Writing Tips For Staying on Your Game

writing tips

Stay on your game with these writing tips.

Believe it or not, there are a few writing tips that we writers can steal from athletes, strategies that show us how to stay in shape and on top of our game.

Athletes work hard even when they’re off the field. They spend hours practicing with their teams. They run miles around the track when nobody else is around. They swim the laps, dunk the balls, and sweep their rackets. They do all this, so when it’s time to play, they’ll steal the show and take home the trophy.

We all went to elementary school, where we learned our ABCs and how to diagram a sentence. In high school, we read the classics and wrote the essays. Now we’ve been let loose on the field. We pen articles, compose poetry, and peck away at novels.

So how do we stay in shape when we’re not dribbling all over the court?

Writing Tips for Good Fitness

Most writing tips address creativity and productivity, but these tips are all about staying fit. After all, fitness isn’t just for athletes. All professionals need to keep their skills toned and eyes on the ball.

  • Work out: As a writer, you need to give your language center a good workout every now and then. Read a book or brush up on the rules of grammar. Challenge yourself with a crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble.
  • Gather your equipment: Find good, solid resources that you can use to stay on top of your game. Find a blog or a book, a podcast or a video series. Look for resources and sources of inspiration that will help you build up your weaknesses and maximize your strengths as a writer.
  • Do your exercises: If you want to write but don’t know what to write about, then try some writing exercises or prompts. These are also ideal for building your skills and toning underused muscles. In other words, if you’re a fiction writer, do some poetry exercises. If you’re a poet, try some storytelling prompts.
  • Show up for practice: Write every day. If you don’t write as part of your job, then set aside ten to twenty minutes for daily writing practice in your journal. Even if you can’t work on your larger projects, you should still write something, anything, every day.
  • Game plan: Don’t haphazardly write whenever the fancy strikes you. Think about what you want to write, then develop a game plan: a five- or ten-year strategy to achieve your writing career goals.
  • Eyes on the ball: Once you’ve set your goals, revisit them annually, monthly, or better yet, weekly.
  • Win the match: Every time you reach a milestone, reward yourself with a trophy. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Was that your 100th rejection? Treat yourself to an ice cream cone. Did you just land your first byline? Get a massage. Book deal? Take a vacation.

Those of you who have been visiting Writing Forward for a while know that I am a big advocate for working hard and continuously growing as a writer. The sooner you start working your writer’s muscles, the sooner you’ll be in tip-top shape and on top of your game. Why not start now?

Keep writing!

Do you have any writing tips to share? Leave a comment!

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


20 Responses to “Writing Tips For Staying on Your Game”

  1. Writer Dad says:

    You are so right. Writing, at times, should be no different than sit-ups. Part of our must dos. I’ve been thinking about reading King’s, “On Writing” again. It’s the book that finally got me to start writing last year. I think I will for sure now. Thanks.

    • Chris says:

      Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ got me all fired up to write more too. It’s a brilliantly inspirational book. Another one I’m reading is ‘Wired For Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence ‘ by Lisa Cron. Packed with information it’s also very inspiring. I’d definitely recommend both books.

      • They are both excellent books. Wired for Story totally changed my perspective on fiction writing. I have reviewed both of these books here on Writing Forward. You can find more reviews and recommendations on the Resources page.

  2. Zoe says:

    What you point out is so important — just because we are working every day as writers doesn’t mean we are beyond studying (and putting in practice time).

    I am about to order “Alone with All That Could Happen” by David Jauss… after reading an excerpt, I’m excited to absorb the whole thing.

    I also came across a great online resource for articles on writing:

  3. Michele says:

    Well, one of the first awesome resources for writers that comes to my mind is Writing Forward, Melissa! 😉

    You’re so right, though. We can always squeeze in a little study time here or there. Thanks for reminding us!


  4. @Writer Dad: On Writing has been on my wish list for over a year now. I really need to buy it ASAP. I know a lot of writers recommend it.

    @Zoe: Yep, it’s easy to become complacent and forget to keep working to master our craft. I’m a big fan of podcasts for that — I guess because I spend so much time reading and writing that it’s nice to kick back and just listen.

    @Michele: Aw, thanks. It’s true: Grammar Girl episodes are just a few minutes — surely we could squeeze in that much time every few days…

  5. Amy Derby says:

    So true, Melissa, and excellent advice. I’m pretty sure I spend more time trying to learn than actually writing. LOL

  6. Sharpening the sword…so vital to any area of expertise or passion.
    This sounds really lame, compared to your readers who are real experts in the field, but to be honest I really use http://thesaurus.reference.com/ when my thoughts seem blocked and I need to get the fresh juice flowing… I go there and play with words.

  7. t.sterling says:

    On the poetic side, I find disecting some of my favorite songs very helpful. A majority of the most recent poems I wrote were inspired by songs, listening to the stories they tell or being inspired by the word play. Usually the word play is strong in hip hop songs, and I’m very picky with rap music. But listening to The Roots for hours will make me want to sit down and fill up a paper with lines of carefully place phrases that make you feel something while also rhyming at the same time (even though it’s not necessary in poetry, but rapping, it’s kinda required).

    My other personal exercise is learning new words. I may never use them, but at least I know they’ll be there. freerice.com has been good for new words to learn.

  8. @Amy: Thanks! Sometimes I feel like I spend more time learning than writing too.

