4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

there are external and internal strategies writers can use to improve their writing

What if you went to your high school reunion and realized none of your classmates aged? Seriously. As in, they are still 18 and you’re...older (not old though!). 
This scenario is ridiculous because we expect to age (graciously, of course!). The same is true in our writing. As we spend time journaling or practicing new short stories, we should expect to improve our writing skills. We should expect growth over time. 
Our writing careers cannot flourish if we remain stagnant and unwilling to take risks or experiment. 
There are external strategies you can try to improve your writing skills. For example, writers can attend a local or virtual writing workshop. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a virtual workshop hosted by Ashley Coleman of WriteLaughDream. What I loved about that workshop was its interactive nature. I was able to practice the skills Ashley taught immediately. I was also able to connect with other writers and receive feedback on my work. Writing workshops are a great way to learn new strategies and skills that can increase your productivity and help you become a stronger writer. If you’re looking for a writing workshop to attend, Ashley is hosting three this summer. You can find all the deets here. (no affiliate, just a lover of Ashley’s work)
Another way writers can intentionally promote growth in their writing is through reading. I am a huge believer in studying what makes “The Greats” great. Writers like Maya Angelou, Shonda Rhimes, and Angie Thomas fascinate me. While reading, I take notes on what speaks to me the most about their works. I look at their sentence structure, grammar, word choices, and descriptions. These notes help me discover which areas I could stand to improve. It’s also helpful to read grammar books which highlight specific rules that are commonly broken and used by amateur writers. 
Regardless of how many years you’ve been writing, it’s a good idea to elicit help from an editor or writing coach when needed. Editors and writing coaches point out specific areas you need to focus on. They are very knowledgeable of grammar rules and etiquette. While self-editing is great, there are times when you just need to call the professionals. Cutting corners and learning on your own can only take you so far. You should want your book to be as polished as possible.
Need help writing your book? I’ve got you covered! 
While there are external strategies writers can use to ignite growth, you certainly should not overlook the power of the right mindset. Without a strong mindset, no writing strategy can help you. You have to believe in yourself and the value of what you do. If you’re struggling in this area, grab your free writer mindset worksheet and gain clarity on what’s holding you back from sharing your work. 
I’d also like to invite you to join in on our 7-day writing prompt challenge, #TheWriteGrowth. In this challenge, we’ll learn: 

  • Why we write,
  • For whom we write,
  • What’s holding us back from embracing our full potential, and
  • What we can do to grow and reach our goals.

Join us on Instagram from June 21-27 for a week of self-awareness and connecting with other writers. 

Lessons from Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give

Have you ever read a novel that was so captivating you literally felt as if you were part of the story? You felt every emotion the characters experienced as you sat on the edge of your chair in anticipation of what was to come. 
That’s how I felt in the 11 hours it took me to read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. This was the first nonfiction book I can recall reading where I had a F.U.B.U. moment. The characters, setting, issues, and vernacular certainly feel as if this book was written “for us, by us”. 
Don’t get me wrong, friend. I’m not saying this book won’t be enlightening, captivating, and eye-opening for readers who aren’t people of color. Angie Thomas did an extraordinary job of writing an authentic and raw depiction of what many Blacks experience or feel about the injustices that persist in our country. I encourage everyone to read this book--regardless of ethnic background. In doing so, you will have a glimpse into what life is like for many Black/Brown people in the United States. 
There were a few themes that stood out to me in this novel: identity issues, people pleasing, and injustice. 
Like the main character, Starr, many Blacks feel the need to put on a mask everyday they go to work or to school. They live a double life because American culture teaches us to assimilate. Therefore we shun any cultural tradition or expression that contradicts what many in the majority consider “normal”. Instead of proudly embracing our cultural heritage, we choose to blend in like chameleons. I am not insinuating we should not be professional, but I do feel some of our identity issues center around a skewed perspective of what is socially acceptable. 
In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas also points out our desire to become people pleasers. Several times, we see Starr struggling to be herself because she’s afraid of perpetuating the standard stereotypes against the Black community. Will her friends still like her if she shows her “true colors”? Or will she become “the loud, angry Black girl” who doesn’t speak properly? I know about this fear all too well. It’s difficult to be yourself when the chance of being misunderstood, judged, and treated unfairly is all too real. As a result, many people of color choose to cater to the ideal or preferred personality and lifestyle in exchange for acceptance. 
What we cannot accept, however, is injustice. In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas writes about the injustice shown towards an unarmed Black male. I won’t spill all the tea (in case you haven’t read it yet), but I believe Starr wasn’t the only one who needed to decide how she would handle injustice. I think this is a question for you and me, friend. How would WE handle injustices that happen right in front of us? 
Would we turn our backs, close our eyes, and allow ourselves to be gagged in silence? 
Or would we speak out? Would we write about it? March about it? Take advantage of our right to vote? Or better yet. Get our ducks in a row so we could run for office. 

