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.

I eventually went to college, but this is the story of what happened in-between — you know, when I thought all was lost and the world would end.

Dropping out 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 grade school was that I could not pay attention. 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?

It’s a calling.

Indeed, I always had a passion for writing and deep inside I wanted to learn how to write better. But I simply could not learn in the standard school type system, the classes were not engaging enough for me. I got bored easy. That it was later discovered I have ADD surprised me not at all.

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 eff’ing 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. I loved the scary stuff.

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 Stephen 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 it 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 how I continue to do it.

Reading

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 said it best:

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

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 (Well, of course.)

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

(All the links are Amazon affiliate links, click ’em and I become rich. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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.

Learn Your Way & Crush Doubt

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.

Find courses of interest to you and learn your way at your own pace.

If you’re human, you have doubts. You can join my course Writer’s Crushing Doubt here, if you’re of a mind. Or join The Writer’s Toolbox, which is a collection of all of my online courses.

Enroll at your own risk, you might actually learn something.

Learn what you can the way you can. (Click to Tweet)

Passion

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. To break free of the doubts that bind you! 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?


This was the very first post I published on positivewriter.com. It went viral and I still have no idea why. My best guess is that it’s honest.

Speaking of which, jump over to Positive Writer and download “The Writer’s Manifesto.” It’s kicking ass and taking names. It’s also free.