that, and for the rights of others to be free.

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Happy 236th Birthday, USA.