No matter what your level of skill or experience, as a writer you need to practice.
It’s that simple.
Practice keeps you sharp. It can help improve your flow and technique. It can help you learn something new. At least, that’s the idea.
But just banging out words in the same old (and sometimes tired) way isn’t the best approach. Instead, you need to focus on deliberate practice.
But how do you do that? Let me share something that’s worked for me.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time practicing, and you don’t need to write something long. But you need to practice regularly.
Back when I was a student, I’d write one essay per day, five days a week, over the summer holidays. That would be in between my regular summer job and whatever freelance work I was undertaking.
The essays ranged in length from 250 to 750 words and focused on topics that either interested me or were plucked from the headlines of the week.
Those essays didn’t always turn out well but that practice sharpened my writing. And it forced me to learn the discipline of sitting in front of my typewriter (yes, it was that long ago!) and writing, even when I wasn’t in the mood.
The technology doesn’t matter. You can set up a blog if you feel the need to work in public. Or you can use a word processor or a text editor. But you need to:
Then, sit in front of the keyboard and write.
Remember the story from my student years? Well, I made the mistake of telling someone about what I was doing. They chided me for (in their words) wasting my time and effort. I’d be better off, that person said, writing one good, longer piece instead of several shorter and (in their words) not-so-good pieces.
They just didn’t get it.
You’ll probably run into that attitude, too. From friends and family. From other writers. From yourself.
Sure, you could use your practice time to do paid work. But the kind of practice I’m advocating is an investment in your career.
You might not end up with anything that you can immediately sell or publish, but who knows? Your efforts could create enough content to build a blog or to bundle into an ebook.
Regardless, it’s worth spending time to deliberately practice your writing. Professionals in other fields practice to improve what they do, so why shouldn’t you?
Photo credit: lumix2004