Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Becoming a Better Writer ... Without Writing

Folks, we know that in order to improve your writing you have to practice. You have to read and write. You have to suck before you can be good. Etc. Absolutely this is true. Read, read some more, write, write some more, find a crit group, find beta readers, learn to edit, learn to plot, learn to write write by writing and writing and writing some more.


You can also become a better writer through things that are completely unrelated to writing itself.

For me personally, for example, these things are patience and endurance.

Where I learned them:

Patience I've learned (and am learning) everywhere. At work, at home. From my husband. From my family. From life in general. As I've become more patient I've also become a better writer, because let's face it. Good writing rarely happens overnight. A good book rarely happens in one draft. You have to stick with it for a long time.

Impatient people who can't stick with a project may never even finish it.

Endurance is similar, but I like to think of patience as passive and endurance as active. Patience keeps me from throwing my laptop across the room in frustration, and endurance keeps me opening up that word document every morning to write. I learned endurance when I finished my college degree long-distance. I learned it from my mental disorder. I learned (and am learning) it from working part-time, frustrating, menial jobs.

You know, life.

So these life skills aren't writing related per se, but trust me, without them I probably wouldn't be writing today. If I hadn't become a more patient person, I certainly wouldn't have multiple completed novels and short stories under my belt. Heck, I probably wouldn't be writing at all. Before doing college long distance, I didn't have a lot of endurance unless someone was nagging me to do stuff all the time. And I probably wouldn't have learned to stick with a novel for months at a time without that experience, either.

I like to think about stuff like this because it helps me when I am at work, not doing anything writing-related, and I'm feeling frustrated that I'm wasting time and not improving myself. Wait a second, I tell myself. I am becoming a better writer. Right here, right now while I deal with another hyperactive child for the tenth time in the last ten minutes.

And this encourages me, because sometimes I fall victim to the whole feel-guilty-if-I'm-not-writing-every-second mentality. Because I have GOALS. And I have TIME CONSTRAINTS. And other stressful things.

I'm still learning about the process and improving myself, even when I'm not typing on my laptop or reading a book about craft.

What non-writing skills have helped you be a better writer?


  1. I love this post. I like the idea that patience is passive and endurance is active.

    But I have no idea what non-writing thing has helped me! Except learning how to be self-assured, I guess, which comes with dealing with crap.

  2. Hey, I think being self-assured really does help. Because if you have massive issues with confidence, you might never pursue your full potential. Or ever query at all, or go to conferences, or do all the other things we hopefuls have to do to get noticed.

  3. Hi there! Just popped by to help you to 50. Came just in time it seems. ;-P

    You have a good way of looking at it. I think that we learn characterization by getting to know people and how they think. We learn to write emotions by living them.

    The lessons are endless.


  4. Amazingly - TV is a great tool to be a better writer as well. Beginning, middle, and end...all in 60 minutes. Show the important, necessary steps to get from point A to point B to point C and skip all the stuff that doesn't matter. There is much to learn from "being lazy on the couch" =D

  5. @Heather ~ I agree! When people say TV is just a waste of time I explain that it helps me write. I learn a lot by studying different storytelling art forms and how they are plotted and executed.

  6. @Jaimie ~ I've never done voice memos, but I have sent myself text messages before. Reading definitely improves writing, even if it's just through observing what NOT to do. :-)


Have something to say? Leave a comment!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...