Writing, just like everything else in life, is a practice. You’re not born a “good” writer or a “bad” writer. No one starts out writing brilliant works of art as soon as they pick up a pen. Writing well requires practice and purpose — even cross-training. Your favorite athlete or musician did not get to where they are now without taking the time to put in the work necessary to perfect their craft, and the funny thing about perfection is that it doesn’t exist. An athlete or musician may play well, but that doesn’t mean that they ever play perfectly, so let’s take that pressure off right now. Aim to write well, don’t aim to craft the perfect piece of writing.
There are some things that you can do to greatly improve your writing skills; keep in mind that all of this takes time and won’t make you a completely different writer overnight. In fact, the goal here is not to make you a different writer — it is to improve the writer that you already are.
1. Write – I’m putting this one first because it is absolutely the single most important thing you can do to improve your writing. There is no substitute for actually sitting down (or standing if your prefer) and writing. Thinking and talking about writing cannot replace actually writing, though neither one of those things hurt. Write about everything because it really doesn’t matter what you write, just that you do it. Don’t worry about well when you’re practicing, the main thing is to write often. Remember that tweeting, commenting on things, and updating Facebook statuses count as writing.
2. Read — This is where cross-training comes in: reading will ultimately make you a better writer. This follows the same idea that listening to a lot of music makes you a better musician; reading and working with other people’s writing will help you figure out how phrase things, create transitions, capture an audience, and so much more. With the technology available today, you have so much access to reading material, and you should take advantage of it.
Tip: As you read, consider writing about what you’re reading. Take a moment every couple of pages, or chapters, to write down your thoughts. This will not only give you writing and reading practice, but will also help you remember what you’ve read, and could even give you fodder for class discussion and/or future essays. It’s a win all around!