Change doesn’t happen without intentional action. 
Change also doesn’t happen when we refuse to work together with our brothers and sisters of ALL ethnic backgrounds. While I believe it is important to have pride and celebrate the great accomplishments of people of color, I also hope our world learns that injustice, prejudice, and racism remain because we have a heart problem. If we truly loved our neighbors unconditionally, there is no way any of us could speak, think, or do horrific and inhumane things towards each other. 
If you don’t take anything else away from The Hate U Give, remember this: everyone isn’t evil. All cops aren’t evil. Neither are all people of color nor Caucasians. Angie Thomas’ intentional pairing of an interracial couple is a reminder of this.   
Now it’s up to us, friend. Are we going to love each other unconditionally as we stand united against injustice? Or are we going to close our eyes and continue to cultivate the malice growing from within? 

What lessons did you learn from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give? Share them in the comments below!

7 Essential Items Every Writer Should Bring on Vacation (P.S. your laptop isn't one of them!)

Writers need a vacation, too. There are 7 essential items every writer should bring on their travels--but your laptop is NOT one of them!

Every summer, my hubby and I are fortunate to vacation in Hilton Head for a few days. It’s a work trip, but hey, a trip is a trip! Am I right? Usually, I’m pretty stressed because I always have a grad paper due around the same time. This year, however, I pushed myself to the limit and worked ahead to complete my grad assignments. That was the BEST decision ever!
What was even better is that I left my laptop home. Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. I thought I was going to hyperventilate, but after the initial shock wore off, I was okay. 
This trip had me thinking about what items I was most grateful to have with me, and I wanted to share them with you. 
Everyone knows good writers read. I have a handful of unread magazines, e-books on my Kindle, and I even bought a copy of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give (which is really good so far!). This trip was the perfect opportunity for me to finally pull out all the awesome reading material I had been meaning to get around to. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading a good blog post, but there’s something special about getting lost in a good book. 
Of course, I didn’t want to spend my entire vacation reading. Like Moana, the water was beckoning me. Unfortunately, I don’t swim (long story). However, that didn’t stop me from getting in a good hour worth of power walking on the beach. I also managed to be brave enough to walk calf-deep in the ocean water. (Yay!) I even saw two dolphins! I encourage all writers to find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Taking care of your health is essential, and exercise can also give you more energy, making you more productive during your writing sessions
Although I suggest taking in as much of the calming ocean noises as you can, I know how exciting it is to listen to good music. Maybe you’ve been wanting to check out the new Mali Music release. Or maybe you’re playing catch up (so you can finally say you’ve listened to Chance the Rapper’s album in its entirety). At any rate, all writers should listen to music. Research shows listening to music has several benefits to your physical and mental health, including being able to increase your verbal communication skills. 
You’re going to need those verbal skills as you try your hand at filling out handwritten thank you cards. Let’s be honest, friend. Life gets busy. If you’re anything like me, you don’t always remember to write (and mail) that really cute stack of thank you cards you bought on sale. If you’re riding shotgun or you’re stuck at the airport, why not use that time to show some appreciation to some special people in your life?
You’ll feel so much better after showing some gratitude that you’ll be ready to try that new thing you’ve been wanting to try. Maybe you’ve been wanting to experiment with some hairstyles on YouTube. Or maybe you’re like me and want to practice your photography skills. Just do it, friend. Writers can produce content more easily if they are living life fully. Don’t be sucked into the stereotypes. Writers do not have to sit behind a desk all day and night. Get up. Get out. Live. You need to so you can learn and have more material to share in your future writing pieces.
Although I did not bring my laptop on my vacation, I had to bring my journal, notebook, and colorful pens. (Can’t risk forgetting a good idea!) I know some writers prefer electronic writing platforms like Evernote, but I’m old school. I love the feel of a good pen in hand as my pinky rubs ever so gently against fresh sheets of lined paper. If you’re going on vacation and decide to leave your laptop behind, don’t forget to at least tuck your notebook and pen away in your travel bag. 
There’s something else every writer should tuck away on vacation: a guilt-free conscious. A writer’s job is never done. There are book outlines, social media content, blog posts drafts, revisions, formatting, newsletter campaigns, and on and on. I mean, writing is serious business. However, on vacation, you shouldn’t be worried about meeting deadlines. Give yourself a real break and forget all that needs to be done. If you can, work ahead. If not, just explain to your loyal fans that you needed some time to check out for a bit. They will understand. 

What about you, friend? What essentials did I miss that every writer should bring along? Share in the comments below!

