Sometimes people will ask how they can get better at writing. What do you do? How do you come up with ideas? How do you start on something? The answer to all these questions is: you write. I have been writing for as long as I can remember – I was writing hand written, 20 page horror stories in grade four. I was writing a novel when I was 15 (by page 54 I was at the end, so not really long enough). I have always been writing.
I write 1000 words, every day. Not all of it is good, quite a lot of it will never see the outside of my hard drive, but I do write, every day. It’s like when you get to that tipping point when you’re doing a regular exercise routine, where you feel guilty if you take a day off. That’s how I feel about writing, I can’t stand not doing it.
It’s one of the hard things to explain to people – the ability to write well is not something you can pick up and start straight away. Everyone can write, but not everyone can communicate through words, and even fewer can convey emotion or feeling through language. To be able to find the emotional centre of what you’re writing about and re-create those feelings in the body of the reader is incredibly difficult. Only the best can do it consistently, and that’s after years and years of work. It’s hard to explain that I can write well, because I’ve spent years doing it. And even then, I’m still working everyday to get anywhere close to that next level.
How you get better at writing is you write. And you research. You read everything you need to form an entire city of ideas inside your head, till the story flows through your fingers and daydreams come to you in complete sentences. I research everything, from the specific sound of a punch, to the smell of the inside of a jail cell. I recently wrote a piece where I light-heartedly used Shakespearean language – no one would have noticed, but I researched the differences between ‘thy’, ‘thee’ and ‘thine’ for authenticity’s sake. I love the research, I love getting to know the world I’m working in. And I love to read. And I guess that’s the key point of the whole thing.
How you get better at writing is you write, you research. And you love it. You don’t love it and your readers will know. You’re not passionate about it, your writing will be flat. You might write something quite good, but the key to great writing is that you have to love it. You have to love sentences and paragraphs and the feeling that can be captured in the smallest details. How one line can break your heart or make your day. You have to love the content, find the heart of it and bring it out. If you’re not real, if you’re not able to put humanity into what you do, you’re never going to reach that next level. It’s hard to do, and it’s difficult to open yourself up to readers and put yourself on the line. But that’s what you have to do.
How you get better at writing is you write, you research and you love it. And you make it your own.
And the key to getting better is you have to do it. Every day.