I am a passionate writer. I have been since the age of 8, writing stories on my dad’s typewriter and selling them for 50 cents. As I grew older I wrote for school, and I wrote for fun. I wrote to record things, I wrote to vent things, and I wrote to communicate. I kept a journal, and I wrote volumes of poetry.
But for a long time after my first daughter was born in 2007, I didn’t write anything except what was necessary for survival. I don’t know why, but I just stopped.
When I opened up Making the Most to the world in late 2012, I have to say I was little rusty. Even though I did some writing for work, my creativity just wasn’t the same as it had once been. I’m happy to say that I’ve grown as a writer in the last three years. Blogging consistently and multiple trainings have helped me to continue building my skills, and I am just so thrilled to have written my first book (set to come out in May or June).
After hearing about my blog success and the completion of my first book, many people ask me: what advice would you give to a young writer who is just starting out?
I can’t attribute my accomplishments to just daily work, and I can’t say that training is the number one factor in improving my writing either. Reading frequently helps me to expand my creativity and my thought process, but even that is not at the top of my list.
Here’s what I tell them instead: If you want to write, the #1 thing you MUST do is journal regularly.
- Journaling allows you to “start from the beginning.”
My daughter just began playing the violin this year. It frustrated her at first, because she wanted to be a master violinist right away, and well, it just doesn’t work like that. Ask any musician; I’ll bet most of them will tell you that they had to start out with the basics. First you have to learn to hold the violin. You need to learn how to pluck. You need to learn how to hold the bow, and you have to learn a lot about where to position your fingers to play which notes and still yet learn a lot about reading music.It’s the same with writing. Sure, you learned a little bit about writing going through school, but if you’re starting over or if you’re just now beginning to write professionally, you have to start from the beginning. Through journaling (and then rereading what you have written), you will begin to find out what you like and what you need to change about your writing style in order to make it your own.
- Practice makes perfect.
Anyone who is known to have an expertise in any area, whether it is writing, art, sports, or music, will tell you that it takes hours and hours of practice in order to truly become an expert in any given area. You have probably heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect,” and while nobody is perfect all the time, practice makes it perfection a lot more attainable.I have actually read that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in order to master a particular art (or sport, etc.). Keep in mind, though, that this number is not a stopping point. Nobody quits practicing once they’ve become a master. Even athletes need to train regularly (even in the off season) in order to maintain health and strength enough to perform at their best during the regular season. Similarly, if you don’t continue to use your “brain muscles” on a regular basis, you’ll forget everything you learned while practicing your craft.
- Journaling allows you to measure growth in your writing.
I love looking back at my writing pieces from fifth grade or even reading my journals from when I was 8 years old. I can guarantee you that they would have never made it to publishing, but looking back at what I wrote in the past allows me to remember my starting point and compare it to my craft now. Even looking back three years ago, I realize I have come a long way. Journaling over a long period of time allows you to measure your growth. Over time you may change your sentence structure, your word choice may improve, or even your punctuation and grammar may undergo some serious change. Most of all, you will begin to recognize how you have created your own style. You’ll have grown into something different, and it’s important to look back to see how far you’ve come. It will give you hope for the future.
If you are have been writing for a little while or if you’re just thinking about starting a blog or writing a book, I want to encourage you today to begin journaling. Your journal can be as plain or as fancy as you like it to be. It can be public or private. It can be messy or organized. But however you decide to make your journal, make sure you write in it on a regular basis. Start from the beginning. Practice consistently. Then measure your growth. You’ll thank yourself for it.