Writer Interview Series with Kayla Hollatz

Writers don't need to accept the limitations others try to put on them. Kayla Hollatz shares how she came to find her writing voice and how she learned to share it confidently.

Being a writer means you get to create amazing stories and maybe even inspire others in some way. Creativity and imagination have no limits--unless you allow yourself to be limited. Unlike many writers, Kayla Hollatz began her writing journey with the understanding she did not have to be limited by the opinions of others. She embraced her journey with confidence. She knew she wanted to write, so she did! If you're still struggling with the decision to pursue writing at a greater level, then you NEED to listen to the interview below!

Some of my takeaways from this interview include:

"Your voice can develop a whole lot more once you experiment with different types [of writing]." -Kayla Hollatz

When you start to brand yourself online as a writer, there's a certain pressure to have all your ducks in a row. Everyone wants to know: What kind of writer are you? Who do you write for? Why do you write? All of these questions swirl around our minds like swirled white and milk chocolate chips--but without the sweet aftertaste. Many of us make our writing public because we want to share a piece of ourselves with the world. We may even want to document our travels or parenting tales. Yet, before (intentional) branding and monetizing occur, I think every writer should give herself permission to experiment with different genres and styles of writing. Experimenting can stretch your creativity and over time, you learn the answers to those questions and can respond confidently.

"Being rooted first in my own voice really helped me before I started to write in the voice of someone else." -Kayla Hollatz

I'm not a copywriter or content creator, but this line of thinking completely makes sense. Phenomenal copywriters and content creators must know who they are as writers before attempting to help someone with their brand. Otherwise, you leave the door open for confusion, envy and comparison to enter. We must give ourselves permission to learn who we are as writers, and be okay in what makes us unique. 

"I think we can get so caught up in titles." -Kayla Hollatz

We often forget that titles are man-made. What I mean is, yes, titles can identify what you do; however, it is never okay to belittle yourself because you don't have the same title as someone else. You are not less of a writer because you don't have X amount of followers, likes, or comments. A writer friend of mine looked up Natalie Baszile, the author of Queen Sugar on Instagram. To her surprise, this renown writer has a little less than 1000 followers on Instagram. Does that diminish her worth? Did that stop her phenomenal book from becoming a television show? I hope you responded with a resounding "NO!" It is my hope that we will focus on what matters most, friend. Don't hang onto number counts for dear life. Focus on your why. Focus on how you can best help your readers.  

What about you? What were your takeaways from watching this interview? Share them below in the comments!

Don't forget, follow Kayla on Twitter and Instagram and support her by grabbing a copy of her poetry book, Brave Little Bones on Amazon. You can also check out her copywriting, brand strategy and content creation services at www.kaylahollatz.com

Writer Interview Series with Logan Miehl

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Your journey has its own fingerprint.

Simply put, your writing journey does not have to mirror any other writer. What works for one person, may not work for another, and guess what? That's perfectly acceptable!

Author Logan Miehl is a great example of someone who didn't allow stereotypes to dictate her writing journey. Find out why by watching the interview below!

My takeaways from this interview:

My dad forced me to write. -Logan Miehl

Sometimes we don't realize or understand the magnitude of the gifts we possess until someone else points it out. I'm guilty of overlooking my strengths because I didn't think they were valuable. Fortunately, Logan had someone pushing her along. In that season, she was able to grow and develop as a writer. Whether you have someone like that in your life or not, don't forget to value your craft. Value the time you get to spend writing and be grateful for the lessons you learn about yourself in every moment. 

There's no perfectly original story, but know where the line is. -Logan Miehl

You may have heard the saying, "good writers read". I wholeheartedly agree that writers shouldn't focus on producing so much that they forget to replenish their creativity. One way to do that is by reading. Reading allows writers to experience new worlds, new styles, new perspectives, and more. However, we must be careful to use our inspirations in a manner that will still allow us to be authentic in our storytelling. Don't simply re-tell someone else's story--make it yours. You could be a cancer survivor, but it doesn't mean your story has to be an exact replica of every other cancer survivor. Share your experiences, your doubts, your faith. Make your story authentic by incorporating your views. 

Don't be afraid of collaborating. -Logan Miehl

Writers growing a brand on and offline need to believe in themselves and their work. However, they also need one other element to ensure their work is read. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about: collaboration. I love working solo on certain projects, but there's no denying the power of collaboration. We reap many benefits when we get out of our comfort zones and intentionally connect with other writers. Collaborating allows writers to connect with like minds, learn new ways of streamlining processes and even learn some marketing tips. 

What about you? What were some of your takeaways from this interview? Share them below in the comments!

Don't forget to follow Logan on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube @loganmiehl so you can keep up to date with her new book series!