The bad news: incremental improvement is all there is.
It’s disappointing, but I think most of us recognize that it’s true. That said even despite the times where we have a number of simultaneous incremental improvements on several areas that seems to present a leap forward. Nope, from electronics to writing, from exercise to politics, incremental improvement is the way it is.
But since we are all looking for ‘aha!’ moments, it might behove us to figure out the ways we could take our desired area improvement could be benefited by a sideways approach. In other words, find ways to cross train or strengthen our core.
While fitness is the way I initially explored the practical and conceptual framework around complimentary improvement, I want to apply it to writing.
So, what compliments writing? Well nothing improves writing like doing it, but there are other areas that can really launch you off.
1) Reading – nothing improves writing like reading, and the quality of what you read truly effects the quality of your writing. I’m not a brilliant reader, but I am an obsessive reader, and I can tell how my writing changes after I have read C.S. Lewis compared to some less heady/less eloquent works. But read what you enjoy – anything will help!
Augustine says that it’s impossible to train eloquence and recommends instead to read eloquent writers. He’s only partly right as I’ll get to in a minute.
2) Living Boldly – This isn’t my story, but it’s an important one: A student in an Old Testament class (I think it was under the famed Brevard Childs) received a poor mark (grade) on one of his exegesis papers. The student asked, “What can I do to become a better exegete (writer)?” The Professor turned and said, “live a more profound life.”
When you have a dream do it. Find a way. Make it work. Then write about it. Do something amazing, explore the world, do it.
3) Analyze – This is my addition to reading eloquent writers. Augustine said to read eloquent writers, but one of the best writers I know is Stanley Hauerwas. He apparently started off as a not so great writer, but learned to write well. It’s my thought that if you really analyze the sentence structure and the overall structure of essays, sermons, novels, or anything else you can start to see all the underlying work that went into the construction of such works. After that, then you can start to really write well.
But more than anything:
Live Boldly and write well.