How to Become a Better Writer – an Artistic Perspective

I’m always searching for ways to write better; these tips on how to become a better writer are inspired by a book for new, or busy, or hesitant artists.

tips on becoming a better writerIn Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are, Gregory offers short little exercises for every artist – including writers like me, who are learning how to paint. His book is encouraging and inspiring because it changes the way you see the world. When I sit down to my bowl of Shreddies, soy milk and fruit every morning, I actually consider drawing my breakfast. But I don’t because I’d rather read about painting sunflowers. Art Before Breakfast offers practical instruction on techniques and materials, plus strategies for creating drawings and other works of art that are exciting, un-intimidating, and fulfilling.

I’ve always secretly dreamed of being an artist in New York City, working on oil paintings, surrounded by easels, vivid rich colors, turpentine, paint-stained rags and drop clothes. Now that I’m finishing a contract as a Mentoring Coordinator with Big Brothers, I actually have the time and motivation to pursue that dream. Epic!

So I’m reading Art Before Breakfast, as well as several other books on painting in oils and acrylics. How is this helping me become a better writer? By showing me that being a writer isn’t just about decreasing writing errors or learning how to write endings. Becoming a better writer is about seeing the world differently, and expressing your perspective. Here we go…

How to Write Better – an Artists’ Perspective

If you write, you’re a writer. And if you’re a writer, you’re an artist.

Learning how painters, sketch artists, and photographers see the world will help you become a better writer. Your own perspective will change, and this will enhance your ability to write anything from character descriptions to academic research papers.

Be open to the weaknesses or propensities in your writing

This first tip on how to become a better writer isn’t from Gregory’s perspective as an artist. It’s more of a formal tip about improving your writing skills: become aware of the weaker areas of your writing.

I have three writing weakness:

how to become a better writer

Becoming a Better Writer

  1. I overuse !!! because I am an enthusiastic writer! And I have lots of energy! And I’m a lazy writer, which leads to my second weakness…
  2. I don’t edit my blog posts because I tend to edit as I write.
  3. I often start my sentences with a clause followed by a comma (eg, “(In “How to Become a Better Writer,” I described….).

Simply knowing these weaknesses is how I will become a better writer. What about you? If you aren’t aware of your weaknesses – and your strengths – as a writer, you won’t have the self-awareness you need to improve. So, learn how you can make your writing better by seeking critical feedback about your writing.

Tell your story

This is my favorite tip on how to become a better writer! Why? Because I tend to stick to the facts, ma’am. I need to practice telling my stories.

becoming a better writer

Image by Danny Gregory, from Art Before Breakfast

“Life is just a long succession of small epiphanies,” writes Gregory. “You need to stop and seize them. By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about it. A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant.”

He adds that your art – and your writing – will set a frame around your experiences, and give you perspective on what really matters. Over time you will create a book or blog of memories – a true record of what’s important in your life.

Here’s how this directly relates to becoming a better writer (for me, anyway): learning how to tell my story challenges me to write more personally. Writing facts and tips-based articles is easy for me. Sharing what I think, experienced, and learned is a whole different ballgame. If I challenge myself to try a different type of writing – such as writing more creatively and personally, or taking an artist’s perspective – then I will up the ante on my writing skills. And that will help me write better.

Find ways to put a little smile on your creative face

“Get up 23 minutes early,” says Gregory. “Set an alarm tonight and do it tomorrow. Suddenly you’ll have this little chunk of time to use for yourself. Draw something, anything, before the others get up.”

How to Become a Better Writer

My dog Georgie on my palette of paint

He adds that the first thing in the morning is when your brain is clear and optimistic. That must be why I get up at 4:45 am! I like to talk to God in writing when nobody else is around – sort of like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, but in direct conversation with God. Then Bruce gets up at 5:30, and we do yoga. O so healthy!

“The first thing in the morning is when your brain is clear and optimistic,” writes Gregory. “You’ll see better and like what you did more. When your second alarm goes off at the regular time, you can proceed guilt-free with a little smile on your creative face.”

If you want to practice writing creative nonfiction, read A Writer’s Quest – How to Write Creatively.

Embrace your “bad” writing – it teaches you how to become a better writer

I’ve been blogging since 2008. When I look back at those blog posts, I cringe at my writing style and content. What was I thinking? But instead of deleting or editing my old articles, I should rewrite them. This is one of the best tips on how to write better: look at your old work objectively. Rewrite it, knowing what you know now.

Here’s an artist’s perspective: “It’s the runts, the freaks, the misfits that are our teachers,” says Gregory. “They let us see how not to see, the price of rushing, the work we still have ahead. And often, our disappointment stems from the fact that we didn’t get what we expected. But maybe we get something else just as valuable and we just can’t see it yet.”

Isn’t that awesome?

Fellow scribes, I welcome your thoughts on how to become a better writer! Have you seen your writing improve over time? If not…it’s time to explore an artist’s perspective and dig into your creativity a little deeper…

“When I say artist I mean the one who is building things … some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.” ~ Jackson Pollock.

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2 thoughts on “How to Become a Better Writer – an Artistic Perspective”

  1. Laurie, writing seems to have been part of everything I’ve done in my life. That said, for me it is hard work. I can remember writing planetarium scripts in the wee hours of the morning. I was working so hard I was stripped down to an undershirt, and sweating even though the room was not hot.

    I knew a columnist who could plan the whole piece in his head. Then, even when computers were available, he’d sit down at his Underwood and type the article, in triplicate, perfectly, in one go.

    Not me. I use every tool I can find to help. When MS Word arrived, and included a built-in outliner, it meant that I could spit out ideas, and even some of the finished paragraphs, as they came to mind. And then sort out the flow of ideas later. Then fill in the blanks. I need to write, then rewrite, then wait until I can go back and re-read it from the reader’s point-of-view. And re-write again.

    Nowadays, when I have a bunch of disconnected ideas that might become an article, I’ll begin with a mind-mapping program. Just write the thoughts. Soon the structure and values will emerge (or I’ll see what is missing). The program I use will turn that into an outline. The act of writing forces me to think through the concepts and conclusions. For me, the business of doing the writing is very instructive to me. I come to know more about the subject as a result of writing. It is therefore, for me, a process of discovery and learning.

    Below is a wonderful piece by Kurt Vonnegut on the subject of writing. If this violates copyright, please remove it. If not, know that I love Vonnegut’s short stories — he is a master. Read some of his works to see how to tell a story.

    Here is what Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the Introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box.

    Now lend me your ears. Here is Creative Writing 101

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
    4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
    5. Start as close to the end as possible.
    6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    He elaborates.

    – The person he calls the greatest American short story writer of his generation, Flannery O’Conner (1925 – 1964) broke all but rule #1.

    – The reason for rule #8 is so the reader can play along.

    – Kurt writes for his late sister, Allie.

    – He guesses the reason that a reader likes a story written for just one person is that “the reader can sense… without knowing it, that the story has boundaries like a playing field.” This allows the reader to be on the sidelines, watching the game, and knowing what the rules are, and when a victory is scored.

    Kurt concludes the Introduction with:
    The boundaries to the playing fields of my short stories, and my novels, too, were once the boundaries of the soul of my only sister. She lives on that way.


  2. Very good advice. I write for a content website where I make about five cents a day. lol! The real reason I continue to write there is that it’s my morning pages as Julia Cameron suggested.