Want To Grow As A Writer? Try These Things


Anyone reading this article is probably looking to grow as a writer. Growth is one of the hardest things to do as a creative person, but most people who have ‘made it’ in this business will tell you it is a necessary and never-ending process. There’s no one Promised Land of Perfection where everything you write will be easy and flawless. The best any writer can do is work hard and keep learning.

So, let’s look at a few creative masters and see what they can tell us about writing. If we’re going to learn, why not look to the best?

Roma (2018) Photo courtesy: Netflix

No. 1 —  “Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.” – Mark Twain

This Academy Award winning film by Alfonso Cuaron is based on his youth in Mexico, the director said. The story is poignant and beautiful, which is why it’s garnered so much critical acclaim. But how much truthis really in the film?

Cuaron blended his memories with his prodigious storytelling to give us something far more powerful than real life: he gives us emotional truth, and the result is a spectacular film.

Be careful with how much truth you offer the audience. There’s a difference between real life and reel life. Give us just enough truth to make us feel it all the way to our core.

Mad Men (2007-2015) Photo courtesy: Lionsgate Television

No. 2 — “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about being heard.” – Allen Ginsberg

Matthew Weiner reportedly spent nine years shopping Mad Men around in Hollywood before he found a home for the television show. Truth be told, it’s not your run-of-the-mill concept. Doctor shows, lawyer shows—those always have a place in the line-up. But an offbeat, intellectually-challenging period drama? Not an easy sell.

The point is: it didn’t matter to Matthew Weiner if his idea was unusual. I’m sure one or two producers told him it’d never sell. But he stuck to it. Chances are, Weiner wasn’t thinking about being heard when he wrote it—he was thinking about what he wanted to say, and why, and how. What comes across is his voice, and the result, as we all know, is a spectacular show.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Photo courtesy: 20th Century Fox

No. 3 — “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost

There’s a reason Bohemian Rhapsody won a number of awards. It struck a cord in audiences, some of whom grew up listening to Queen. The movie shows us the beautiful underside of Freddie Mercury’s blazing career before it ended in untimely death.

Audiences responded to the movie because the filmmakers responded to the material. Their complete and total love for this band is obvious in every frame of the film—that’s what makes this special.

If your find yourself crying at the keyboard while you’re writing, that’s a good sign. If you love what you’re writing about and feel pain every time your protagonist takes another blow, that’s a good sign. It means your audience might feel the same way, too.

What is your favorite quote from a famous writer, and why do you love it? Sound off in the comments!


Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) as well as short fiction, essays, and a children's fantasy novel "Dalya & the Magic Ink Bottle" (Capstone, 2020). As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

9 Replies to "Want To Grow As A Writer? Try These Things"

  • comment-avatar
    Cilla Lowen June 11, 2019 (3:00 am)

    “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
    Nora Ephron

  • comment-avatar
    NiceShotTed June 11, 2019 (11:17 am)

    Even though I cannot consider myself of fan of the man’s work I truly dig this quote,

    “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
    —Ernest Hemingway

    One of the reasons I read this article is that it is linked to the most influential bit of advice I ever received. Years ago, when I thought I had some modicum of talent, an actor/writer friend said to me, “It’s gotta be based in truth.” I’ve always adhered to it whenever putting words on the page. Even writing this.
    Stay groovy,


  • comment-avatar
    David Holloway June 12, 2019 (12:47 am)

    “Writing is architecture, not interior decoration.”
    Ernest Hemingway

    Always liked this. A good novel or screenplay isn’t based on beautiful descriptions. The structure of a story includes the characters’ qualities and relationships, their physical environment, the things they say, and their conflicts with others and themselves. All these things create a living world that descriptions of appearances cannot.

  • comment-avatar
    angel June 21, 2019 (5:34 pm)

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde

  • comment-avatar
    Dunstan Wallace September 15, 2019 (7:49 am)

    Write Now, Right Later – Emma Gold-Sherman

  • comment-avatar
    google street view October 7, 2019 (8:57 pm)

    Do what you love and glow for it

  • comment-avatar
    Chris Spizuoco January 7, 2020 (8:10 am)

    First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him! – Ray Bradbury

  • comment-avatar
    Chris Spizuoco January 7, 2020 (8:11 am)

    Write about it by day, and dream about it by night. – E.B. White

  • comment-avatar
    Liliana Malem April 28, 2020 (5:28 am)

    “A word at a time”

    I do not remember the author but it is the best advice I ever heard

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