5 Essential Tips to Become a Better Writer
The 5 golden tips that always make me want to excel as a writer
I remember when I first held a pen and started scribbling words on a piece of paper.
I was nine and had just finished one of the Harry Potter books. Somehow, at the time, holding a pen and trying to produce my own stories seemed like the natural thing to do. From that moment onwards, writing has been a one of a kind blessing. No matter how I was feeling, taking out my notebook and seeing the words dance on its pages was bound to make me feel better.
Soon enough, the habit turned into a fiery passion. For the longest time, I couldn’t spend a day without writing. I loved writing fiction, making up characters, trying out different scenarios, and just being able to create bright new worlds. Writing has then become my safe refuge, my own little bubble in which everything was permitted and nothing was wrong. Here are some of the few things I learned throughout the years when it comes to becoming a better writer.
1. Get inspired by life
There is no better inspiration than a little boring human life. I am not kidding! Almost all writers, in some way or the other, are heavily fascinated by the little things in life. The way people talk, how they move, and what they like. The words they use, how they play with their hands, and what they can only express with a gesture.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, human life and human behavior are two very important factors for the creative process. Not only do they give you new material to delve into, but they also serve as an anchor linking your writing to your reality.
One habit I’ve had to constantly practice is taking descriptive notes about my environment. If a sentence someone said catches my attention, I write it down; if a whole interaction takes place in front of me and I think it can maybe be tweaked for one of my texts, I write it down; even the way people act and react is written down in my notes for me to actually give my writings a realistic edge.
It is easy to think that real-life-inspirations only manifest in fiction. That is wrong! In fact, even the words I am writing right now stem from personal experiences, from things I lived and felt and thus could easily translate into text. Whenever I am writing, whatever I am writing, my subconscious keeps linking it to the events I have lived during the day. It is through this tacit inspiration that I know my writings have an added value because there is no better teacher than life.
2. Write when you don’t feel like it
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with stress and anxiety from not writing when I should be. Many nights, I found myself laying on my bed, wanting to write, but not finding the will to do it.
This doesn’t only concern writing, but really applies to anything else in life. When you want to do something but don’t feel like doing it, that’s when you’re actually supposed to give yourself that extra push and just do it.
The key to do this is, in my opinion, two main things. First, passion is necessary. Being passionate about what you do is what makes it feel effortless. Passion is usually “just there”, an innate inclination towards a certain field or activity. But it can also be developed through deep and serious introspection. It wasn’t until I started thinking very deeply about all the things I’ve gained from writing that I started considering it a passion of mine.
And second, consistency is important. Consistency is what breeds habit. When we do the same things over and over again, regularly, our brains are wired to crave them. Whenever I’m back from work to the safety of my room, a voice inside my head starts telling me it is time to write. Consistency isn’t easy, it demands a lot of time and effort. But it specifically demands a very strong will and a steady level of discipline. One advice I would give you is to keep rewarding yourself for being consistent, only you are responsible for maintaining it.
3. Control your ego
If there is one thing I had to learn the hard way, it is definitely how to not only accept, but crave criticism.
When I had just started writing, I used to share my works with some of my closest friends. Naturally, each and every one of them would have something to say about it. How they believed that one sentence could be taken down. Or how the idea I was trying to express was too vague and obscure. Or even how my use of fancy words usually breaks the tone of the text.
Nine times out of ten, I would thank them for their feedback and never act upon it. That’s because my ego always got in the way. In my mind, I knew what I was doing and I was the master of my craft, I wasn’t going to allow a bunch of “book amateurs” to criticize my work.
Little did I know that that kind of thing was what made my writing stagnate for a long time. When it hit me, change became inevitable. I had to transform the way I looked at criticism, find a way to benefit from it, and keep my ego in check.
I now view criticism as a means to advance and progress. There is no better way to become a better writer than to welcome feedback with open arms. This doesn’t mean you always have to follow what people say, or that any feedback is the right feedback. It simply means that you need to learn to accept, by then the filtering mechanism will have become natural.
4. Read more than you write
I don’t think I can ever stress this enough, but reading is of the utmost importance for any writer.
I am lucky because I’ve been an avid reader from a very young age. The first birthday gift that I can remember was a book from my mum, who was as much in love with books as I would soon become. Reading is how I actually got into writing. It is that need to produce amazing stories just like the ones which enchanted me that pushed me to write.
Conscious reading is even more important. Conscious reading is simply changing your intention about the whole act of going through a book. You shouldn’t only read for your own personal enjoyment, but also to learn and progress. Conscious reading is trying to figure out the writer based on their work, the words they use, and how they form their sentences, the ideas they are trying to share, and how they build their stories.
It might seem hard at first to truly get into reading. Over the years, I have given myself multiple excuses not to read; lack of time, lack of energy, fiction is useless, etc. It wasn’t until I started reading with the right intention that it all changed. Now, when I read, it’s to actually take something from the writer; either a new word they used, or an expression I fell in love with, or an idea they expressed beautifully. Everything is then compiled in a notebook I keep on my nightstand.
Throughout the years, my style was heavily influenced by the authors I was into. From the Moroccan Ben Jelloun to the German Kafka, or even the Russian Dostoevsky. My writing is the ingenious sum of all these great minds combined. Their torments lay in-between my lines and their joys in my words. Becoming a better writer means allowing yourself to be influenced by those who walked the path before you, let them teach you what no school could ever do.
5. Enjoy the creative process
This is by far the most useful tip anyone has ever given me. Again, this doesn’t only apply to writing but to anything else you want to do.
There needs to be a process around the act of creation. For some people, it might be taking a shower and making a cup of coffee before writing for hours. For others, it might be the sweet-scented lit candle laying around their room as they look for inspiration. No matter what is, a process needs to exist.
For the longest time, I’ve had the same playlist playing when writing, I’ve made my tea in the same exact way, and I always took at least fifteen minutes to read before sitting in front of my laptop. I find this process unleashes my creativity, makes me more responsive to my writing, and overall puts me in a state where I am welcoming to new ideas without judging them.
Finding your process will take time, trying different combinations to see what works and what doesn’t. No two processes are going be the same, and someone else’s process will not essentially work for you. So, it is important for you to find your own way of doing things, of going about your creative process. But most importantly, allow yourself to fully enjoy it.
Writing is not easy, but it is not difficult either. As an act of creation, it should be taken seriously and used responsibly. Moreover, everything about it should feel personal. Because it is personal. I might be biased, but I find no purest form of expression than writing. But, like anything else, it is a craft that can be lost. Sharpening it is very important, essential even. It is a never-ending path towards progress.