12 Essential Writing Habits for Strengthening Your Skills
Great writing requires an extensive skill set. You have to understand language, syntax, and context. A firm grasp on grammar is essential. Each piece of writing must be organized and its sentences well structured so it reads smoothly. A vast vocabulary, a talent for puns, and a knack for storytelling are all skills that will benefit any writer.
Sure, some people are born with a talent for word craft. But nobody’s born knowing how to write. We all have to work at building and growing our writing skills, and this is especially true for anyone who wants to have a career in writing.
Better writing is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long-term commitment, but the payoff is great. If you make a choice every day to improve your writing, then your work will get stronger, become more compelling, and you’ll drastically increase your chances of getting published and attracting a readership.
How to Develop Better Writing Habits
There’s no better way to consistently improve your work and knowledge of the craft than by adopting good writing habits. These habits will strengthen your writing through study, practice, observation, and self-reflection. Set a goal to acquire all of these writing habits over the course of one year. Then, adopt one habit each month. By the end of the year, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in all things writing.
- Read. Listening to audio books and surfing around the Internet do not count as reading. Curl up with a well written novel, brush up on your nonfiction reading, flip through some poetry collections. Reading is the single best way to naturally acquire writing skills.
- Write every day. My music teacher said that it’s better to practice for fifteen minutes every day than to practice for two hours three times a week. I think the same is true for writing. Even if you can only dedicate a few minutes to writing every day, it will become an ingrained habit. Writing will become an integral part of your life.
- Brush up on grammar and style. It’s rare for a piece of writing to be so amazing that readers are willing to ignore bad grammar. Many writers are lazy in this area because learning grammar is a lot of work and it’s academic work rather than creative work. The good news is that once you learn the rules, they will be with you forever. Make sure you know which style guides are pertinent to your chosen field of writing and make sure you include them in your own collection of writing resources.
- Cultivate creativity. Have fun with your writing. Fill it with color or scale it back to a minimalist style. Try new words and off-the-wall images. Creative writing keeps readers interested!
- Collect tools and resources. Find out which writing tools work best for you. Some of us like notebooks or note cards and fancy pens. Others need nothing more than a simple computer. Make sure you have a nice stockpile of writing resources, from blog and magazine subscriptions (on the craft of writing) to books and mentors you can call on when you’re faced with writing-related questions.
- Conduct thoughtful research. If you work in the nonfiction arena, then make sure you’ve got your facts straight. Even in fiction, there has to be some alignment with reality for a story to be believable. Resources are abundant. Use them (and be sure to check their credentials).
- Develop a process. Find a writing process that works for you. What steps do you need to complete to tackle a writing project? Maybe you need to start with an outline, or perhaps you do better when you just dive right in. You could have one process for fiction and another for nonfiction. Know yourself and know your process, whatever it may be.
- Proofread, edit, and revise. It’s blatantly obvious when a piece of writing has not been properly proofread. Typos, grammatical errors, and other crimes against language will assault anyone who attempts to read your work. So fix it.
- Share your work and invite feedback. One of the quickest ways to improve your writing is through feedback. Get a real, live, well-read person to review your work. Embrace the feedback, even if it hurts, and then put it to work for you by ironing out all the wrinkles that your friendly reader found. Return the favor: when you edit or critique another writer’s work, you’ll see a piece of writing from the editor’s angle as well as the reader’s. This will give you a better perspective on your own work.
- Make writing a priority. It will be almost impossible to succeed if writing isn’t high on your list of priorities and commitments. If writing is last on your daily to-do list, maybe it’s not something you’re all that serious about.
- Experiment with different forms. Every fiction writer can learn a thing or two from reading and writing a little poetry and vice versa. Nobody’s asking you to start rooting for a different team; just dip your toes in different waters so you know you’re swimming in the right body of water.
- Set goals and pursue them. Make a conscious commitment to strive for better writing every day.
Better Writing Isn’t For Everyone
Improving your writing is hard work. Adopting these writing habits might mean making major changes to your lifestyle. If you love to write, then the work will be fun at times. Other times, you’re just going to have to grin and bear it, knowing full well that the ends make the means completely worthwhile.
What separates a hobby from a lifestyle or a career is that we have made a serious commitment to follow our passion, even if there’s a lot of hard work involved.
Some people are perfectly content with being mediocre, and that’s fine too. But if you want to shine, to be the best writer you can possibly be, then commit yourself to these writing habits.
How many of these writing habits do you practice regularly? What have you done to produce better writing? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences by leaving a comment.