“Practice as if you are the worst; perform as if you are the best.” —Jaspher Kantuna
Although I’ve been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years, refining my abilities is something I still struggle with.
Despite my dedication to the craft of writing, I’ll have moments when I stare at a blank screen, unable to call up the right words. Sometimes, I’ll go back to something I’ve published and wonder what the heck I was thinking when I wrote it.
Writing is a process of practicing, honing and perfecting.
Here are some ways to sharpen your skills:
1. Play writing games.
A friend and I often play a game called Storymatic, which includes a series of cards used to generate story ideas.
With each turn, players draw two character cards, such as “a butcher” and “the object of a secret crush,” along with two object cards, such as “a flat tire” and “a secret hiding place.”
The goal is to combine all four elements into one story, and the person with the most creative story wins.
Playing games that include writing prompts can help you to think creatively and stretch your storytelling abilities. As the need for strong storytellers grows in the marketing world, honing this skill can go a long way.
2. Challenge yourself to solve problems.
I love a good writing challenge, and I refer to a college English class in which I was introduced to lipograms—pieces of text written with a constraint, such as avoiding a letter or group of letters.
Imagine writing a short story without using the letter “e” or the word “is.” It challenges your brain to construct sentences under strict rules.
An example of a successful lipogram is the novel “Gadsby“ by Ernest Vincent Wright. It has more than 50,000 words, but doesn’t include a single letter “e.”
Writing with a constraint forces you to solve writing problems in new ways. This will prepare you to adhere to style constraints (e.g., AP style or The Chicago Manual of Style).
3. Write outside your comfort zone.
Many PR pros could probably write press releases or CEO messages in their sleep, but how would they fare if they had to write the opening scene of a play?
Test yourself, and broaden your skills by writing outside your comfort zone.
Try technical writing, fiction, screenplays, comic books—anything you haven’t written before. Doing this will improve your overall writing abilities and help you take a less stifled approach to your work.
4. Never stop reading.
There’s a wide array of communicators who consider reading to be the key to consistently strong writing.
Like an improving musician who seeks out a range of music to listen to and analyze, writers read to analyze and, thus, keep improving.
Writers also read to find inspiration. It doesn’t matter whether the genres we choose are classics, modern fiction, cookbooks or even tweets; we can usually walk away with something to incorporate into our own writing.
5. Teach in order to learn.
I often jump at the chance to help others with their writing. By helping my kids and their friends with writing assignments or English homework, I’m taking a small step toward improving my abilities.
I recently assisted a friend who’s a piano teacher with crafting content for her website, and I reviewed a co-worker’s graduate school admission essay. By mentoring these less experienced writers I reinforced my own abilities.
Helping greener writers forces you to hone knowledge and offer advice you might not have tapped into for years.
Demonstrating how you work through a tough sentence or come with up a concise description will help the writers you mentor to gain confidence and find their own voices.
Whether you get together with colleagues to talk shop or join a local writers group, spending time with other writers is a great way to commiserate, swap stories and share ideas.
For example, I feel an immediate sense of camaraderie with anyone who has an opinion about the singular form of “they.”
6. Share your writing on social media.
Wattpad is a social media platform geared toward readers and writers.
It allows users to post articles, stories, fan fiction and poems. Users can comment on stories or join groups within the site to discuss their own writing and pieces that others have posted.
What about you, PR Daily readers, how do you practice your writing skills?
Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com. This post first appeared on Ragan in 2016.