How to Become a Better Writer Today

How do you become a better writer today without taking classes for an MFA in creative writing? To improve your writing, all you have to do is pay close attention to the texts you read: your favorite book, the article you found online, or the advertisements you see on a daily basis.

All it comes down to is being a better observer of the world. In this case, pay close attention, not so much to the contents of what you read, but at how the writer paints a picture inside your head.

Notice the Writing Strategy

Notice the strengths in other people’s writings. Which lines do you find yourself rereading because you loved how the writer composed a phrase, sentence, or passage. Why do you reread those lines?

The Writing Strategy

Sherman Alexie applies the following writing strategy in “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”: If you describe something with a series, start each item in the series with the same phrase or word for emphasis.

The Writing Strategy Example

Alexie writes:

“They ran then, hard as they ever had, faster than Billy Mills, faster than Jim Thorpe, faster than the wasps could fly. Victor and Thomas ran until they couldn’t breathe, ran until it was cold and dark outside, ran until they were lost and it took hours to find their way home.”

Billy Mills and Jim Thorpe were famous Native American athletes known for winning Gold medals in the Olympics. In the scene described above, two boys run faster than these athletes from a wasp nest.

In the paragraph that follows, we learn how much they run and how they run without thinking. These lines don’t let you catch your breath.

Why is the Writing Strategy Effective?

The repetition of the words and phrases in the scene form long sentences. The long lines emphasize how important it is for these boys to run fast and how much they need to run without the full stops of periods so that the wasps don’t catch them.

Apply the Writing Strategy in Your Writing


Photo by Min An from Pexels

After you notice the writing strategy in the text you’re reading, reflect on its effectiveness, and find ways to apply it to your writing.

Let me give you an example on how I applied this strategy in a short story that I wrote a couple of weeks ago:  

She wanted to find meaning in the way blood covered Marcos’ body and hers, in the way he called out her name to ask if she was okay, in the way she could not find the voice to answer.

from “After Missing Death By 43 Seconds”

I’m not saying the imitation has to be perfect. What matters is that you apply the new writing strategy as you continue writing until it becomes a habit.


Join the Conversation:

What writing strategies have you applied in your writing to strengthen your work? How do you find new writing strategies to use?


Works Cited:

Alexie, Sherman. “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume E, edited by Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine, Norton, 2012, pp. 1213-1222.

Regrets of the dying & What’s the Perfect Writer Path?

On having a sinus infection

Life’s been feeling pretty weird lately. Despite the warm weather, I’ve been suffering from a sinus infection all week. Today, I took pseudoephedrine which I think is fixing my breathing problems. I’ve been breathing through my mouth, sneezing, and becoming a bit crabby because of my annoyance with being sick and feeling weak. I’ve also been using nasal rinses, nasal spray, and VaporRub. 

Life feels weird because I’m not supposed to feel this energy-depleted within these sunny days.

New Blogging Mindset

My blogging mindset has changed: I’m finding it easier to draft multiple posts in one sitting. That pressure, that looming deadline of posting four times a week is getting real. Sometimes I have no idea what to talk about. I’m finally seeing how blogging can feel like work.

I’m exploring the paths available for writers. I’m writing about topics that interest me. I’m challenging myself to do more creative writing. What’s helping me keep consistency on the blog is setting boundaries for the writer self of blogging. The writer self needs time off from the internet to actually write, to find inspiration, and jot down ideas. The process of writing for the blog is becoming more precious, thoughtful, and structured. (I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I could have written better and more detailed blog posts had I spent more time working on them without the deadline.)

The Passing of Time

Last weekend, I talked to dad and told him how time has been going by fast. The days blur. He was surprised to hear this from me. I think that it’s because I complain so much about my job: he probably thought I don’t enjoy it as much as I do. Life at work, the school year blur into one day of routine. It feels like just yesterday I was still learning the names of students.

As for my weekends, I think it’s best I try to spend them less online and more time on living my life. I forget that I have to power to make my life as interesting as the Youtubers I love. I’d also like to get back to reading and being disciplined with reading as this always seems to help me become a better writer even without me consciously applying a new writing strategy.

The routine of the 40-day work week is finally sinking in, and the time I spend outside of work is becoming more precious. I often wonder who and where I’ll be in five, ten, fifteen years. It’s clear to me that I might or might not live a long life, and I want to make the most of the time I have to live.

What’s the Perfect Writer Path?

I know that I want to keep writing, so I’m sticking to the blogging schedule. I still find it crazy to know that people actually take time out of their days to read my writing. And I’m continually inspired by all of the writers out there, especially the ones who make a living out of this passion.

In reflection, one of the things that I don’t like about being a writer is the loneliness of it. I think that’s one of the reason why being a full-time writer doesn’t keep my attention. However, I’m curious to learn how other writers form their writing careers while remaining active members of their communities and the world, passionate about the craft, but not isolated. Do you also have that stereotypical image of the writer as someone who spends a lot of time by themselves and has a tendency to become a recluse?

Regrets of the dying

I know that I can’t predict the future, but if someone were to ask me at my dying bed, what is your deepest regret? I think it would be not following the call to be a writer. And so, I want to keep writing and sharing my writing on the blog. I have hope that this will help me find a writing path that works for me.

April 19, 2019, Friday, Online Journal Entry

On Polishing Dusty, Old Poems

Last week, I felt a desire to finish two poems that had been in the draft folder for more than a year. Finishing these two poems allowed me to let go and move on (hopefully into more poetry writing).

One poem is about my experiences of working as a pharmacy technician and the other about how thoughts can keep me awake at night and how they sometimes become louder than the sounds coming from the world. They’re written in a stream-of-consciousness style.

Polishing & Submitting

These poems were inspired by a poem I’ve mentioned quite a bit on this blog: Louise Gluck’s “October”. Gluck uses the questioning technique throughout it. The two poems that I wrote also use questioning. I’d stacked a lot of questions, and I decided to connect the questions with commas, so that there’s only one question mark until the end of the poem. I did this after reading advice from an editor who said that connecting all of the questions with only one question mark would have a better effect.

Blogging has taught me so many lessons (I’m hoping to post about this soon), and one of them was a renewed confidence in my writing which seems to also be impacting my poetry writing. I’m starting to feel okay about writing bad poems again in hopes that with showing up, polished poems begin to form.

When I revise and edit poems, I usually record myself. I listen to the recordings to find the lines that I want to edit or revise. I worked on them last week, and the results were poems that feel as polished as they’re going to get.

After the polishing, I decided that it was time to submit them to literary journals. These poems don’t feel mine anymore, and I have faith that they will find a home. After submitting what felt like a million job applications in the past two weeks, submitting the poems felt like a much easier process. The submission process usually calls for a short cover letter and a bio in addition to the pieces one submits.

Connections

I’m finally finding some things that link the small collection of polished poems that I’ve accumulated so far. For one, I seem to be addressing specific people or groups of people in my life. One poem is addressed to my father, the other to my mother, and another to my students. I’m not surprised to find that I’ve been writing letter poems. I have always been the quiet one, better with words on paper, and I show my love better through actions than through physical touch.

Image by Cina Erikson from Pixabay

When I go from poet to analyzer of my writing, I see that the poems are not poems. They are letters from the heart. Some of them include emotions that I still don’t feel capable of expressing in the real world.

Some of the poems are also full of questions that at one point I felt that I didn’t have the answers to. To a certain extent, I still don’t. Maybe in letting go of the poems, I’m letting go of the questions and accepting the questions without the need for answers.

Friday, March 29, 2019