Any artist worth his/her salt works hard to make beauty look easy.
Writing’s no different.
I’ve done a lot of stuff over the last year or so to improve my writing ability that I would’ve been annoyed and/or bored with two years ago. If you’d told me writing a one page, run-on sentence was good practice for improving prose, I’d have laughed in your face. How can practicing bad habits lead to better writing? But it works.
I also wouldn’t have believed that writing tightly-restricted pieces, either in word count, word use, or topic, or combinations thereof, would help either. Or that writing poetry is a great way to expand your vocabulary and strengthen your descriptive abilities. I just didn’t see how one related to the other, for some reason, and so I spent a lot of time ignoring those aspects. In short, I didn’t practice.
I still don’t practice as much as I need to, but I do it. Even when I’m in a slump, sometimes I just pop open Word or my favorite text editor and start writing. Most of it is just deleted, and never sees the light of day, but sometimes I post them on my fiction blog, when they take me by surprise and turn out view-worthy. Like an artist with their sketches, if the piece comes out well, there’s no reason a practice session can’t become something to be proud of.
Some of my favorite techniques are to restrict word count and eliminate a certain part of speech. For instance, I did a series of pieces over on my deviantART page where I limited myself to 125 words, and didn’t allow myself any adverbs or adjectives. The success/failure of achieving the goal isn’t as important as getting used to finding stronger, more descriptive nouns and verbs, and to tighten the prose, limit the word use. Say what you mean and paint word pictures in as few words as possible. They were rewarding exercises, and they sort of caught on.
Of course, as with any hobby/craft/art/science, there are those to whom the ability to do it well comes naturally. They don’t seem to have to work at it. They can be told their piece is weak because of factors 1, 2 and 3, and then revise the piece to eliminate those factors, and never have to work with writing exercises or such nonsense. They can simply write. And this is true with any ability or talent, I’m sure.
What about you? There’s something you do and do well … do you have to practice it? Or are you a natural?
Sound off, y’all.
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