How do you become a better writer?
That certainly helps.
Read books about writing?
Good idea, but there’s something even more important.
The first step to becoming a better writer is learning how to read
Learning how to read?
Yep, I’m not talking about consuming words to understand a story or to grasp an argument.
Let me explain what reading means.
As a creative side-project I’m currently learning how to draw cartoons. I’ve never had any artistic talent. I’ve never been able to draw. I even struggled with a simple stick figure.
You learn how to draw by tracing and copying
But you don’t just trace and copy. Instead, you learn how a figure is built up from simple shapes. Learning to draw means learning to see.
For 10 weeks I’ve been working on circles. I’ve learned to see the circles that create a cartoon figure. Some circles are small, some large, some are more like ovals, but it’s amazing how much you can draw with simple circles.
With writing and blogging it’s the same. You need to learn how to detect the basic shapes – how words, sentences, and paragraphs are assembled to create inspirational blog posts.
Learning how to read means analyzing
You need to analyze structures, paragraphs, sentences, and words. You need to find out what grabs and holds your attention. Discover how word choice impacts your emotions as a reader. Notice the things that are left unsaid.
For some time you may even lose the joy of reading, because you can’t read leisurely anymore. You can’t read without picking paragraphs and sentences apart.
Once you start analyzing texts, you start to detect various post structures. You notice how long paragraphs with undulating sentences are broken up by staccato-like sentences. You learn how specific words help you feel or visualize something.
Many assume that great writers have an innate ability
We like to worship our heroes. We think that they’re gifted, that they’re so much more special than we are.
But are they born with a talent to write epic blog posts? Or have they worked hard to hone their writing skills? Could it be that they’ve spent many hours reading and analyzing, and criticizing their own writing until they’re finally happy with the results?
In her book Mindset. How You Can Fulfil Your Potential Carol Dweck describes two different mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe they’re born with certain talents. What they can and can’t do is already determined. Success for them is proving how gifted they are.
People with the growth mindset, however, believe that basic qualities can be cultivated, stretched, and improved through effort. They thrive on challenges and learn from their failures. Failure isn’t a sign that they lack talent, but an opportunity to learn more.
Some people may have more drawing talent than me. They don’t draw so many misshapen Snoopies. They don’t screw up when they draw Sid of Ice Age.
They may learn quicker. But if I persevere, I hope to get there, too. Maybe one day I can even illustrate my blog posts.
The simple truth about becoming a better writer
To create a successful business blog, you don’t require any special talent.
Analyze why you like certain bloggers. Read, and read, and read more.
Learn why some blog posts are boring as hell, and why others fascinate you and keep you waiting for the next update.
Forget about talent. Don’t think about creative skills. Stop telling yourself that others have more talent than you.
Instead get to work. Read more. Learn more. Write more.