Five Tips to Get Better

by krstaten

I’ve thought a lot about things that have helped me improve my writing over the years. With forty-five minutes and counting on this free hour-long trial of internet that I’m on right now, I figured the fastest way to share them would be in list form. Here goes–a list of things we all can do to make us better (as writers, artists, or whatever we’re pursuing, probably).

  1. Surround yourself with people who are better than you are. It can be tempting to be around people who aren’t as good as you, because then you get to look around and go, “I”m the best poet/writer/artist/musician/yodeler in this room.” Don’t do that. If you realize you feel like your skill has advanced beyond the crowd you hang out with and critique with, find people who make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and learn from them.
  2. Indulge in your art of choice. Indulge in it often. Indulge in it broadly. Indulge in forms of it you don’t think are for you. If you write purely historical fiction, read some sci-fi. If you only play heavy metal, try listening to some smooth jazz. Learn what magic cross-contamination of genres can be.
  3. Push yourself. Hard. Don’t let yourself get complacent. Better yet, don’t even let yourself get comfortable. Write a sonnet when all you’ve ever done is free verse. Try something you’ve never done before. Fail at it. Fail at it again. Fail at it so hard you’d be embarrassed to read it to your eight-year-old cousin who thinks “The Addams Family Started/When Uncle Fester Farted” is the best poetry they’ve ever heard.
  4. Study your craft, even if it makes no sense to you. Read long-winded articles and essays and make yourself understand them, even if you don’t agree with them. Expand your perspective of your craft beyond what suits your worldview. Embrace it, or push back against it. Either way, learn something new, learn something difficult, and let it affect you.
  5. Write to your lowest standard. Or create to your lowest standard, if your art doesn’t happen to involve literature. Just create. Let it be terrible. Go read Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts. Then read your own shitty first draft, and make it better. Or give into what feels like the crushing pain of failure, and just accept that you wrote something awful, but know that you learned from it. Possibly about yourself, possibly about your craft, probably about both.

It’s definitely important to add here that this is not advice coming from an expert who, out of the goodness of their heart, is passing wisdom on to those less advanced. This is just coming from a person who is still learning, and has found the things that are teaching me the most.