Training isn’t something that we opt into. It’s going on constantly, every hour of our lives.
Whatever you have your time and attention on is what you’re training yourself to become better at. That could be writing, painting, building, coding, knitting, playing an instrument, public speaking… anything there is.
But that also includes unproductive things like complaining, procrastinating and watching TV. None of which is really going to help us achieve anything. Training is simply learning how to do something and applying it repeatedly. It’s happening in every area of our lives, every hour of the day.
But what about training to write? Well, attending courses, book groups and conventions are great to immerse yourself in the idea of writing for a living. If you love to write, that’s the most exciting feeling there is. But ultimately, that’s as far as this training will get you – it just plants the seed.
But it’s all just talking about writing. If you’re unlucky, it’s just writers talking at you about themselves, at length, followed by an endless reading of an extract from their new book. Every writer’s listened to a talk like that, while they were under the impression that they’d learn something useful about the trade. It’s an insult, a waste of your time and money, and you have every right to get angry and leave.
If courses, seminars, conventions and book groups are all we spend time on, then we’re just training to become very good at attending these events. Great for a career in PR and networking; not good for a full-time writer.
There’s only one way to become a better writer, and it’s not a group activity. It happens when you glue yourself to a chair and type sentences, then rip them up, then type them again, then let other people read them and possibly rip them up too.
The real training happens when you write something, share it with the world, and get feedback from strangers. If it’s bad, they’ll tell you. If they like things about it, they’ll tell you. That’s how you become a better writer. It’s the only training there is. You’ll learn very quickly what the demand is for your writing, what kind of style and content goes down better with readers, and how to write better stories.
Don’t wait for anyone to tell you how to write. Just sit down and write, and make things up in your head. Then put your writing straight into the Kindle store – don’t wait for the dinosaur publishing gatekeepers to approve of you. Amazon is where you need to be. It’s a baptism of fire in the great Darwinian jungle of the free market, where people’s money will tell you how good a writer you are.
Read your reviews, and keep the critics coming thick and fast to thicken up your skin. Writing isn’t a delicate art – it’s laying bricks. Then taking a hammer and smashing up the shit ones, and laying better bricks again. It’s the only way to become a better writer, and you can do it every hour of the day.
That’s how you train to be a better writer. Write, publish, take the criticism, and repeat.