October 28, 2013 by Renee
Read, write, critique, read, write, show, don’t tell, stand on your head, count backward from 100…we’ve all had a shit ton of writing advice shoved down our throats, and I’m aware you guys don’t need any more of that. But there are other ways to improve your writing that have very little to do with actually writing. There are ways you can change how you think or work that can drastically improve what you put on the page. These don’t replace the learning of grammar rules or how to structure a plot, but they do help the little nuances that make your writing special.
First, remember your body needs certain things. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Mine consists of coffee and grumbling, but I suspect most folks need something more substantial. I’ve found if you remember to feed yourself in the morning, coffee is plenty of fuel to keep you going until at least supper time. Then, you can take a well-deserved break and order some takeout. I like to keep handy snacks close by too, so there’s no need to get up at all if I’m on a roll. Doritos and cookies bars are best, but now and then I get a healthy craving, so I eat some ice cream. I am totally aware that my healthy and your healthy may be quite different.
The second thing you need to do is burn that damn schedule. It’s a fantastic idea to list the tasks that need doing each day. It’s also a wonderful to arrange your day so that you can get said tasks done. However, at the end of the day, a list is just a list. It’s not set in stone (unless you don’t believe in paper). If you spend too much time worrying about getting all the shit done, your head will explode. A to-do list is kind of like you suggesting to yourself that you could get these things done, but if something happens that you don’t, you’ll just do it tomorrow, or whenever. However, one thing you should schedule and ACTUALLY DO is going out. I mean outside. Seriously. I went out this past weekend, and I met William Wallace and his pals, and I talked to some zombies. It was awesome.
If your life is so routine that your neighbor can determine the date and time just by your activities, you need to shake things up a bit. Try something new. Take a cooking class, or just decide that Wednesday is crazy time, where you pull an activity, place or food out of your ass. By trying new things you broaden your experiences and this can only serve to enhance your writing, even if those new things are horrible and never to be repeated—like that time I tried this seafood pasta. Wow, that was awful.
The thing is, better writers happen in unexpected places, and they’re usually nowhere near your home or your jammies.
The third way to improve your writing involves soap. Shower now and then. Maybe even brush your teeth. A clean writer is a happy writer. Also, you stink.
One piece of advice I wish someone had given to me is to help others. I learned this myself, and it’s possibly the most helpful thing I’ve learned. I’m talking about being generous with time, advice, and things like that when it comes to other writers. Find a way to help others. It might feel like a selfless act, but by helping others improve, you improve your work as well. You don’t have to believe me. I don’t give a shit what you do. But don’t be all whiny and stuff when you get stuck in a rut because you’re too lazy or whatever to offer a critique or a bit of encouragement. Just saying.
Also important to remember is, shit happens. Sometimes it’s not good, and sometimes it’s so bad it sucks ass. Know what? You can’t control it all. If something shitty happens, accept that sometimes you’re the bird and sometimes you’re the car. Don’t get all mopey and depressed. That is not conducive to good writing. It’s conducive to mopey, whiney drivel. No one wants to read that.
Speaking of whiners, you should also do things you don’t want to do. Nothing crazy. Jumping out of a perfectly functioning plane with a piece of fabric strapped to your back is stupid. I’m saying you should try little things that you put off because you’re scared of failure or sunlight. Maybe you’ve never taken dance lessons because you’re afraid people will make fun of you or because you don’t have a tutu ass. Do it anyway. It’s freeing to face fears or things that make you uncomfortable. Besides, almost nobody over the age of five has a tutu ass. So, yeah. Facing your fears builds up your confidence and that will be obvious in your writing. Just so you know; I don’t plan to ever write perfectly, so there is no need for me to overcome my foot thing. We have our limits.
You should stop putting things off too. I know how easy this is, because working from home makes procrastinating super easy. I’ll be here tomorrow, right? Whatever it is that wants me to clean it up can wait. If you (and I) stop putting shit off that’s really not that hard or time consuming to do, you’ll feel better. As things get finished, you’ll have more time to do the stuff you love.
Finally, gather as much useless information as your brain or hard drive will hold.
You never know when useless information might come in handy. Trust me. I’ve been in love with Greek mythology forever. Last November I decided to use that love and write a novel. It’s being published next year. Also, I have a murder file. Enough said.
What piece of writing advice would you give that’s got nothing to do with actually writing?