Sunday, December 23, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice

Years and years ago, against the judgment of people who said to never write for free, I accepted an online column. I love to write, but my life was packed full of homeschooling, children, church, and family and I wasn’t doing enough of it. Even though my professional career was on hold, I wanted to keep up with my work, and I figured out that I needed deadlines to make it happen. So I started writing this column.

I soon learned that the mere act of having to produce 1000 words a week that other people would read improved my skills. When I wrote more often, I improved faster. I didn’t see the process happening, of course, but recently I was cleaning out some boxes (I’ve lived here a year and a half and though maybe I should finish unpacking) and came across some old manuscripts. I looked them over and cringed. I wrote like that—and sent it to publishers? I wondered how I ever got published!

I got a stack of writing books for Christmas, which we had early this year, and I’m learning a lot from them. But in many ways, I learn just as much by sitting in front of a computer and putting words on paper…well, a screen, these days. I’m old enough that it used to be actual paper I put my words on. As I test out ways to structure, to phrase, to get my point across, as I experiment with styles and ideas, I learn more about the writer I want to be. The free places I write give me a safe place to test out skills I’m not ready to send to publishers.

These days, it’s easier. Anyone can have a blog or a website, and I put a great deal of writing on my blogs and sites. I feel safer testing there, since I can go back and make changes at any time. I can change the cringe-inspiring writing every week, if I want to. The internet is a great place for practice pieces and can give you the courage to send your words out to paying resources.

As C. S. Bezas mentioned, Elder Ballard wants us to blog, which means that blogging can now serve two purposes. It can help us develop our writing skills and ideas, while helping out the church.

Why not try it?

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