Admit it: you want to become a bestselling author or a celebrated poet. In short, you just want to get better at reaching people with your writing. The reason you write, after all, is to be heard―to share your message with a particular audience.

To achieve your writing goals, you must simply get better at the art. You’ve come to this realisation. You’re in good hands. This post will provide you with two basic steps to become a better writer.

Some people say writing is a talent and you must have the talent to be a great writer. But Scott Fitzgerald, one of the finest American writers ever, has this to say on the issue of talent: “You have talent―which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.”

Fitzgerald’s words are a reminder that talent alone is not enough. Even if you feel you have the talent, or you actually do, there’s still substantial work to be done.

Writing is as much an art as it is a skill. Having the knack for stringing words together is not a guarantee you’d be a great writer. The good news? Even if you feel you don’t have the talent, writing―like any other skill―can be learned and mastered.

Below are some insights that if acted upon accordingly can make your writing better. One thing you must know, however, is that writing takes a great deal of effort and commitment. Like any other worthy endeavour.  You can’t become a great writer overnight!

Read

The importance of reading to a writer cannot be overemphasised. Reading is simply going through the thought process of another writer. If you desire to get better as a writer, read extensively. Read in your genre and outside of it as well. Read anything and everything you can lay your hands on.

When you want to read, take the advice of Francine Prose in her book, For Those Who Want to Write. Prose suggests that you read slowly so that you can note how the writer has carefully arrived at whatever it is you are reading. Click To Tweet

The writing process is a painstaking one. A good writer will tell you how hard it can be sometimes to arrive at something at a perfect word choice.

When you read other writers, either those you wish to emulate or those that are simply established and successful, you would learn several things. You would learn how they write and about different styles. You would also learn other things such as pacing and voice.

Before writing courses became popular, old writers learnt by imitating their predecessors. Modern writers continue to do so. Click To Tweet

The other part of reading is to read on how to become a better writer. Many successful writers have now written books outlining their writing process. Also, articles and essays abound on how to get better as a writer. Find and devour them.

Though you might not do exactly as these materials suggest, you are sure to gain something from each one of them. You can’t possibly exhaust all the writing resources out there these days. But read as much as you can, nonetheless.

Read books on the basics of writing as well. This includes books on such aspects as punctuation, grammar, structure and even style. Learning the basics will lay a solid foundation for your writing endeavour.

Write

 “Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.” – J. B. Priestley.

Getting better at anything takes practice. Practice does make perfect. In actual point of fact, practice makes everything. The only way to become a better writer is to write. Click To Tweet

You could take a thousand courses on becoming a better writer but you still need to write a lot to truly get better. The ultimate way to become better is to write and to continue to improve as you do so.

It doesn’t matter whatever genre you write―either poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction. If you don’t write, you can’t get better. It’s as simple as that.

As garner more practical insights from reading, you must apply these insights by writing. There is no way around it. As Priestley said, forget that you want to get published for a moment. Get into the process of writing first. Write, write and write.

Most writers advise that you have a certain amount of time every day to write. Most suggest that you make it a morning ritual as morning seems the most perfect time. For you, it might be in the evening or late at night, but make sure you write consistently.

Consistency breeds confidence and the more you write, the more you get better at it. It’s just like learning an instrument. You get better by the day when you practise with some consistency. Click To Tweet

Today, we have many writing tools online that can help you keep a routine as a writer. Grammarly, for example, improves your writing skills while also offering other valuable resources. With this unique tool, you can overcome niggling punctuation and grammar errors.

What you write at a particular point doesn’t always have to make perfect sense. Just write, let the words flow. You can always make sense of it later. Always remember you can’t edit a blank page. So, write away.

One of the creative greats once mused: “It’s the amateur writer that waits for inspiration, the rest of us just go to work”. Picasso put it this way: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find us working”. In other words, stop playing the ‘no inspiration’ card.

“Action is the foundational key to all success”, to quote Picasso again. All the knowledge in the world without any action is null and void. Stop giving yourself excuses and get to work already. Read every day. And never let a day go by without you writing something.

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This article first appeared on Writers Space Africa.