On Becoming a Better Writer

I majored in broadcast journalism in college. I spent oodles of time working on my voice and fretting the fact that everyone thought I looked 12 on camera. But I had the good sense enough to chase after the thing that really mattered: becoming a better writer.

I didn’t land on the nightly news (which is a topic for another post entirely), but I do write every day. In fact, I’ve made some money writing over the years. I still have the very first “book” I wrote from the first grade. I have always been a writer and will always be a writer.

When I interned at WSMV Channel 4, I’d tag along with reporters on their news stories. More than anything, I wanted to mimic their good habits so that I, too, could become a better writer. On the way to a story, riding in the news car, I’d wait for a break in the conversation and ask, “What advice do you give for being a better writer?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. This past weekend, I attended a blow-your-socks-off conference on apologetics (I’ll post more about the conference later). Among the things that astounded me was the level of scholarship these speakers exuded. The men I heard were smart. Very smart. Extremely well-read and studied. Quite articulate, excellent story-tellers, compelling wordsmiths.

I was confronted with my steady diet of Spongebob, CNN news headlines, and Seinfeld re-runs. Really. Just soaking up the knowledge in these men’s brains and being asked to track with them was invigorating and convicting.

So what makes a good writer? I offer my suggestions (from a mix of that aspiring television journalist in the early 90s and a worn-out mother of three in the 21st century):

  • Live. Writing must be authentic, born from life experiences. You gotta have something to say before you can say it.
  • Learn. Read. Research. Open books. Immerse oneself in classic literature and in the great minds past and present.
  • Listen. Train one’s ear to listen for beautiful language, great storytelling, weighty words with meaning, and foreign words needing more explanation.
  • Expose oneself to other art forms to find inspiration. Great music, theatre, or film often jump start a creative notion inside. Hang out with creative people and tap into their muse, too.
  • Don’t settle for life at the surface level. That’s easy. Life is offered to us on a paper plate every day. Go deeper. Ask for the good china and the steak and lobster. Spend some time mulling over the weightier matters of philosophy or theology. Everybody’s good at the surface-y stuff. Don’t be like everybody else.
  • Write.

What makes you a better writer?

Creative Commons License photo credit: tech no logic