    @Harmony: I should have mentioned reference.com in this post because I use that site all the time for dictionary and thesaurus. I actually like the m-w.com dictionary better because it’s more elaborate, but the thesaurus sure is convenient!

    @t.sterling: Hip hop has influenced quite a bit of my poetry because it has such excellent word play and creative intonation. I would attribute music to my early interest in writing because I was mostly influenced by songs, and in fact, most of my early poems were actually meant to be song lyrics.

  9. t. sterling says:

    I never enjoyed editing my own writing, but ’tis necessary. I don’t mind proof-reading other written works as long as I’m not the one who wrote it, but as far as grammar goes… I’m not an expert, I just read out loud to hear if it sounds correct. I took enough English classes in high school and college that I shouldn’t make too many grammatical mistakes, but sometimes I just don’t care. And then spelling I double check dictionary.com. I can tell when I’m tired when I’m looking up words like “bread” or “theory”, frowning at the screen in disbelief that the word is actually spelled the way it is. Or I’ll completely skip the most important [word] in the sentence.

  10. Deb says:

    Sometimes I prefer off-line as in a print tutorial. While its audience is high school senior and college freshman I still find English 3200 pretty useful (and I can carry it with me).

    I used to subscribe to Daily Writing Tips but to be honest most days it bored me to tears. Maybe it’s a matter of style?


  11. Karen Swim says:

    Melissa, I’m such a dork. I read this post the other day, nodded my head, clicked the links, followed people on Twitter but um forgot to thank you! Please forgive me! Great tips (as always)! I agree with you about staying on top of our game. A basketball player practices free throws and shooting even though it’s their job and they do it better than any non-athlete. Writers must stretch themselves to stay fresh but also practice the basics. I still love reading the dictionary, it’s interesting how sometimes a familiar word suddenly becomes fresh when you read the definition. I like Writers Digest for their writing prompts, and grammar quizzes. I always ace them but it forces my mind to think rather than operate from intuition.

  12. @t.sterling: This is one of the things that makes the skills vs. talents of being a writer so fascinating. Many great writers are not experts in grammar, but they have a strong voice and tell a compelling story. Conversely, there are plenty who have mastered grammar but their writing just falls flat. I personally think voice and story hold more sway than grammar. Unfortunately poor grammar can turn off some readers. The good news is that grammar skills can be learned.

    @Deb (gscottage): I think if you already have a firm grasp on grammar, then Daily Writing Tips is a little boring because it would provide information that you already know. But it’s extremely helpful for those who are still developing mechanical skills.

    @Karen: I’m a way bigger dork than you, girl! Heheh. I must confess that I don’t subscribe to Writer’s Digest but it sounds like something I should look into because I really enjoy exercises and quizzes that help me stay toned. Crossword puzzles are great too, especially for puns.

  13. Friar says:

    You know, sometimes I wonder where all this WRITING is actually taking place?

    Because I read so many blogs giving advice about writing, blogs listing good writing resources, blogs telling me how to motivate myself to write, blogs telling me how to earn a living writing, blogs linking me to other blogs where they write about writing… etc. etc..

    But WHO is actually putting out the novels, short stories and poems?

    Granted there are lots of great sites where people DO produce original material…but these seem to be the exception, and not the rule.

    Or maybe I’m just not looking in the right places. (???).

  14. @Friar: You raise a good point. I think it’s true not just among the writing blogs but among all blogs. Since anyone can pop up a blog and start doling out advice, there are tons of them that aren’t backed by any real experience or expertise. The niche that suffers from this the most is probably blogging itself. There are an awful lot of “how to blog” sites run by people who started blogging – er – yesterday.

    Well it’s the Internet and we all must proceed with caution around here. Blogs, like any other websites, may not have accurate information. Some actively misinform readers. I always try to figure out who’s running the show, what their credentials are, and then I look at the content to see if it appeals to me. Yeah, it’s a pain, but it’s worth it because there are some real gems out there.

  15. Friar says:


    Yes…I SO agree with you! 😀

    Once thing I find with blogging, is that anyone who can put down 500 words thinks they’re a fantastic writer, and the only reason they haven’t been published yet is that the “fat cat” publishing houses are too commercial and haven’t noticed them yet.

    Well, maybe there’s a REASON best-selling authors are published so much…because they WRITE WELL…far better than the average person!

    And maybe…just MAYBE, not EVERY blogger is a literary genius.

    It’s the equivalent of all the people who take piano lessons. Millions of people can play the piano adequately, but only a handful are concert pianists.

    I think blogging’s a lot like that.

  16. @Friar: Yes, it’s true. I’ve actually written about this for one of my clients who runs a non-profit organization. They were trying to educate people about using the Internet safely, although the focus was more on practicing caution regarding misinformation and not so much poor writing. But both are a problem on the web. While the poor writing pains me, the misinformation out there can actually be dangerous. Still, I like the free and open plains of the web.

  17. Marc says:

    Marc takes a good look around, “Writing resources huh? Something that will help me build up my weaknesses or maximize my strengths as a writer?”

    He points at the Writing Forward sign and settles back in his chair.

    “I think I found it.” he says with a warm smile.

    • Melissa smiles at Marc, then points to a sign on the wall: Recommended Writing Resources. She says, “There’s a whole page of awesome books and other goodies to build up your strengths as a writer. I should know — I’ve tried them all out personally.”

      Then she hops in her blogmobile and heads over to The Welsh Scribe.