Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

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.

Creative Commons by Î’ethan

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.

Actually write!

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.

Tribe Writers

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.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Great post, Bryan!  You are a writer!  Appreciate you sharing about how negatives cab turn into positives.

  • doug

    great post!  I love to write, and to read too.  I was blessed that I didn’t daydream in school, i read library book that i hid behind the textbook. 
    one challenge is to be more selective about what i read and not waste my time on stuff that is not useful  – i read the labels on ketchup bottles!  my strategy is to realize that i am not a good writer – as ann lamott says, my first draft is always crap.  – also my second and third.  i am blessed with many friends and family who are willing to read the crap and give me good feedback.  my book took 27 drafts.
    thank you bryan for all your contributions.

  • Thanks for telling your story. I get you Bryan.

    School is the place where I learned to exercise my mind powers, not the learning ones tho, no, I used my powers to turn the hands of the clock to 3:15pm. And I mastered the thing every day. Impressive, I know.

  • Scott

    You ask: What has helped you become better at what you do?The first thing that came to mind was “Act as if.” I read that in a book when I was young and it stuck. If you want to be an athlete, train like you are an athlete, eat like you are an athlete, etc. If you want to be whatever, act as if you already are. Live your life the way that person who is whatever lives their life. Then the osmosis starts and one day you turn around and wonder how it happened.Thanks for this blog!

    • Totally agree, Scott! Get in the mindset to be whatever you want to be.

  • love it!

  • Great commentary on turning something difficult into a thing of beauty. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be back

  • Positively Alene

    Great post. So much I could totally relate to. I too well remember all those red marks on English papers and getting over the fear of writing and sharing with others has been a journey. Luckily I found Jeff and he has encouraged and stretched me farther than I could imagine. 

    I just finished an eBook – that was when I determined to act like a writer.
    Today – I asked for a Launch Team on my blog. 

    Thanks for the encouragement today!!!

    • You’re welcome, Alene! I look forward to reading your eBook!

  • I liked your comments about the need to read in order to be a good writer.   “…a lot of people don’t understand why it is necessary. It’s about osmosis.”  I’ve often thought this myself, and not just in terms of reading non-fiction books.  I apply the same test when I read a good novel.  What is it about this author that I like?  What did they do well? Not so well?

    A good idea also is to join a book discussion group.  Listening to other people say what they look and don’t like about a book/author can be very informative.

    • Thanks, Lori! Yes, a book discussion group is also helpful. The only drawback is that sometimes there can be too many opinions and tastes in a group, and that can be sometimes good and sometimes bad. Based on my experience I like to share with only a handful of people who I have come to feel comfortable with.

  • I love your story.  Mine is perhaps the opposite.  I did well in school but got lost in academia which meant for most of my life I gave up the creative writing.  I’ve only recently recovered the dream and I’m making up for lost time.  See… in a way you were the lucky one.

    • Hi Lynee, interestingly, I’ve learned that life works in mysterious ways and sometimes when we finally do something it’s because that’s the time to do it and nothing before it was wasted. Everything happens for a reason, even in the timing. Actually, I am writing about that at the moment, so your comment is quite timely 🙂

  • Kitty Redfern

    I love that you talk – I mean write – about Joan so positively (and ) often! 

  • Yet another cool piece, Bryan.
    I’m also a writer. Being better at it.

  • Daphne

    Loved this post. I get so much out of everything you share. This post encouraged me on so many different levels, even as a parent of a child who didn’t excel in a regular school environment d/t ADHD (we now home-school/un-school). It’s wonderful that you don’t hold back and share these things. As writers, we never know what “testimony” in our lives can have a major impact on someone or even when he/she is having a bad day and needs to know that someone else rose above major obstacles in their lives. Helps us keep hope alive. Helps us not give up. Sharing is caring! Thank you!

  • Another fantastic post! Great blog – still haven’t read it all but thank you for those posts, advice and encouragement for us/me the writers/writers to be 🙂