Cole Smith Writes | How to Grow as a Writer

How to Grow as a Writer

posted in: Creativity, Writing | 0

Do you want to grow as a writer? I hope so, because we all should. Heck, think about how different the world would be if all human beings were focused on growth instead of comparison.



Let’s be honest: writer’s envy is real! The struggle not to compare oneself to other, more successful writers is almost universal. But many successful writers know this little secret: comparison is critical.



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Yep, instead of comparing less, you might consider comparing yourself MORE! But not with other writers–compare yourself to who you were yesterday. That’s the best way to grow consistently over time. Are you growing? Here are a few ways you can make a strategy to improve your writing, and your life:





Read What You Love

When I was in junior high, I fell in love with Robin McKinley’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In that book, the Beast has a magic library that contains all the books that had ever been written…and many that hadn’t been written yet! And while we may not have access to future works, having e-readers, the Internet, and public domain classics in our pocket at all times sure seems like magic to me…



We’ve all been told, ala` Stephen King and a quarter of a bajillion other writing coaches, to “read a lot, write a lot.” But how do you decide what to read, where to start, when there are so many worthy books available? Niche down, my friend.



Start with what you love. That novel? The one with the cover half-hanging off and the soft, well-loved page corners? Start there. If you’ve read it so many times that you nearly know it by heart, read it like a writer. Look for structure, plot points, and technique. Make notes.



Then find out who influenced your favorite author and read those books. (That’s how I discovered George MacDonald last fall, by the way. Madeleine L’engle mentioned him in an interview. How the hey-diddle I missed The Princess and the Goblin until I was 3_ years old, I’ll never know. But what a treat! An entire new collection of books to explore!)





Hang Out With Other Writers

This took a lot of convincing for me, especially when I was young and fairly angsty about my work. I wanted to blaze my own trail, yet follow the trails left by the great ones. I had no time or patience for recreational writers or anyone who was in the messy middle of their creative journey.



Oh, self. How. Arrogant. I repent! We’re all in the messy middle!



The friendships I’ve built over the years with other writers have become some of my most cherished relationships. There’s no one else who can understand what it’s like to support a stable of imaginary characters while trying to live a real-life existence. And there’s nothing quite like the support we can offer one another when our courage fails, when the doubt and fear loom large. And a neat benefit of having writing friends? Excellent advice. Have you ever been stuck with an article or a scene? Fire off an email to another writer in your genre, and be amazed. Often, these kindreds can untangle a plot knot faster than the kettle can come to a boil. And the solution will seem totally obvious and right. It just takes fresh eyes and a sharp pen πŸ™‚





Get Started…Now!

Many of us shy away from taking time now to dream about later. It’s something to do with being afraid to get our hopes high, only to dash them when we fail. This is tough, because it’s not only possible–it’s likely. Failure and rejection are a part of writing and sharing.



But we make a major mistake, here, even though our fears are justified. We forget to think through the default option. And that’s where an even worse fear lives, snoozing away in its cave like a massive, lethal dragon.



Let’s say you go for your dreams, fail, and fall flat on your proverbial face. That’s painful. But did you learn? Most definitely. And if you try again, you won’t make that mistake twice. But you’ll probably make dozens of new mistakes. In a few years’ time, though, you’ll have made incredible progress. And then a miracle will break over your life. You’ll be in a place you might never have aimed for. How could you, when you didn’t even know it existed? The only way to find this success was to fail forward, over and over. At that moment, you’ll realize all the pain was worth it.



On the other hand, the dragon… If you play it safe, and bury your talent, and keep your gift as small as you can, one day that dragon is going to wake up. It will take to the sky and stretch out its wings until it blocks out the sun with its shadow–regret! Suddenly, in one horrible moment, you’ll feel the full weight of that terrible beast. Regret will crush you. It’s never too late, but now you have to start at square one. You still have all the failures ahead of you, but a lot less time to figure it out.



This is why a lot of people give up on their dreams and become bitter. If that’s you, start today, friend! Any start is fine. Just start, and eventually that creature will release you. All the corny expressions about each day being a new day are true. Start by reading a book you love. But start!



Related: Why You Should Start When You’re Not Ready





NOW YOU: What’s helped you grow as a writer? Share your experiences in the comments!





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