One of the most common writing advice you’ll find on the web is ‘keep writing.’ But when do you grow? How to realize your skill has a writer improved? Many writers out there struggle with this problem.
So, how to measure your growth as a writer? By defining what growth means for your unique writing journey, understanding what areas you need to work on, and investing in each of them separately. Let me shed some light on my own experience with growing as a writer and how you can measure your own growth.
What is Growth?
Every writer out there has their own way of defining growth. One writer might decide that they measure growth by the clarity of their writing, while another might choose to measure growth by using more similes or metaphors.
My way of defining my writing growth is to make sure I don’t sound like a foreigner through my writing. English isn’t my native language, and in the past, I used to write sentences that made little sense in English but sounded right inside my Hebrew-speaking mind.
What is your way to measure growth?
This definition is dynamic. You may want to focus on growing one aspect of your writing skill and choose to focus on other elements down the road. The point is, you need to be aware and make that decision for yourself. If you don’t focus and keep desiring to “write better,” without defining what that means you won’t get anywhere.
If you’re a beginner and don’t know what to focus on, I highly recommend beginning with Grammar. From now on, respect yourself and your readers by never putting out an article littered with grammar mistakes. Sure, this effort will take more time, but your readers will take you seriously.
Another option you can focus on if Grammar isn’t a problem is long sentences. Read your work. Do you have sentences longer than 20 words? Try to trim or break these sentences into multiple shorter ones.
I struggled with this concept in the early days of my writing journey as well. It’s easy to write long sentences if you think everybody reads the same as you do.
What aspect of your writing will you choose to focus on next?
Should You Compare Yourself to Others?
The answer is a resounding no! Please do not compare your unique journey to anybody else except your past self.
The reason is simple: if you decide to compare yourself to a writer who you deem to be on the same level as you, you are making a blind comparison. You have no idea what skills this other writer has, who is involved in their publishing journey, or what problems they already faced.
Making such an assumption always ends with disappointment on your end. The grass might seem greener on the other side, but maybe the owner doesn’t use pesticides like you? You don’t know the whole picture.
Instead, always look at your past self. I compare my current work with my past work every few months. I look back on articles I posted on the web and read them. If I recognize things I could have improved, it’s a sign I grew more in my writing skill. We’ll talk some more about that later.
Make a habit of doing this as well. And let me warn you upfront: leave the past in the past. It’s good to look back for measurement purposes but don’t try to rewrite those articles. The only reason I would go back to update an old piece is to include new information. If you believe there’s a different reason, you’re welcome to convince me in the comments below.
Recognize The Phases From Idea to Publication
If you are writing blog posts and publishing them immediately, there is a crucial step you’re missing in the process, and your blog post will suffer for it: Editing.
“The first draft of everything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway (arguably)
When you are writing, your mind uses its creative parts to make sure your writing flows from you. This phase is when most people realize they have been writing for a while, and thousands of words magically appeared on their page. Also known as the Flow state.
The parts of our mind that handle editing are different. If you switch from writing to editing, you lose your focus, and your piece’s quality suffers.
Focus on finishing your piece and then take a break from it. It will help you reset your mind and access its analytical parts to edit your article better.
I should also say: there are writers out there that edit as they go and write great pieces. I don’t mean to say it doesn’t work at all. But it will be beneficial for you to have an editing only pass on your work after you have completed writing it – especially if you’re a beginner who needs to internalize some lessons about writing.
Read Your Work Critically
By following along and taking the time to edit your piece, you are already separating yourself from the writers who don’t take their blog seriously.
Start the process by returning to a draft and reading it. How does it read? Is it flowing? Are there places you realize you could have written differently? Can you shorten some of your sentences?
Go over and make those changes.
You will find that you might need to add more information in specific areas and maybe trim unneeded sentences in other parts. That’s okay. Removing unnecessary sentences will make your message more concise and powerful.
Doing this step alone could already be a massive improvement over your past writing.
Read Your Work Aloud
Reading your work aloud has been one of my most inspiring changes over the years. It’s a simple method to let you see your writing from a new perspective.
Not only do you find out where your writing doesn’t flow, but you also realize where you made mistakes and how it sounds on the tongue.
The better you speak your work, the easier it is to read. You will often find that long sentences that seem ok to write will not be as easy to read. Try to cut them down.
There isn’t much else to say here. Start reading your work aloud and see where you get stuck. Those are the places you need to edit.
Focus on One Goal Each Time
People don’t get “better” at “writing.”
Your writing skill is the collective name of many more minor skills you know how to perform. For example:
- Imaginative writing: using similes and metaphors to color your words (see what I did there?)
- Active writing: using the active voice instead of the passive one. for example, “he saw the car” vs. “the car was seen.”
- Digestive writing: you write in shorter sentences.
- Formatting: Your articles don’t look like giant blocks of text.
These are only a few examples of things we know how to do when writing. There’s more.
Your goal shouldn’t be to become better at writing. It should be to become better at one of these more minor things until you internalize it.
