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Write, but don’t expect to learn it from others

writeOther people can’t teach you to write. Even the greatest writers of all time can’t teach you to write. Shakespeare? No. Stephen King? No. Hemingway? Not a chance.

They can offer advice. They can let you know what works for them. But the truth is, what works for them might not work for you or for your readers or potential readers.

For example, more than a decade back, I broke through a struggle with writer’s block by studying screenwriting. Basically, the formatting of screenwriting helped me to formulate story plots in my mind, which helped me get over fears of writing and publishing, etc. This won’t work for everyone. To other people, screenwriting might look like more trouble than it’s worth, or it just might not appeal to them for other reasons. For me, it was a huge aid.

There are plenty of how-to and self-help books out there about writing, many of them quite excellent. But the truth of the matter is, you can only become a good writer by writing. And reading, that helps, too.

Yes, it all falls on your own shoulders. Each writer is different, works in different ways and has different mindsets. Some writers can pump out 10,000 words a day and have a novel finished in a week or two. Other writers can only creep along at a hundred or so words a day, taking a year or five to finish a book. Writers are just different, despite some similarities in how we might work or write or think.

This doesn’t have to mean you’re completely on your own. Talking with other writers, or even joining a critique group, can help to improve your writing by giving you others’ opinions about your work. Just remember that it’s your writing. You’re the one in charge. Advice from others can be helpful, but don’t let it overrule your own visions. But don’t be stubborn, either. If something doesn’t work and a hundred others tell you it doesn’t work, you need to seriously consider approaching the matter from a different perspective. At least if you’re hoping for publication.

Keep in mind, you can read a thousand books about writing, but you’ll never improve your skills (and your marketability) until you actually do some writing. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to tell when your skills are improving. Just don’t be in such a hurry. It takes time, longer for some than others.

A good teacher or three can help you with the basics, such as punctuation and grammar, etc., but those are just the bones of structure. You have to be the one to build the muscles, the organs, the rest of the body.

Good luck out there.