Better Writing: If writing is important to you …

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He cornered me at one of our monthly fish fries. He said he was a writer. He wanted to talk about writing. But it turned out that was all he wanted to do. He hadn’t actually written anything in over a year.

It’s easy to say that writing is important to you. Acting like writing is important takes discipline. If you’re serious, you want to get the most out of your talent and your writing time.

So, forget talking about writing for a minute. Here are some things you must do if writing is really important to you.

He cornered me at one of our monthly fish fries. He said he was a writer. He wanted to talk about writing. But it turned out that was all he wanted to do. He hadn’t actually written anything in over a year.

It’s easy to say that writing is important to you. Acting like writing is important takes discipline. If you’re serious, you want to get the most out of your talent and your writing time.

So, forget talking about writing for a minute. Here are some things you must do if writing is really important to you.

You must work to master the craft.

It’s hard to master any craft, and writing is no exception. The only way to learn to write well is to write a lot, get good feedback, and improve the next time out.

You must do the necessary things you hate.

To succeed at any craft, you must do things that you hate. You must do them because they are necessary for success. If you’re writing a book in the midst of a full life and career, like most of my clients, you will probably hate skipping some social events. If you want to make writing your life’s work, you must master things like marketing. You may not like it, but you need to be good at it.

You must embrace the grind.

Whether it’s for writing as a lifetime work, or just a big writing project, there are lots of little things that you must do over and over. It’s the mundane part of the craft.

In 1989, Daniel Chambliss wrote about the making of Olympic swimmers. He coined the phrase, “The mundanity of excellence” to describe how the best swimmers get that way. Sure, they have natural talent. Yes, they have a great work ethic. But there’s more.

Dan Chambliss wrote about the way some people get the very most out of the talent they have. Here’s how he describes what his research found.

“Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of these actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly and all together produce excellence.”

You must read a lot and write a lot.

Read lots and lots of good writing in your genre. That’s how you develop the mental models of what good writing looks and sounds like.

Write as much as you can and get good feedback. Write to learn from everything you write so you keep getting better.

You must give your writing time.

Reading a lot and writing a lot, learning the craft, and embracing the grind take time. You must put in the time to reap the rewards. But you must also maintain your health and strong relationships. Those are the things that will help you through the tough times.

You must hold your writing time sacred.

The effective writers I’ve worked with all have a specific way to work. Each one is different from all the others. But one thing they have in common is that they schedule time to write and then hold that time sacred.

Takeaways

You must work to master the craft.

You must do the necessary things you hate.

You must embrace the grind.

You must read a lot and write a lot.

You must give your writing time.

You must hold your writing time sacred.

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