What does it take to learn to write well?

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Answered by: Beth, An Expert in the How to Write Well Category
To learn to write well takes a kind of quiet courage we don’t often acknowledge. Courage is usually associated with dramatic events: a new job, returning to college, tackling addiction, leaving an abusive relationship. We use the term to commend those who brave dangerous situations: fighting off a burglar, backpacking the jungle, beating a life-threatening illness.

But courage applies to the quiet things, too, like writing.

To learn to write well is a big deal. It demands that you face your fears of sounding stupid, of not being able to do it perfectly, of putting yourself out there for the world to read. When we write from the heart, the birthplace of good writing, the words we write are not just ideas; they are us. To expose that to someone else – a reader who might evaluate, judge, or criticize – takes a lot of courage.

Writing is complicated. It is a sophisticated critical thinking process that simultaneously requires great skills of craft: focus, clarify, mastery over grammar, organization, content development and more. You won’t learn how to write overnight, though you might feel like you should. Like all other complex things, writing takes practice and time, and therefore patience.

Patience is the ability to cope with hard situations without becoming too upset. Find the courage to be patient. Productive writers resist overwhelming anxiety, anger, or complaint in the face of frustration. Novices expect to sit down at a computer and click away at the keyboard, communicating their ideas on the page like they’re talking with a good friend. But, most often, it doesn’t happen like that. Often what happens for new writers is that what appears on the page looks nothing like what’s in their heads, i.e. what they expect and truly desire from their writing.

Be patient with your practice, and you’ll soon close the gap between what’s in your head and what is on the page. It takes courage to put in the long hours of practice and trust the process. It is hard to wait. Having the courage to be patient with writing is really about learning to be patient with yourself. Remember, failure almost always comes before success, especially when it is something worthwhile.

Similar to patience is commitment, a strong belief in something, so much so that it becomes a promise. The true test of a real commitment is action over a sustained period of time, especially through hardship and struggle. Temptation will lurk in every corner. To write well, writers need long spurts of uninterrupted time. Have the courage to say no – to others and to yourself. It’s hard to manage our distractions. If you really want to write, silence your phones, don’t check email, and turn off the television. Commit.

The courage to learn to write well is really about the courage to change your way of being. Start by reading as much and often as you can and studying the craft writing. Then, most importantly, write without fear. Have courage. Start today.

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