Here’s why you shouldn’t learn how to write from popular bestselling authors such as Stephen King and Anne Lamott. You’ll learn more about writing if you search for lesser known authors such as Tara Moss and Neil Gaiman (maybe not the best examples because they’re quite popular, but work with me).
If you want to learn how to write more powerfully, read Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs by Marcia Riefer Johnston. She teaches writers how to get people to read their writing – and how to write with power. No matter what you write, or how or why you write, you use words and you want someone to want to read them. How do you get people to want to read your words? Know your subject. Know your audience. And write powerfully.
Learning how to write (or how to find the courage to write) from authors such as Stephen King and Anne Lamott is like learning how to speak French from a Parisian who barely knows how to speak English. This Parisian – let’s call her Danielle – doesn’t understand the pitfalls and challenges of new French speakers. Danielle is too good at French to actually teach it.
The same goes for learning how to write from popular bestselling authors. They are so advanced, so fluent in the craft of writing and publishing, that they can’t teach you what you need to know about writing.
Learning to Write Without Fear and Trembling
“Whenever you start working on a goal, strive to find at least one person who recently accomplished a very similar goal and ask for their advice,” says writer and programmer Scott Young in Why the Smartest People Don’t Always Give the Best Advice: The Importance of Local Wisdom. “Not only are these people more accessible for personalized advice, but they often carry wisdom that’s simply unavailable from any other source.”
So, if you believe this theory about learning how to write, where do you start? You learn how to write from writers who are only a step or two ahead of you, not famous successful published authors who have forgotten what it’s like to be a beginning writer. The same goes for blogging, but I’ll stick to writing in this post.
How to Learn to Write
First – and this isn’t a writer’s best kept secret – remember that learning how to write takes time. Like learning how to practice law or how to paint pastoral scenes, learning how to write takes both education and active practice. And perhaps a different perspective on the best way to learn writing skills…
Connect with writers who are slightly more advanced than you
Instead of wishing you could have a scotch with King or a latte with Lamott, find writers in your area who are a couple steps ahead of you. Maybe they applied for writing grants and won (I recently met an unpublished writer who won TWO writing grants in the past three years). Maybe they attended a month-long writers’ retreat or went on a cruise hosted by a publishing company. Maybe they learned how to develop a writing plan or where to meet local authors.
If you want to learn how to write more and better, don’t narrow your focus to the most famous successful published authors! Find writers who can teach you how they succeeded. For instance, Laura Cross wrote Developing a Writing Plan in 4 Easy Steps to show how she published her book on finding a literary agent.
Practice story telling
This has always been one of my weaknesses as a writer. I’ve never liked telling stories. I don’t even like listening to stories – though I love reading novels. My new purpose as a writer (besides reflecting the peace, love, and joy of God) is to weave more personal stories into my writing. This is a great tip on how to learn to write because it forces you to be both creative and disciplined as a writer.
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you,” says Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and many other bestsellers. “There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”
If you can’t think of any stories to tell, read Why You Can’t Write – 5 Causes of Writer’s Block.
Learn how to write from Tara Moss
“Write,” says Moss. “Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it – and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of ‘writing rules’ and advice. Do it your way.”
How much time do you spend reading books, blogs, quotes about writing? If you really want to learn how to write, take a writing class. Make writing a daily part of your life. Learn how to edit your writing. Become aware of the weaknesses in your writing (I tend to overuse exclamation marks!!! And dashes – ).
Find inspiration to write
I’ve been blogging since 2008, and my sole motivation (besides the joy and wonder of making money blogging) was starting new blogs. I’ve started more than 20 blogs, and have abandoned all but four. I was searching for my inspiration, my motivation to write. I got tired of blogging for money, weary of chasing Amazon sales and Adsense clicks. My motivation now? God. Over the past two years, my heart has been changed. God has captured my heart, shown me new things about my identity, and inspired me to share myself more deeply. This changes how I blog – and I’m learning how to write in a whole new way.
“The world is crying for new writing,” says Ann Rice. “It is crying for fresh and original voices and new characters and new stories. If you won’t write the classics of tomorrow, well, we will not have any.”
I welcome your thoughts on how to learn write. How are you learning to be a writer – do you have a mentor or publication coach? Have you taken writing courses or classes, or learned by doing?
If you really want to learn how to write from published authors, read 20 Writing Quotes From Famous Authors – From Hemingway to Jong.
May you write quickly and effortlessly. May your words be strong and uplifting, your fingers fly over the keyboard, and your stories inspiring and meaningful. May you be the writer you’ve always dreamed of being – and may you have your own definition of success to carry you through the journey.
Blessings on your writing, fellow scribes. May you write without fear and with joy! May your writing grow, blossom and flourish.