How to improve your writing without writing a word
Published: March 8, 2002
|Writing does not consist merely of creating words; it is the culmination of our life experiences translated through ourselves. These experiences come from every corner of life and influence our writing in a myriad of ways. Although writing every day is still the best practice, there are many ways to improve your skills without really writing at all. Here are a few:|
Read: Reading a wide variety of authors and styles is one of the best creative stimuli. Every time I read a new book, I grow as a writer. I learn new words; I notice phrasing and construction; I think about what moves me as a reader. Reading someone else's words helps to get the writing juices going and often inspires.
Walk: Take a walk in the middle of your work day or when you feel yourself getting stuck or losing energy. Exercise will get your circulation going and deliver oxygen to your brain, clearing it of that incessant "mind chatter." Thinking too much is sometimes what kills the writing spark. Get out of your mind and into your body. As you walk, notice abstract details such as the color of a house, flowers blooming or the shapes of clouds. You never know when a street sign, a window display or an overheard conversation will inspire you. Some of my best ideas come when I'm walking, showering or driving.
Talk: I used to think that my writing wasn't "real" until it got published. Rubbish! Your writing exists the moment you have an idea. Use every opportunity to talk about your work, including the seeds of new stories, your current projects and your frustrations. If you have access to a writers group, use it. It is healthy to get your ideas and projects "out there" so your work has some tangible value and you're not creating in isolation. Activating your writing creates momentum. By sharing it, you will create a sense of legitimacy for yourself, and others will respond to your confidence.
Listen: Practice taking in information. Go to a restaurant and notice the way people talk and communicate with each other. Observe nonverbal clues such as body language and gestures, or listen to the symphony of sounds all around you (birds chirping, the hum of the refrigerator). Simply notice the world of communication around you.
Network: Get out of the office and rub elbows with other writers. Not only is this valuable for making contacts and getting job leads, but most likely other writers are struggling with the same issues as you. Attend a writers conference or workshop and allow yourself to be supported by others with the same passion.
Learn: Good writers never stop trying to improve their work. Take a class, read a how-to book, or interview other writers about subjects that interest you. Immerse yourself in new ideas, or try writing in a different genre to keep your writing alive and fresh.
Draw: Drawing forces you to use the right side of your brain and think in a nonlinear fashion. Use crayons, pencils, paint or whatever medium feels good to you. Draw whatever comes to mind. Draw what your characters look like, or scribble color to express emotions. This exercises your creative muscles in a way that doesn't deal in words, but the energy will carry over into your writing. Go wild!
Dance: Put on some music, roll up the rug and dance around the living room. Feel the rhythm and let it evoke whatever feelings come up. Express your own words through your body, or listen to song lyrics and pick out rhymes and patterns. Music speaks to us in nonverbal ways. How would you translate it?
Fantasize: One of the greatest elements of writing is that imagination is allowed and encouraged. Take 10 minutes to close your eyes and fantasize about anything you want. When you find yourself staring out the window, take a moment to let those daydreams go wherever they want. Take a seat in the audience of your own mind and enjoy yourself. Do not judge any feelings or images that come up; this is one time when anything goes.
Do nothing: Doing nothing is not the same as procrastinating. It is essential to take a break from your writing to recharge your batteries, get some perspective and come back renewed. This can be as simple as deep breathing or stretching for five minutes. I often put my first drafts in a file, then let a week lapse before looking at them again. When I come back to them, I see them with new eyes and am ripe to improve my work. #
Copyright © Chandra Moira Beal