How to Become a Better Writer: Advice from a Writer

Student Life

There it is again. You're staring at a blank Word Document, thoughts flying away faster than money at a Vegas table.

You're academic paper is catching dust in a color-coded folder marked as “Work” or “School” or something else vaguely unspecific, buried under another set of color-coded folders, just so your failure wouldn't stare at you every time you fire up that laptop.

The good news is, your tumor’s name is Writer’s Block, it is benign and perfectly curable by a simple surgical procedure called Reading. And because the nature of this self-help article is general, as a writer, a published author, and a college student, I will be offering a large spectrum of advice that will hopefully speak to as wide of an audience as possible.

Buckle up, artists. Next stop, 42nd and Success Street.

1. Find Yourself A fresh set of eyes

Calm down, this is not The Mummy: The Return, I don't mean it literally.

Sometimes, it may seem to you that becoming a better writer is an exercise in futility but usually, it is the little tweaks that make the biggest difference. Authors who work with professional editors have a higher success rate of their work checking all the boxes of excellence.

However, it can also tighten your finances.

A much more affordable option is to simply treat editors as if you would treat a professional reviewer to relieve yourself the pain that comes with being in a place where having an editor check your work is not on the table. Meaning, having the approval of someone from the biz is a valuable notch on a writer’s bed, but it is the audience who holds the true power.

Think about all the movies and TV series that critics hate but audiences love. (Just the thought that someone is getting paid to write Riverdale’s lines makes me want to drown myself in a sink, yet the show has been renewed for the sixth season by the miracle of Jesus Christ himself.)

You can approach this from two angles — One, to strengthen your confidence, you can use Medium, a free platform to publish articles, and share it on your social media. Or, you could also begin micro-blogging, which is a tool closely tied with using social media to get a point across about your passions.

Basically, you snap a pic of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, post it online, and write a mini-article on the dangers of artificial flavoring under the post.

Two, if you are not there yet with sharing a piece of your soul online, don't forget that every one of us has a personal audience in our pockets. Mums, uncles, nieces, cousins, best friends, high school English teachers — these people are equipped with knowledge about who you are as a person, and most of the time are willing to take it easy on you to build you up.

My advice is not to indulge in going easy on yourself for too long but when you're in a baby step phase of writing, it does work wonders to have someone close to you give you a thumbs up.

2. Crack them Books Open

Inspiration is a high-flying disk, and as long as you're congruent with your writing passion, it will let you jump on it anytime.

Let me be clear, inspiration can strike in a middle of a cooking lesson, or during a slide down the ski slopes of Colorado. But there is a lesser known fact about inspiration that is rarely talked about in the artists´ community — it will come faster and more lined up with your goals if you go looking for it. And what better way for a writer to seek inspiration, than by reading.

A secret ingredient: Play the Opposite Day Game.

If you're writing a paper on Quantum Physics, go read a young adult novel. If you have a deadline for delivering an article about women’s suffragette movement, ask a librarian to recommend a Thomas Edison biography. The key is to trick your brain into thinking it doesn't need to be thinking about the thing it keeps thinking.

Moreover, you might discover a funny anecdote from Thomas Edison’s life that will make for a killer metaphor in your suffragette article. We are all connected, and keeping your mind open about learning outside your field of expertise will broaden your views on the world, and make you a better writer.

Don't forget that to create compelling stories, you need to know people from all backgrounds to write in an empathetic way that will tie you to your readers and connect them with your art.

3. Practice makes (almost) perfect

If you have a TOP SECRET guilty pleasure such as reading fan-fictions on AO3, and during sleepless nights you're thinking: Man, I would have wrapped up that season 5 Glee storyline better, think no further, do it.

Nothing that is somehow, even in the tiniest of shreds linked to your desired writing profession, is a waste of time.

  1. It pumps up those endorphins up, which means — the greater state of happiness, the more fun you have with your writing — the more nuanced your work gets.
  2. Anonymity offers a security blanket, which you will need at first to start a serious blog later for a digital portfolio platform.

So don't be afraid to venture out into the world of botched scripts and nonsense character arcs, it will train you to watch for plot holes and grammatical mishaps.

You can afford to mess up with no heavy heart, that is the most valuable commodity of art — the subjectivity of an opinion on it. And when you start feeling bad about your writing, just think back on Riverdale, and you'll instantly feel much better. Boy, do I hate that show.

Happy Writing!

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Zara Miller

Zara Miller is a writer, blogger, and the author of the Young Adult novel "I am Cecilia" published under the auspices of the New Degree Press Publishing. She studied diplomacy at Middlesex University London where she started developing her artistic talents. She is a vivacious blogger, book reviewer, and a social media enthusiast. She loves musical theatre, historical anecdotes and her greatest inspiration for writing comes from her family.