Red Smith said, "Writing is easy; all you have to do is open a vein and sit down at a typewriter." That may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is that writing is, in many ways, like letting your soul out. It's a waste of one's time on paper (or screen). It's a fight between ideas, words, and how they fit together. Writing is ironic because it can be both relaxing and scary. It's both fun and hard work. It is both boring and moving. I dread it, but I can't wait for it.
Albert Mohler wrote in his book The Conviction to Lead that "most of the words we use every day can be forgotten almost as soon as we use them." But if we want our words to last and have an effect on tomorrow as well as today, we should put them in writing. Words on a page tell the story of history. Think of any important event, and you can be sure that someone wrote about it. Through the power of ink, countries are made, movements are started, and leaders are known. "Under the rule of truly great men, the pen is stronger than the sword, said Edward Bulwer Lytton.
When it comes to writing, the pen and the sword are sometimes the same thing. It can calm you down and kill you at the same time. Even though I don't think I'm a good writer, I really enjoy it. I even think of it as part of my job. Because of this, I'm always looking for ways to get better. You can improve your writing skills whether you write in a public forum or in a private journal. Some of them are:
Reading is much more important than writing when it comes to writing. If you ask anyone who writes regularly (on a blog, for a publication, for a living, or in a daily journal), they will tell you how much reading they do as part of their writing process.
Most of the time, I'm reading three to four books at once. Books of all kinds. There are books from many different authors, backgrounds, and topics. Reading helps the mind grow. It leads to ideas, thoughts, conclusions, and beliefs. "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body," said Joseph Addison. Even though this is a silly example, it is true. Reading gets the mind ready for writing. It makes it possible to say, write, and say things better. Like a body builder who carefully works on a muscle, reading helps writers of all levels improve their skills.
Writers read, and people who read learn. In his book The Spiritual Disciplines, Donald Whitney wrote, "Those who are truly wise have a strong desire to learn." Do you have a strong desire to learn? By its very nature, writing is a task that must be done with a constant flow of learning.
Good writers are always learning something new. How else could someone express their thoughts in a way that is new and enlightening if they are not constantly learning? Writers do research, ask questions, watch, and check their sources. They learn how things work and why they are the way they are. The author may make a final claim at the end of the writing process, but the process starts with the author asking a lot of questions. John Naisbitt said, "No one subject in a set of subjects will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. Now, learning how to learn is the most important skill to have." Learn something new if you want to write something new.
Putting down your pen and walking away is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing. A writer's best friends are a quiet room, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart. In the writing process, there are times when you need to think seriously and calmly. There are times when you have to do nothing but think.
Too often, we write down our thoughts quickly without taking the time to really think about what we are trying to say. Before we say what we think, we should think about what we are going to say. This is how you meditate. This is being calm. This is not easy. But it has to be done.
Meditation lets the mind be free and open as it figures out what needs to be written. It takes away the stress. It makes room for new ideas. It lets the ideas flow, as the saying goes. I like how Alexander Pope wrote this idea in a poetic way:
"It's dangerous to learn too much;
If you don't drink deeply, you won't get a taste of the Pierian Spring.
There, shallow drafts make the mind drunk;
"And drinking mostly puts us back to sleep."
If you want to get better at writing, there is one last thing you should do often: write. I know, this is a big surprise, and you've probably never thought about it before. But it's real. To write, you have to write. Gordon MacDonald is right when he says, "Many people would love to see their names on the cover of a book." It is true that it is a great feeling of success. But only the writer knows how many hours he or she spends alone in front of a keyboard trying out ideas and thoughts through words on a page.
Write every day to improve your writing. Write about the things you like and dislike, the things you love and the things you despise.Start small and write a few sentences. Then a sentence You could try writing an essay. Write about current issues. Write about things you like. Write down how you feel. "Pour open a vein," and "sit down at a typewriter."
Even for the most experienced writers, writing is a never-ending process of trial and error. No one sits down and writes the "great American novel" right away, but people do sit down and write. Remember what Francis Bacon said: "Reading makes a full man; speaking makes a ready man; writing makes an exact man."