Shift Your Perspective to Improve Your Writing
A man might write such stuff forever, if he would abandon his mind to it – Samuel Johnson
The way you think about your writing can affect the way you write. Do you think of yourself as a writer? Do you edit as you write? The answers to these questions have implications for your writing. And you may improve your writing if you answer these questions.
At its most basic level, writing is simply putting words onto paper. Anybody can be a writer. However, being a writer is not the same as developing a craft. Writing as an art form takes more effort than writing down ideas as they come to you. The kind of writing I’m talking about involves passion.
So, what does this have to do with the way you think about your writing?
Writing is often a state of mind. If you think of yourself as a wannabe writer or if you edit as you work, how can you actually write?
Do You Edit as You Go?
Before I thought of myself as a writer, I had a hard time writing the way I wanted to. In part this was because I didn’t know how to write without editing each sentence as I wrote. Since I wasn’t a writer, I felt like I had to work harder to get it perfect the first time. Think about how this would affect your writing – it’s difficult to develop a relaxed style or allow creative impulses to take over.
This worked fine for academic writing which needs to be structured and formal. And, I managed to write in a comfortable tone, but only because I added that voice into final draft.
When you edit, your analytical brain kicks into overdrive and prevents the creative and emotional side of your brain from doing its work. You need to separate editing and writing at least while you write the first draft. Later, the two sides of your brain can work together for revisions and edits.
With a great deal of practice, I taught myself to wait to edit – not only did writing become easier, but I no longer had to revise my writing for tone.
Are You a Writer or a Hack?
I did not call myself a writer for years. I wrote a lot, but nobody saw anything other than class assignments, and usually only professors saw those. I had a picture in my mind that a writer was somebody who wrote the Great American Novel.
Do you think of yourself as a writer? Do you tell people you’re a writer?
These are important questions for reasons beyond confidence in your ability. Calling yourself a writer changes the way you write.
Once you think of yourself as a writer, you free yourself to write the way that you want to write. You unlock your creativity. You worry less about getting it ‘right’ as you work, and more about letting your ideas develop in a natural way.
Why This Matters
When you allow yourself to write freely, both what you write about and how you write will change. Your writing will become freer. You will allow yourself to follow tangents which can lead you down some unexpected paths – you may not always like where your writing takes you, but those paths are always worth exploring, especially when they improve your writing.
Think about writing as exploring. I have always loved to get in the car and pick a direction and just drive. You never know what you will find around the next corner or over the far hill. When my son was young, we would drive for hours on the forest roads of British Columbia. Those back roads may have been diversions, but 2e saw things we would never have found otherwise.
Writing is similar. Yes, you can take the easy paved road. In doing so, you will still create something unique. But, where’s the risk in that? And, if you never take new writing paths, how will you improve your writing?
So, cut across the meadow and blaze your own trail (if you’ll pardon the cliché). Explore. Go further than you normally do. Get more personal, or political, or opinionated, or comical. Let yourself explore.
Do you think of yourself as a writer? When you write, do you explore ideas as they develop, or do you stay on the direct path to your predetermined destination? Let us know in the comments section.