Want to become a better runner? Run more. Run hills, trails, and distance. It isn’t a complicated formula—when we want to improve, we must practice. Repeated throughout our childhood, we know well the mantra that “Practice makes perfect.” The problem is we learn too soon that perfection doesn’t exist, causing many of us to reduce our efforts or abandon them completely.
As a writer, how often have you imagined the perfect story, a flawless blend of nuance and subtext creating the backdrop for textured, multidimensional characters? How many times did you envision the expression of this story beautifully written in effortless prose? And, how often did the reality of your execution damage the vision?
Because our mental image doesn’t match our capability to carry out our dreams of perfection, we often feel discouraged and stunted. These feelings can cause us to quit our craft or, at a minimum, reduce our involvement. Assuming that our expectations will never be met, we stop trying. We can only successfully reach our potential, however, with consistent effort.
Yes, “Practice doesn’t make perfect” but only practice will bring us closer.
Just as a person must run to become a better runner, a writer must write to become a better writer. However, it isn’t just the mere performance of the activity that garners improvement; rather, the practice of honing one’s craft involves various components.
It’s true that if you run every day, you’ll tone your muscles and improve your cardiovascular health, becoming a better runner than you were. But if you want to become more than just a better runner, if you want to be a good runner then you must approach it strategically.
How? By seeking the wisdom of seasoned runners, doing your research, and cross-training. Although counterintuitve, swimming, biking, and lifting weights is the best means of improving your running. The stronger the opposing muscles, the stronger you are overall, which in turn makes you a more competitive runner. This concept is applicable to writing.
You can write every day, which will improve your ability. However, exceeding mere improvement to become a good, perhaps even great, writer takes cross training. Does that mean you start solving complicated algebraic formulas? No, but there is training regimen and it’s as follows:
- Observe the great writers—read, analyze, and absorb their work
- Research, understand, and know your audience
- Learn about and listen to your own voice
- Write in form with which you are uncomfortable
- If you write short stories, write poetry. If you write novels, write journalistic news pieces.
- Write with purpose and, above all, passion
The Internet is your gym. There are lots of sites seeking various writing styles from news articles to satirical commentary to poetry. You don’t need to submit your work just as a runner doesn’t need to enter a bike race. Rather you must simply ride the bike or, in this case, write stylistically different content.
It’s the experience that’s imperative. Learning the lyrical nature of poetry could translate into more beautiful prose for your work of fiction. Practicing the brevity and recording of facts for a news piece can bring a succinct believable element to your short story.
Becoming a better writer comes with practice but to become a good—perhaps great—writer, you must cross train. So pick up those dumbbells, er, books and get to work!
Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.