I’m far from an expert, I’m of the mindset that I will constantly be reaching for that goal because there is always something new to learn about writing.
I could save us all the time and simply give the advice that I was given when first starting out:
WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It’s a valid piece of advice, after all a craft needs to be kept at its sharpest if one wishes to become an “expert.” However there are those that can’t simply sit down and write for five minutes, sometimes people need prompts or a little boost to help them get their creative juices flowing. There are times when I am one of those said people, some days the brain just doesn’t want to wake up or it just feels like it’s scraped thin. In which case there are dozens of resources at your disposal, I’m going to name a few of my favorites.
The 3 A.M. Epiphany is quite possibly the most essential book that any writer should have. It has concrete, challenging, and engaging exercises that give your mind the freedom to wander. It’s a work out for your brain, making you think about things that you wouldn’t normally think about and challenging you to stay within a word limit. The exercises cover various topics like Point of View, Time, Imagery, Humor, Travel…there’s no limit to what this book can do for you. Some people would consider this a book for those who are a little more experienced writers, but I think that most writers can use this book and get a lot out of it. There is also a follow up book (which I do not own yet) called The 4 A.M. Breakthrough to whet your appetite if you so wish.
The San Francisco Writers Grotto became known to me when I found 712 (More) Things to Write About. This is a wonderful diary to keep and the exercises aren’t as time consuming as Breakthrough’s. These exercises can range from the serious to the wonderfully ridiculous. They don’t take much time, and very little effort in some cases; the book was designed (in my opinion anyway) for the writer who is always on the go, the writer who has a day job, and the writer who just needs that five minutes to escape.
My next piece of advice is to change your setting once and a while. Sometimes sitting in the same place leads to stagnation. You’re looking at the same wall, the same desk, and perhaps the same people. It gets boring. So if there’s a coffee shop or even a bar nearby see if that offers a host of new inspiration. People watching is the greatest form of inspiration. Set up in a corner with your laptop or notebook and let the show begin.
Another thing that I do is that I talk to myself…a lot. If you’re a fiction writer or even a poet, think out loud. When the place is appropriate of course…I wouldn’t recommend talking to yourself in a public space, unless you’re whispering or something. Even then I think you’d merit a few stares to say the least. But talking to yourself in the voices of your characters sort of solidifies them, makes them more real. Walking around your writing room muttering to yourself may merit a label of insanity, but who will have the last laugh when you hold that Pulitzer Prize for Literature?
Finally, I have this to say:
Write every day. Be humble, accept that your craft is ever changing and there is always something new to learn. Did I mention write every day?
Now get out there, grab a pen and a notebook, and start writing!