Well before I made a living as a writer, I was passionate about writing. Now as a full-time author, people frequently ask me how to improve their writing.
My best advice is simple:
1. Sit in the Chair
These four words changed my life. For a long time, I was an aspiring writer, which meant I didn’t write much. Sure, I aspired daily, but I didn’t make writing a priority. Instead, I spent time passively parked in front of glowing screens: watching TV, perusing Facebook, checking email.
Ultimately, I didn’t become a writer until I developed a writing habit. People don’t learn how to write via osmosis. It takes work. So: forget word count or page count, and don’t worry about creating the perfect writing space. Instead, focus on sitting in the chair distraction-free, writing for at least an hour a day. Do this for a month and you will improve more than you thought possible.
2. Start a Blog
Perhaps the best thing I ever did for my writing “career” was find an outlet through which I could express myself. That outlet was blogging. My one regret is that I didn’t start sooner. It’s such an inexpensive and effective way to communicate with, and add value to, other people. Plus, the consistency of blogging strengthens your writing habit.
I wrote about my entire step-by-step process here: How to Start a Successful Blog Today. Good news: it’s easier than you think.
3. Kill Fear with Accountability
For years I wanted to be a writer, but I was terrified to write. What if people judge me? What if my writing is bad? What if, what if, what if? Paralyzed by fear, I remained inactive and unproductive, always postponing until “tomorrow.”
To overcome this fear, find an accountability partner: a spouse, sibling, coworker, or loved one—anyone who’s willing to help for 60 seconds a day. Then, report to your partner each day via email. Include: a) How long you sat in the chair, b) What topic you wrote about, and c) Why it was a good (or bad) day for your writing. It takes less than a minute to send this email, but the benefits are disproportionately positive. Try it for a month. You’ll watch your fear disintegrate.
How to Write Better
For more free writing tips, follow @ToWriteBetter on Twitter.
Also, if you’re interested, I teach an online writing class called How to Write Better (syllabus and details). During my tenure, I’ve taught hundreds of students how to improve their writing (testimonials). I generally don’t offer discounts because the class delivers significantly more value than its price tag. However, the folks at Owner (the company that offers the course) are giving new students a $50 discount from 8/28 to 8/31 when you use the promo code write2014 (case sensitive).