How to improve your writing skills without going to school

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In my opinion, good writing is in danger of becoming a lost art. With the rise of social media and text messages, people settle for quick statements, abbreviations and bad spelling and never really consider if they are communicating carefully. For those who want to improve as a writer for enjoyment and profit, here are some simple suggestions.

Just do it. Nothing magical here. Writers learn to write by writing. Keep a journal and write in it daily. No one ever has to see it so don’t feel like you have to write perfectly. The more you write the more comfortable you become with putting words together. Start out by just expressing your own inner thoughts and resist the urge to edit as you go. Recall past experiences and write about your feelings or reactions or how the past events have changed you for good or bad.

Look for opportunities to write for other people. Does your office, church or neighborhood have a newsletter? Volunteer to write an article or two. Committing yourself to the assignment provides the motivation to get it done.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. This gives you experience in expressing your opinion on current topics or local issues. It’s also a thrill when you see your writing in print.

Read. All writers should be reading—constantly. There are many benefits to reading. For writers it’s a means of expanding your vocabulary in a reality-based environment as opposed to those word-a-day calendars. When you read the works of great writers and journalists you climb into their heads and get a feel for their thought processes and style.

Read books on writing. There is no shortage of good writing books. You can find books specifically focused on any form of writing. My favorites for writing in general include, “On Writing Well,” by William Zinsser, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing Down the Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg and “Zen in the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury.

Ask for feedback. You have to be selective when asking for feedback. Unless your mother is a literary critic, a published author or an English teacher, she probably won’t give very objective feedback. Ask someone who will give you honest feedback and is not concerned about hurting your feelings. If you can find someone who is also a writer they will not only give you good feedback but can also point out your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll have to learn to develop thick skin when you ask for feedback. Writing is an expression of your inner person and when someone criticizes your words you feel as if they are attacking you. Don’t let your feelings prevent you from growing as a writer.

Okay, you can take classes but you don’t have to. Just look at improving your writing skills as a life-long project and enjoy the process.

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