How I Taught Myself to Write Better and You Can, too.
Due to failing grades and a seemingly total disregard for my own education, I was pulled out of school during the middle of 10th grade, never to return to high school.
It was one of the most embarrassing, disappointing times of my life. You are reading this today because of that experience and what followed.
I was a dreamer. I couldn’t help it.
What hurt me in school was that I could not pay attention and I was constantly lost in my daydreams. How I made it to tenth grade is beyond me.
My school days may have been over, but my dreams weren’t and perhaps ironically, my most constant dream was to become a writer. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. But then who knows why they are driven to do what they are passionate about?
Indeed, I always had a passion for writing and deep inside I wanted to learn how to do it better. But I simply could not learn in school, the classes were not engaging enough for me.
For quite a while after being pulled out of school it was difficult for me to socialize. I was embarrassed, ashamed and overall, I felt worthless. It was a very difficult time and I spent most of that time alone in my room.
In the confines of my four walls I spent my time writing short stories about all those daydreams I had and when I wasn’t writing I was reading fantastical stories by great authors, such as Stephen King and Anne Rice (seriously).
I taught myself how to write in that room, but not just write in the sense of putting words on the page. I learned how to engage, excite and move the reader. And thanks to Stephin King and Anne Rice, I even learned how to write some wicked scary stories that scared my little sister and her friends! That was fun and interestingly also helped me come back out of my shell a little.
I didn’t learn how to do those things on purpose, though. But fortunately by looking back on those years it is easy for me to see how I did it and continue to.
I read constantly. It may seem obvious that reading is necessary to become a good writer, but a lot of people don’t understand why it is necessary. It’s about osmosis. Osmosis is a way of learning without realizing you are actually learning.
Writers who write a lot also read a lot and whether they realize it or not, they are absorbing writing lessons through osmosis while they read.
Have you ever explained something you know by stating “I don’t know why I know, I just know.”? You may have experienced osmosis, now you can do it on purpose for your writing simply by reading more.
Stephen King hit the nail on the head with:
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
― Stephen King
Read books about writing.
Reading books about writing has helped me write better.
I am not talking about boring text books. I’m talking about engaging books, the only type of books I can learn from.
Such books as:
On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
How To Write A Sentence by Stanley Fish
Here are a few other books I have found helpful:
English Grammar for Dummies by Geraldine Woods
Idiot’s Guide to Writing Well by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.
Write On! by Dan Mulvey, M.A.
100 Ways To Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost
You can never read too much and my personal advice is to read the very best writers, especially the authors who touch, engage and excite you.
It is those writers who you have the most to learn from.
That’s write (I mean, right), you absolutely must write. Every Day. That’s what I do.
The mind must practice the lessons it learns, otherwise how else will the subconscious mind teach the conscious mind?
It’s a good idea to come up with a daily routine that sets aside at least 1 to 2 hours to write. It can be gibberish, as long as your fingers are typing away. I am often surprised at how I start clueless and end up with something interesting.
It doesn’t matter how many books, blog posts or magazine articles you and I write, we can always learn more. I had too much difficulty learning the traditional way in a classroom, but thankfully online there are courses where we can sign-up and learn in a more interactive, and do-it-at-your-own-pace, way.
That’s the way I learn best.
One such course is by Jeff Goins, called Tribe Writers. I’m currently signed up, learning and I am becoming a better writer for it. (The course is currently closed, but Jeff plans on reopening for new members sometime in the near future. Subscribe and I’ll let you know when he does!)
The key for me has been my passion for writing.
When you have a passion for something, I don’t care what it is, you can, and will, learn. Your passion will compel you to learn, to do things you may have thought were impossible. Perhaps become a published author!
Embrace your passion.
Passion is the genesis of genius.
― Galileo Galilei
One final note:
We all suffer disappointments and setbacks, but it is what we do next that matters most. (Click here to tweet that, if you like.)
What has helped you become better at what you do? Share in the comments.
PS: There’s more for me to share about how I learned to write, so subscribe and stay tuned.