As I sit in my local YMCA, watching my toddler learn to doggie paddle, I’m surrounded by people becoming stronger. A familiar gentleman lifts from his wheelchair and is lowered to the pool for his laps. Retirees wearing floats wade through water aerobics in the deep end. The woman training for a triathlon arrived before I did, and will be here long after I leave. My daughter’s class is building muscles, and learning to swim for the first time. With every movement, they are strengthening their bodies and demonstrating determination.
Can we apply those examples to become stronger writers? Yes!
Join a Group
There is power in groups:
- Continuing education (a good group will have this)
- Peer encouragement
Mentors and Examples
Learn from others that have “been there and done that.” Find a mentor, preferably one with a similar writing style.
- Read their blog, their books, the books they’ve written on how to write, or even send correspondence.
- How do they create? Can you incorporate any of their techniques?
- If you are feeling weak, find a teacher – and add more accountability.
Find a “Spotter”
Find someone with a good balance for your level of writing and goals to “spot” you, as someone would when lifting weights. Check in with each other to make sure both of you are okay.
- “How is writing going?”
- “Can you help me with this paragraph?”
- “Are you going to the next critique group?”
Your spotter is also someone you spot for. Trust and respect go both ways in this relationship.
I see the same faces all week at the YMCA. The swimmers turned growth/improvement into a habit.
- Every day
Even a sentence is better than a blank page.
When the water gets deep, keep swimming.
No one always feels “in the mood” to write. This separates the pros from the hobbyists. Sink or swim. And when you’re at the end of your buoy…
Find something that motivates you, which is specific to you. Have a goal, and a reward for each goal.
It can be productive in ways other than getting words on a page:
- Glitter gel pens for editing
- A new case for your laptop
- The latest non-fic how-to writing book
It’s wonderful if something practical gets you writing but if…
- a “brain candy” paperback
…get the words on the page – go for it*. Just keep it balanced.
(See Spotter for accountability)
We grow at our own rate. Every writer has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Learn to improve your weak points and write in a way that highlights your strengths. The toddlers weren’t training for a marathon and the wheelchair-bound man used the tools available to help him get into the water. They know where they are, and work with what they have.
- Know them
- Study about them
- Act on what you learn
Don’t Forget the Fundamentals
Just like push-ups (groan), there are things that we need to improve, even if we hate them.
(Spelling, my continual nemesis, mocks all software attempts to correct it.) No challenge = no improvement.
- Do you have “favorite words” to eliminate?
- Have a passion for passive verbs?
- Are most of your sentences a similar length?
- Be self-aware and find your fundamental challenge – and strengthen those writing muscles.
Invest in Yourself
We all need rest and recovery to improve. Invest in equipment – the most important being your mind.
- Get enough sleep
- Go on a walk
- Schedule breaks
Take a moment to think of how you are feeling and how that impacts your writing. Find your needs and fill them.
Mix it Up
If your writing becomes repetitive, or you don’t see any improvement, you may have hit a plateau. Try something outside your comfort zone as a warm-up, stretch, and change the routine.
- Like to write ‘em long? Try some flash fiction.
- Try flipping the perspective in one of your chapters.
- Write in a specific genre? Put a few different ones in a hat and write a short story in the genre you pull.
I hope you find your prefect combination to grow stronger!