How Do I Become a Better Writer?

Uncategorized Nov 04, 2020


Rather than interviewing a guest or breaking down an expert author's way of launching a book, this week I'm answering the question: How do I become a better writer?

The short answer is: write. The longer answer is: write and read. The still longer answer is in this episode.

And if you want me to answer your writing question on this show, DM on Instagram at @annabdavid.



Hi there. This is Launch Pad, a podcast hosted by me, Anna David. I normally talk to authors and entrepreneurs about how to launch a book and what a book can do for your career. But I'm going through a phase where I am answering your questions, and that is anybody who wants to send me a question. Can send me a question the best ways to DM me on Instagram @annabdavid. And I will answer your question by the way, this is episode 335. So let's get into the question. How can I become a better writer? I am going to say that I do not believe anybody becomes a better writer from reading books about writing.

And I am saying this as someone who's written a book about writing. There are fantastic books about writing. Stephen King has a book about writing. Annie Lamott has a book about writing, but I believe the only way we get better as writers is by writing and reading, I majored in creative writing and literary writing in college. And we've, I know it was a long time ago and I was drunk a lot of the time, but I don't remember any professors really teaching us about writing. I remember that we wrote; my senior thesis was a short story. What I spent my last two years in college doing was workshopping stories. We would write our stories and the class would read them and we would give notes on each other's stories. But the other thing that is really important is reading. I coach writers and there was somebody who was briefly in one of my programs and he was writing a memoir and I said, “Well, what are your favorite memoirs?” And he said, “I've never read a memoir.” And I said, “I don't think this program is for you because if you do not love the form, then you shouldn't have the audacity to do it.” Now, this doesn't mean that you should feel like you need to be reading all the time. My reading has fallen off so much. We're all distracted by so many different options for entertainment. I will say I feel a little bit guilty when I don't open a book at night and said, I turn on Netflix, but I still do that. But if you don't like reading at all, writing may not be for you. I think it's for people who really, really care about words. But really the more you write, the better you're going to get, I will say in my membership program, Inner Circle, we launched in March and people would read their writing aloud and it's a group of about 40 people.

And I thought, well, you know, this is pretty average for a group of random people who are amazing people, but who do not have professional writing experience. They gather every single day - I am now recording this at the end of October and every single week since then this same group has gathered. And now we do reading series, which by the way, we do host a reading series. I mean, I host a reading series called See You Last Friday and you should come to it because it's on zoom and anybody can come and read aloud. You can find out more by going to see you last But so I get to hear them read aloud there. And I get to see their work when I come to the membership program and nobody's teaching them and they are getting so good and they are getting good because they are putting their butts in the chair every day.

And writing this does not mean that you have to write all day. These people are doing it for an hour a day. So I believe if you want to become a better writer, you have got to commit to writing every day. And it's really about having the habit. The more we do something, the more we want to do something, whether that's working out or meditating or writing. And it's so easy, once you slack off one day to just slack off the next; it just gets harder and harder to go back. So if it's possible to just make a commitment, I will say a friend of mine, who's a TV writer Chris Brancato; he created Narcos and all these other shows. And he told me he's a prolific writer. He told me that when, what he has to do when he's feeling blocked is set a 10-minute timer and just go, “Okay, I'm just going to write for 10 minutes.

That's what I commit to.” And then of course, once after 10 minutes, he's in the flow and he wants to do it. I will say what I did when writing my most recent book is I decided to not get online until I had written three pages or whatever it was. And so my brain was totally clear and it would just be me and my coffee and I would write. So having some sort of a ritual around it I think is important, but really it's about the accountability. I wrote my first book because, and forgive me if you've heard me say this before my friend, Melanie and I both wanted to write novels and we talked about it and she said, “Well, why don't we send each other 500 words every Sunday?” And I said, yes, thinking I, you know, I live in LA where no one's word means anything.

I was just like, “Oh, well, she doesn't mean it.” And the following Sunday, I received her 500 words and I panicked realizing I had to write 500 words so that she didn't know that I didn't think she was actually serious. So I fire those off and thought, phew, don't have to do that again. And the following Sunday, I received her next 500 words. So I had to do the same thing. So at that point I had a thousand words and she ended up…she got this big job. She ended up not following through on her book and that, and those first thousand words are the same thousand words that are in my book Party Girl, which was the first of my eight books. So I never would have done it if I hadn't made that agreement, kind of unwillingly, to my friend to be accountable.

And so that's really it. I received emails from people all the time who say, you know, “Everybody tells me I'm a great writer, I've got this amazing story.” And I think that the more you write, the more you're going to see how bad some of your stuff really is. Cause sometimes these people will send me their writing and you know, they've written this paragraph into them and you know, it's just, you gotta, you know, you got to kill your darlings as you go. You got to start to know, “Oh, that's not good. That's not me at my best. That's cliched.” And know what's really original. And it's really from the heart. And you only know that by sort of subscribing to the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing. That doesn't mean you have to write for 10,000 hours, but it does mean that the only way to become a better writer is to write. And that is my answer to this question. Thank you so much for listening.


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