If you don’t know where to begin (and you already mastered Grammar as I suggested initially), I highly recommend eradicating your work’s passive voice. Rare are the times where you can justify using it.
If you’re having trouble keeping track of your passive sentences, maybe you need software to help you out. Let’s talk about that in the next section.
Use Software While Editing
If you’ve visited YouTube anytime during the last couple of years and saw an ad or two, you have probably heard of Grammarly by now. I’ve used it to write around five million words over the span of four years.
But did you know that Grammarly isn’t the only software out there to help edit your writing? There are two other options as well, but let’s go over all three.
Grammarly is a free service if you only want to fix immediate grammar mistakes. It will highlight them for you, and you will be able to fix them with the click of a button.
But Grammarly isn’t perfect. Since it’s AI-Powered software, it can still make mistakes. The good news is that as long as people keep using it, the AI’s skills will improve. And newer versions can even find problems with articles edited with Grammarly in the past.
Disclaimer: I use Grammarly Premium. This section of the post would be a perfect opportunity to try to sell you Grammarly as an affiliate, but I prefer not to do that right now. I want you to choose your own writing path.
The Premium version of Grammarly detects a much more extensive array of problems in our writing. For example, when we use a word too often.
Hemingway isn’t free. There is a free web version of it, but the tool itself is available for purchase through Gumroad.
I wouldn’t say it’s as powerful as Grammarly, but it does impact your writing’s conciseness.
There are five categories in Hemingway that affect your writing:
- Blue: Adverbs
- Green: Passive Voice
- Purple: Simplicity
- Yellow: hard to read
- Red: too complex
When you are editing text in Hemingway, it’s your job to have no colors pop up at all.
ProWritingAid is like hiring an editing agency to edit your one blog post. That tool is extensive. When you edit text, you will get a complete report of all the little things that make your writing good or bad.
ProWritingAid will also take a while when going over your work, and it will rank it. It’s excellent when editing long essays.
And as we established before, it will help you focus your direction on one thing. Do you have too many sticky sentences (too long)? With that report, you can know exactly which ones and fix them. Are you not using flavorful language? You can fix that also.
ProWritingAid has three main categories where it sorts all of the problems it finds in your text:
- Grammar issues.
- Style issues.
- Spelling issues.
The editor can either show you problems in real-time, as Grammarly does or list the issues in a report it generates when you ask for it.
So, Which to use?
I have licenses for all three options I listed here.
But don’t do what I did – start with the one you find answers your current needs.
Grammarly has a free plugin to add to your browser and a cloud-based editor that you can download to your computer. It seems an easy enough option to start checking your writing.
But maybe you are a writer who wants the full report as ProWritingAid generates. That’s fine, too.
Hemingway will probably not fix your grammar mistakes, but it will tell you if there are ways to improve your writing voice.
By using software like these options, it’s effortless to measure your growth as a writer. When Grammarly or Hemingway shout at you that you write in the passive voice all the time, you will start to change it unconsciously.
That’s how you know you’re improving!
Look Back on Past Work
One of my favorite pastimes is going back and reading blog posts I wrote about a year ago from today. I always find things I could have done differently.
The goal here is not to criticize me for the lousy work I did in the past. Instead, I’m proud of myself for finding ways to improve my work. That means I’ve grown as a writer.
If you’ve never written anything before, this technique will have to wait until you have at least a few pieces under your belt that are several months old.
And yet, you could still go and even read past emails you wrote and see whether you could have written those differently. Your skill as a writer translates to wherever you use written words in life. It could be your social media posts, work emails, or the things you write in your journal.
Keep track of your work and come back from time to time to see whether you improved. It’s the only comparison allowed.
Bonus: Hire an Editor
Sometimes you need a professional. As an up and running blogger, you probably wouldn’t be able to afford an editor for each of your posts.
That’s okay. Not every writer has the luxury of hiring an editor. I certainly don’t.
But perhaps, at some point in your journey, you will want to create a product—a paid e-book or some other type of written content. That merits a different kind of approach, which we’ll cover in a different blog post, but for now, hear this: don’t ever let a person feel like they wasted their money on you. If they’re going to pay you – they better feel like that purchase was more than worth it.
For this reason alone, I would hire an editor. Even if I feel like I already did what I could to make the words shine, that editor might pull off something truly remarkable.
Today’s topic was how to measure your growth as a writer. We first asked what growth is, and I asked you to define what growth would mean for you.
From there, we went on to talk about comparing yourself to others, setting goals, reviewing your past work, and even some tools you can use, among other points.
Now, with all of this knowledge packed in your toolkit, I want to offer one last tidbit of advice – stay consistent.
You wouldn’t be able to look back on your work from a few months ago and realize the mistakes in that piece if it was the only one you wrote for months. You grow your skill by practicing it frequently.
If you’re serious about this journey, stay consistent. You could be posting once a week, and you could be posting once a month – but make that frequency happen! The rest won’t matter if you fail to do that.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!