Does anybody have any advice on how to become a effectively become a better writer? Yes, you want to write as much as possible, that’s a given, but can you get meaningful feedback from someone who’s much better than you at it? Is there quality coaching of any sort that you can get?
My advice here is pretty standard, not just for writing, but for any field, but I think it’s standard because it works. Get good feedback and practice incorporating it. Don’t try to fix everything at once; add skills one at a time.
In my experience, it takes a while to find people who will give you good feedback for free. Most people don’t come up with substantive writing critiques, but if you ask for advice on a lot of drafts, you’ll eventually find a few people who come up with meaningful critiques and not just spelling and grammar corrections.
And of course you don’t have to only get free advice. If you’re a programmer, you can certainly afford to hire a professional editor to help you. I don’t want to post what’s basically an advertisement for an editor on lobsters, but if you’re interested in this, contact me privately (see my profile) and I can recommend a good editor.
My process is to get good feedback about something (often a blog post), incorporate the feedback in the current thing, and then try to write something from scratch that incorporates one specific thing from that feedback. I then get feedback on that second thing to see if I was able to improve that one thing. When I’m able to consistently write something that doesn’t get the same critical feedback, I move on to another problem in my writing and try to eliminate it.
I don’t claim that my writing is good, but when I look at how my writing has changed over the past year and a half, it’s certainly improved a lot. For a given level of effort (30 second email, 15 minute blog post, 3 hour blog post done in 3 sittings, etc.), my writing is a lot better. I’d say that my dashed off 15 minute blog posts are as “good” as my serious 2-4 revision blog posts were a year and a half ago, when I started this blogging/writing improvement experiment. Considering the time investment (a few hours a month), I’d say that improving my writing using this method is one of the highest ROI things I’ve done lately.
Does anybody have any advice on how to become a effectively become a better writer?
Yes, you want to write as much as possible, that’s a given,
That is a given of course. Read too. Read as much as you can on as much as you can. It really is a shame that our modern lives are so strongly aligned towards any other form of recreation than reading, given reading’s relatively lengthy time requirements to get much out of it. Beware the shysters who claim they can “speed read” at some exorbitant number of words per minute. The act of reading requires more than merely pushing and popping groupings of words into and out of your brain’s mental queue as fast as possible.
but can you get meaningful feedback from someone who’s much better than you at it?
Absolutely. Editors exists for more reasons than merely finding typos and other grammatical errors.
Is there quality coaching of any sort that you can get?
There are several communities of critiques, readers/writers, reviewers, editors, teachers and so on. In my experience, their eagerness to help is typically proportional to your own reciprocity in helping them in turn. That being said, finding an audience can still be difficult given our desire to become ever more efficient schedulers of our limited (and in some cases decreasing) free time.
I agree with the posted essay. Writing can bring great clarity and you can grep it.
A few observations from good essays / blogs
I consider zenhabbits.net to be a good representative of the above said points.
Words like good and better are however, subjective.
Hope that helps :)
(link with typo correction: http://zenhabits.net)
I definitely think that programmers should write, but I think this article missed one of the most important reasons. The act of writing clear and well-organized documentation/blog posts/articles on a subject helps the author to understand the subject better.
I actually have an unpublished ghost instance just for trying to write
regularly. I find it’s an incredibly useful activity for building the
skill of structured thinking, and it lets me explore non-technical
topics in a different way.