What would you do if you wanted to get into better shape?
Buy and read books about fitness? (Books are always my first instinct.)
Watch fitness videos or listen to podcasts?
Follow athletes on social media?
Sure, those things might help or inspire you. But the only way to build strength or improve conditioning is to actually get up and move. At least get off the couch.
The same thing is true of writing. Simply reading books — even practical, instructional books like the ones I write — isn’t enough.
The only way to improve your craft is to pick up the pen. Or the keyboard, or pencil. Do the work.
Reading is the warm-up
Beginning writers are told to read exhaustively—and that’s sound advice. Reading informs your ear and taste, teaches you about genres and markets, and more.
But, clearly reading great books is not enough. If it were, the world would be filled with inspiring writers and best-selling authors. We learn through reading, but only passively.
Passive learning is no match for the power of practice.
If we spend our days reading bloated corporate memos and sales messages, that’s what we learn and practice. If we write only quick exchanges on social media or messaging apps, that specific writing voice becomes almost automatic—and can be hard to dislodge for other projects.
Simply reading about great writing isn’t enough to transform our own. We have to do the work. And we enjoy that work more if we approach it with a sense of fun.
How do you work on your craft? Do you stretch yourself and try new approaches, or refine the way you already work? And, how do you inspire yourself to do the work of growing?
Training your writing voice
I was halfway through the first draft of a traditional book on writing voice, when I realized this:
Reading about writing voice is like watching exercise videos—helpful, but no substitute for the work.
To help people find an authentic writing voice or play with the way they show up in words, I had to entice them beyond their ingrained habits to shape new behaviors. They need to pick up a pen and practice. The magic happens on the page—we learn by doing.
So I abandoned the traditional book and instead created something that is half book, half workbook. It’s called The Writer’s Voice: Techniques for Tuning Your Tone and Style.
Constructed as a 12-week, self-directed course, the book explores twelve aspects of writing voice. Of course, most people will probably jump around based on their interests. That’s fine—no one’s watching.
Beyond the usual research, it offers many writing exercises and prompts to encourage experimentation and play. It also includes tips to turn the everyday world into your writing masterclass by looking for different aspects of writing voice in everything you read.
The exercises will stretch your writing voice and comfort zones, just as a trainer might ask you to stretch or try new moves. Because it’s a workbook, you don’t have to show it to anyone. You’re writing only for yourself, to build skills and expand your craft.
My hope is that it can serve as an encouraging personal trainer, accountability partner, and general companion as you build your writing craft. And that, even if it’s messy, you find the work fun.
Curious for more?
Listen to writers talking about their favorite exercises in this YouTube playlist.
Listen to this podcast about writing voice on the Extraordinary Business Book podcast.