Road Map for the 21st Century Writer
I am never quite sure how to describe when or where a person starts writing or why someone is compelled to start writing (for themselves). What I know is that I love writing and I find so much joy in writing for myself.
I started learning to draw in 2017. I had not touched a pencil until then and it was so hard for me to figure out many of the things all by myself. The wider internet and Youtube did give me a lot of informational content to get started and train myself. Drawing is a skill, and like any skill it not the abundance of information or knowledge that will help improve it. It is through deliberate consistent practice.
While reflecting on my growth as a visual artist, I starting thinking what I would do, if I was to start writing from scratch. What would my training regimen look like, what would be my Road Map? My current answer to that will be something like the following:
- Basics of language : Vocabulary, Grammar, Sentence structure, Punctuation [High School level Knowledge would be the prerequisite].
- Reading : Reading has to come before writing. Without reading good stuff, you are only wasting time trying to reinvent wheel that doesn’t even exist. Type of reading: probably 75% Fiction and 25% Non-Fiction.
- Building a writing habit : Two words - Quantity and Consistency
- All the things I mentioned so far can be followed in fairly linear fashion. You could jump between reading and writing. But then steps that come after are interlinked with each other. One reinforces all the other steps, including the previous ones. Here on out it’s a life time marathon.
- Analytical Reading : Whether you are writing fiction or non fiction you need to have the ability to think clearly. Books can teach you to think, provided you read them with effort. That is where Analytical Reading comes into play. The best course of action is to dive into the book - How to Read a Book by Mortimer J Adler and keep the ideas present in to close to heart, every time you decide to read a book.
- Building a note taking system to manage information that fuels your writing. As a long term investment learn and apply Zettelkasten, or settle for something less complex but effective enough (Second Brain)
- Analyzing and learning from good writing : Dissect and understand how your favorite authors craft their prose. Pick up copy writing for learning the skill of making each word count. The book How to read like a Writer is also a good learning material.
- Apply what you have learned from your analysis to the thing you write. The application will never come naturally. You will to edit, edit and EDIT your writing to bring it to the level of your favorite writer.
It is important to note that the first milestone you will get to pass to is when you are able to write freely about something without sweating or being nervous. That is what the writing habit is for. But from there you are actively trying to push your skill level. You writing and thinking has to grow hand it hand if you are planning to be a non fiction writer. Fiction writer will be more focused on story, style and magic of delivery. It takes time. Use the road map to build a system for you to consistently do the work. There will be a lot of plateaus and periods of little to negative growth. Persist and evolve.
The gulf between each writing stage increases exponentially. So don’t beat yourself hard if you are not improving at a tremendous pace. Good writing is not a product of sprint, but of a Marathon.