Undoubtedly, the best way to become a better writer is to write more and to keep writing, even when you’re not happy with your first, second, or third draft. However, when you’ve retyped the same sentence ten times and you’re overworked, it’s time to change course for a little while. It’s time to step away from writing so you can come back to your craft later with renewed and focused energy.
It’s also easy to procrastinate and get into a rut (also known as “writer’s block”) sometimes. So, it can be just as important to establish routines around the times you write, and follow a regular writing schedule to keep writing as often as possible. This will prove helpful when the words don’t seem to flow very well on a particular day.
The truth is, some of the best things you can do to become a better writer don’t require you to write anything at all. Here are just a few things you can do to become a better writer, without writing a single word.
1. Read More
This is by far the most important item on the list. The best writers are the best readers. If you don’t read often, you won’t become a better writer. Period.
Famous authors on the importance of reading.
“For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.” –Eudora Welty
“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”- William Faulkner
“Writers need to read. A lot. Magazines. Books. Periodicals. And so on. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words. As they read, they should jot down ideas and capture thoughts as they come.
Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words.
As a writer, you’ll find yourself hitting plateaus and roadblocks when you aren’t reading. You’ll run out of words if you’re not regularly being challenged through books and other material.
This is an important step to becoming a good writer.” –Jeff Goins
Major benefits to reading.
- Your sense of creativity is greatly improved.
- Research shows that reading fiction can make you more empathetic. If you’re more empathetic, you have a better chance of understanding and addressing your audience’s pain points and concerns in your own writing.
- Reading more allows you to discover your own unique voice and perfect the techniques you want to exhibit in your own writing.
- When you read, you become smarter on both an intellectual and emotional level. As you encounter new information and new walks of life, you expand your horizons and perspective of the world.
- Reading relieves stress. A study conducted by the University of Sussex revealed that reading for six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68% (source).
2. Implement a Pre-Writing Ritual
This is the second most important thing you can do if you’re serious about becoming a better and more focused writer.
Famous authors have had some pretty bizarre writing rituals. For instance, did you know that Maya Angelou checked into a hotel room when she wanted to get some writing done, and Victor Hugo used to write nude? While those rituals are a bit eccentric, having a pre-writing ritual is important to establishing a routine, something that your subconscious will remember. Even if all you do is stretch your arms for five minutes, it signifies what comes next after you stretch—writing.
Benefits to maintaining a pre-writing ritual.
- Prevents writer’s block because you have a consistent routine. So even if you dislike everything you’re writing, you’ll still at least be completing the act of writing.
- Endorses your aims to sit down and get some work done, consciously and subconsciously.
- Cultivates your authentic self; your ritual is strictly for you so it can be as weird or eccentric as you need it to be.
- Reduces stress; the ritual helps you start writing each time, and you’ll focus more on the act of writing itself and less on trying to write without making any errors.
- Builds discipline; a writing ritual is part of a work routine that’s similar to how athletes maintain a training regimen.
3. Keep a Folder of Photos
We live in a very visual world. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, need some inspiration, or simply want to take a break from writing, then you can collect photos and images and keep them in a folder. You can keep your collection of images on social media too, on sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
The Internet can be a beautiful place for writers seeking inspiration. A photo can instigate some great discussion, creative outlets, and new ideas. There are also plenty of inspirational quotes to inspire you to keep writing.
4. Meet with an Accountability Partner
If you truly want to stay on task with your writing goals, then ask a fellow writer or colleague you trust to occasionally meet with you. Have bi-weekly meetings where you ask each other about projects you’re currently working on, the struggles you’re facing, what you’re excited about, etc. You won’t feel so isolated anymore (especially if you’re a contractor or freelancer), and it’s a great way to learn more about yourself and what others in your industry are doing. You’ll also be able to receive feedback on your writing and will learn a few tricks and tips another person has that you can try. Additionally, procrastination won’t be as prominent since you’ll want to have something to talk about during your meetings.
5. Walk in Nature and Exercise
One of the best ways to take a break from writing is to take a stroll in nature. It will relieve stress and allow you to get some exercise too. Studies show that walking in nature rewires the brain and improves your mental health (source). And when you’re more centered, focused, and less stressed, you’ll write better and faster.
City residents have a much higher risk for anxiety and depression because of their environments. If you live in a city and need a break from writing, one of the best things you can do is take a walk in your local park.
Another great way to reduce stress is to exercise. Endorphins that promote happy feelings are released in your brain every time you exercise. Blood and oxygen flow more efficiently to your brain too. And when your brain is performing more optimally, you’ll be able to articulate better thoughts and work much more efficiently.
6. Paint, Draw, Play an Instrument, or Dance
If you want to expand your creative horizons, pick up a paintbrush. To reiterate, human beings are very visual, especially in the age of the Internet. If you’re ever struggling with writing something, try drawing about what you’re envisioning instead, or painting it.
Research shows that playing an instrument makes you smarter and improves your cognitive skills (source). It’s also just fun to do. And when you dance, you’re exercising and releasing endorphins, listening to and processing music, and you’re relieving stress. Like playing an instrument, it’s also just fun to do.
7. Travel and People Watch
Every time you travel and encounter new cultures, you’re expanding your capacity to understand different walks of life and perspectives. This will only enrich your writing because you won’t have a narrow or overly-biased perspective about whatever it is you’re writing.
No, you shouldn’t get out your binoculars and spy on others, or anything else that’s creepy or inappropriate. People watching is just about being aware of the people who are surrounding you (usually in a crowded place, such as a mall or coffee shop) and observing their language and behaviors. Next time you’re working at a coffee shop or waiting in line at a store, take notice of what others are doing and saying. For instance, while you’re in a coffee shop, you’ll notice how people interact with the cashier, or you might hear the nuances of a business meeting. This could help you write better marketing material (especially if you’re surrounded by your target audience).
8. Carve Out Time for Reflection
Each day, take five or ten minutes to think about things you’ve written, what you’re working on, and how you’re feeling about it. This is a form of meditation, but a little bit different since you should deliberately only think about what you’re currently writing. Instead of trying to clear your mind entirely, think about how you can better focus your energy as you’re working on your current writing project.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a copywriting project for a client that’s really stressing you out. During your reflection time, you can figure out exactly what it is about the project that’s stressing you out. Is it because you need more research? Is your copy coming across as too hokey? Is it because the timelines for the project are too tight? Is it because you need a more creative outlet?
When you allow yourself to think about how you operate best as a writer on a consistent basis, you’ll come to learn more about what you need to do to operate at your best, and will discover what you need to practice. Not all writers are the same, and that’s okay. In fact, having different types of writers with different voices and perspectives is precisely what makes reading so enjoyable.
You need to discover what allows you to continue to perfect your craft and produce the best work possible, on your own terms. If you must be like Maya Angelou and check into a hotel room to get your best writing done, so be it. If you write better in a crowded coffee shop, then you need to know that and act on it so you don’t waste valuable time or get frustrated when you aren’t seeing the results in your writing that you want to see.
What would you add to this list? What do you do that makes you a better writer? Let us know in the comments below!
Please like and share this post if you like it so others can read it too. Thanks!