How to Master Your Craft

From Unsplash, by Alex Wong

Of the 1,000,001 blog posts out there about writing, 500,001 of theme will offer the advice to just write!

This is superb advice. I myself have given it many times, because I know it to work. The Butt In Chair Methodology is mighty effective, and I speak from personal experience.

You’ve never put down a single word and you want to get started but don’t know how? Just write!

Sitting on a great book idea? Just write!

You want to unleash your inner creative child? Just write!

Writing is the sort of thing where you don’t know how to do it 1,000,001 times and then maybe you start to figure it out, but you don’t figure it out until you just write!

But what if you don’t want to just write? What if you also want to write well? What if you want to write something that people will tell all their friends about and give away like candy on Halloween? What if you want to write the kind of long form articles that people don’t click away from? That takes a lot more than just write!

Take a class. Do not skip this step. You will get a formal education from someone who understands structure, language, narrative, and composition. You will figure out what your writing process is. You will get feedback from someone with an outsider perspective, and you might even learn how to edit. Take a class, take a workshop, at a school, online. Invest in yourself and pay money for it.

Learn from people who know what they’re talking about. Can you teach this stuff to yourself? Probably. But having a teacher can give you perspective. I have never taken a class or a workshop that didn’t make me a better writer. The time and money will pay off ten-fold.

Get feedback. Find people who can read your work and give you constructive criticism. In the classes and workshops I’ve taken, I learned as much from the feedback from other students as I did from the instructors. Feedback from your peers will make you better for it.

Read. Read Doctor Zhivago. Read T.S. Eliot. Read The Onion and The New Yorker and literary journals and Seth Godin’s blog and posts on Medium. Read the police blogger and obituaries. Read for quantity, not quality. You can learn something from the good stuff and the bad.

Read like a writer. Read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Remember all the close reading you did in high school, analyzing sentence structure and pulling apart each and every paragraph? Do that. Is this practice cumbersome? Yes it is, but so is writing a bunch of junk that you don’t realize is junk.

Read, and then ask yourself what worked and what didn’t worked; what you liked or didn’t like and why; and what you can learn from it. When you practice these techniques you learn to approach the material as a curious student. You ask yourself, what can I learn from this? You learn what works and what doesn’t work from other people. You learn how to discern when people go deeper with ideas and when they are talking out of their asses and how not to do the same.

Once you get the hang of just write! and The Butt in Chair Methodology, you may find that you need a challenge, that you need to push yourself harder, and that its not just enough to just write! You may find that you hunger for more. This, my friend, means that you want to be a master of your craft. Want to become a master of your craft? Do these steps and repeat.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. P. C. Zick says:

    Superb advice for all writers, no matter where we are in our career!

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