Here are five ways to take your writing further.
1 Go deeper into yourself
We are complicated people, you and I. We have depths which no one has yet seen. We have demons roaming in our minds and dark things nestling inside our hearts. The aspects we keep hidden can be the fuel for some powerful writing but mostly, we’re too scared to let them out.
But if you want to take your writing further, you need to mine yourself first. Take your past failures, your fears, your dreams and pour them into your writing. Give of yourself and the words will reward you.
2 Tackle bigger themes
The bite-size internet (and indeed, list posts like this!) means we tend to skim the surface of meaning a lot of the time. There is a tendency to rush content out the door without delving as far into it as we could. There isn’t enough time to debate the deep and meaningful topics in this fast-paced world, right?
But actually, people are crying out for meaning and emotional resonance, and you can give it to them.
When you’re writing, decide on the deeper levels of meaning you want to illustrate. For example, I write action-adventure thrillers which at one level are about hunting down bad guys and blowing stuff up, but I also explore the question of whether there is a God, science vs. faith and whether miracles happen. Writing on two levels gives us a way to connect more powerfully with people.
3 Use free-writing
Free-writing is a short period of time, say 10 minutes, where you write from your own stream of consciousness, or around a specific topic. Don’t censor yourself, because you won’t be sharing the words in this format. Just let your mind and fingers go free.
Some recommend writing by hand as it accesses different parts of the brain, but I don’t think it matters. The important thing is not to stop writing, even if all you write is ‘this is terrible’ over and over again.
Set a timer and just write. When the timer goes off you can go through the text and see if there are any ideas in there you can use. Whatever happens, save the writing, because I guarantee that you’ll go back to it later and be surprised.
4 Copy the greats
Austin Kleon’s book ‘Steal like an Artist’ contains some fantastic advice, and I particularly liked this quote.
Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself. ~ Yohji Yamamoto
Find the books you consider great and copy their style. Yes, actually copy their words out by hand or by typing them. You’re not doing this to plagiarize, you’re doing this to learn.
In copying, you will see how great writers approach aspects of writing and you will notice things that you wouldn’t if you just read the words. You can also use this as a jumping off point for free-writing, as above. Riff off their words and create your own. Use their style to expand your writing repertoire.
5 Rest your work for longer
One of Stephen King’s tips in ‘On Writing’ is to put your manuscript away after you have finished it. Print it out and put it in a drawer until you have forgotten enough of it that you can return to it with fresh eyes. Only then are you emotionally removed enough to be able to edit freely.
I believe we should do this with any piece of writing that we want should resonate with an audience, be it a guest blog post, or a letter/email to a loved one.
When you take the writing out again, you can edit but also add layers to the work around the themes you want to illustrate. You can make the work richer and more resonant. You can refine your word choice. This will make the writing stronger and you will have put more of yourself into it.