If you’ve followed The Inquisitive Inkpot for any amount of time, you’ll know that I am not about providing formulas—I’m about suggesting concepts. And when it comes to improving your writing, I’d like to share with you the most recent discovery I’ve made.
Get your hands on other people’s work.
I don’t mean published works or produced scripts. Those are absolutely helpful if you want examples of a finished product, but reading through them is a fairly one-sided activity. What you need is an up-close look at someone else’s ongoing process—a sneak peek at a creation in the raw.
Writing is like baking.
You can admire a beautiful cake and even eat a piece of it without knowing the recipe. This way, you enjoy someone else’s product but are no closer to creating your own. Or you can memorize the recipe but never see the finished product, so you don’t know what a successful cake looks and tastes like. This way, everything remains theory in your head with no living example.
What better way to do this than by reviewing others’ content?
As you likely know, I have recently pulled back on my blogging regimen in order to devote more time to scriptwriting and videography. And while some of that time has been spent on writing my own scripts, the other half of it has gone to reviewing the scripts of people I admire who are kind enough to involve me in their creative process. Until reading their work, I had no idea how much I needed to learn. Even so, their scripts are not in the final stage. We’ve had conversations about their scripts and what needs revision, elaboration, or the good old red pen. I get to see the way they approach storytelling, and that informs the way I approach it. There truly is nothing like sitting down with another writer and asking them questions about their work and why they made the choices they did.
For some of you, this might mean joining a group in your quest to improve your writing. You will see all levels of writers and get plenty of practice sorting through material. For others, this might mean trading work with one or two close friends.
In either case, you need to be around writers who are more advanced than you. Writers whose habits and knowledge you want to rub off on you. I cannot say how privileged I feel to be working with some of the individuals I am right now, but they are doing the same thing. They too are surrounding themselves with writers they admire, and that’s how they got where they are. And that is how we can all get where we want to be.
Mentoring seems to be a trendy topic these past few years. I’ve been trying to get one for many years now and people either don’t have time or they don’t want to do it for a number of reasons. I have finally found one that is very busy yet dedicates time to me on a somewhat regular basis. That’s someone from my professional industry. Your post made me think of a writing mentor. I imagine it would be hard to find one just the same. They would either not have time or wouldn’t want to do it. Or maybe I’m just a bit too negative…
Anyway, I looked for a writing group and thought I found one I wanted to give a try and then the pandemic broke out. All groups stopped meeting. Now, as people start going back to normal, I found out that the local group meets mid-morning on a week day, which makes it impossible for me to attend and also makes me think that the population of that group might not be the best fit for me. It would be great to maybe find a virtual writing group. Thanks for the push!
Sorry for the rambling. Sometimes writing comments helps me think, which helps me act. Stay golden!
That’s wonderful that you have a professional mentor who makes time for you. It is interesting how most of the people who do agree to mentor will say “I wish I had someone do this for me when I was in your shoes.”
I think it’s that attitude of paying it forward that distinguishes the mere high achievers from the heroes. There are extremely talented individuals who don’t take the time of day for others, even though someone else’s investment was what got them off the ground in the first place. Then there are the ones who think outside of themselves and try to meet needs where they see them. Those are the heroes.
I do hope you can get involved in a writing group where you can both learn and help others. Somehow I don’t doubt that you would be one who pays it forward!
This is such a useful post and I love how you put it- learn the recipe not the finished product.