I’ve been to a lot of writing events: conferences, Meetups, presentations, meetings and writing groups. That’s not counting podcasts, online classes, webinars, tweet chats, and Google+ hangouts. There are times, honestly, when I just…can’t…
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I learned something from every one of them, even if it was something that didn’t reveal itself until later. That’s happened a lot: that I hear something but it doesn’t register until long after the event is over.
So for what it’s worth, here are five things I’ve picked up on improving your writing:
- Write. Yeah, I know: duh. But being busy is not the same thing as being active. Talking or thinking about writing is not the same as actually writing. That’s why I increased my blog schedule to once a week: it forces me to write something worth reading every week.
- Read. Again: duh. Most of the reading I’m doing these days is research for my next book. But that doesn’t stop me from reading the Sunday NY Times or books I’m reviewing for Broadway World.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Last year at Writers Digest Conference I went to a session for fiction writers on character development. I write nonfiction, so why? Because the tips turned out to be perfect for telling the stories of the people I interview for my own books
- Treat your business like a business. Don’t expect people to take you seriously as a writer unless you take yourself seriously. And that means admitting that you’re an entrepreneur – no matter how you’re published. You’re a business owner. It’s your name on that book cover, so don’t just own the words inside. Own the whole business. You’re a professional. Act like it.
- Connect with the world outside of your writing. We write alone. We isolate ourselves to get our work done. But that’s not good for humans. You need contact, inspiration, energy from the world outside your office. And Facebook isn’t always the answer. Go to conferences. Join writing groups. Make presentations. Share what you’re doing and what you’ve learned. Become a mentor, even if you don’t have all the answers. Because guess what? No one does. But you already know a lot that other people don’t know. And while you’re at it, go to a play or a baseball game. Walk through the park or a botanical garden or the local zoo. Meet a friend for lunch.
That kind of sounds self-indulgent, doesn’t it? I thought so too until I paid the price for not doing those things. I was running on empty and it showed. The hardest part for me was embracing the idea that I can be a mentor for other writers. I’ve been pushed into that role for some time now, but it’s only in the past month that I feel comfortable with it.
So think about your own writing life and how you can up your game. Sometimes we get discouraged or just stuck and need some new ideas. Take these in the spirit they are given. And pass them along.
That’s the first step to being a mentor.