A while back, I read about a high school art teacher that decided to do an experiment to determine the most effective method of teaching her students to become sculptors.

She divided her class evenly into two groups.  She provided both groups with an unlimited supply of resources and gave the groups two different goals.

She told the first group that their goal was to create the most beautiful vase they could come up with.  They were not required to make more than one.  They just had to focus on the details of one vase and work to make it absolutely amazing.

She told the second group that their goal was to create as many vases as possible.  The quality of these vases did not matter as long as they produced as many as possible.  She would make sure that they had all the clay necessary to sculpt as many as they could during the trial.

As the experiment drew to a close, she noticed an insightful concept.  The group whose goal was to produce the most vases and not worry about the quality actually began producing much better ones than the group whose sole focus was to make one high quality piece.  The quantity group produced the best quality!

Quantity builds quality

That might seem completely backwards but here’s what happened.  As that group kept making new vases they began to learn from their mistakes.  They began to explore new ways of creating certain features.  They began to improve and grow in their skill until they quickly passed the other group in quality.

So you want to write better?  Here’s the key: start writing!

Gerard Brenan put it this way, “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.”

Push yourself to just sit down and pen your thoughts.  Then spend a few minutes after each article thinking about what you could have done to write faster and better.  Think about how you can add humor to it or how you can make it engage more effectively with your readers.

Don’t waste too much time on one article.  Move past that article and start the next one and take with you the lessons that you learned from the previous.  Produce article after article and watch as your ability to write improves beyond your peers.

Group Discussion

How long have you been writing?  What method do you use to improve your writing?  How many articles per week do you write on average?  How long are each of your articles?  What is your strongest point in writing articles?  What is your weakest point?

Nicholas Cardot

About Nicholas Cardot

It's my personal quest to enable every person that I can to unlock that dormant potential concerning their online influence. Also, I'm a geek.

66 Comments

  • emil giurca says:

    for about … as long as i’ve known to write . for some reason i always liked the act of writing . and i still love to hand write things . in fact … i think that , on some level , i don’t even consider writing on your keyboard as ‘actual writing’ .

    i never really thought about improving my writing . i don’t think it needs improving . it’s a personal experience … if it’s good enough for me … then it’s perfect . i’m coffee . it takes a little while until you get used to me .

    as many or as few as i like . although i know that keeping a certain number of posts every week is a must if you want to grow a blog , any blog … i don’t really know if i want to grow my blogs at the expense of my pleasure .

    the most i’ve written was a 14 page analysis of a single 5 minute conversation . although it’s not true when it comes to men … it is true when it comes to writing : ‘size does not matter’ .

    amazing ability to see things from every angle possible . if i set my mind on it … i can prove to you that love is real and that love is not real … and all in the same article . and you will believe me … both times .

    amazing ability to see things from every angle possible . sometimes this confuses people … i seem to not have a point of view . which i don’t , most of the times … :))

  • Eric B. says:

    Well, the first time I wrote something that was read by more than a few people was for my current blog. Though a long time ago, I rember creating imaginary cities and writing some things about them, with maps and languages (Actually planned conlangs with a complete grammar and everything), and some other stuff.

    I try to improve my writing by going back and trying to reword certain sections to help ensure that people keep on reading to the end of the post.

    I usually post about twice a week, but after the 7th, it’s probably going to drop to about once a week, because of other work to do.

    It’s hard to tell exactly how long my posts are, because I usually add examples and pages on other sites that take some time to check out.

  • Bruce Teague says:

    I read a study that showed if you read more, you’ll improve your writing more than if you write more. I subscribe to some blogs solely because I like the way they write and I want to learn from it. Not because I’m particularly interested in the subject matter. Obviously to read and write is the way to go.

    It makes sense that you would learn more from quantity over quality. You’re not going to have as many opportunities to learn from your work if you only have one piece.

    I think writing is one of my bigger weaknesses in blogging. A pretty glaring one to have, but I keep cranking things out knowing that it’ll improve as I find my style, and the style my readers enjoy. I tend to try and write from a humor stand point and I prefer to write stories. I try to post 4 times a week and my post tend to be on the shorter side.

    I obviously wrote in school, but I’ve only been “writing” with out being told to write for several months. My wife has to edit everything for me.. If only I could get her to edit my comments too 😛

    • Eric B. says:

      Yes, reading can help to improve your writing. Make sure you find your own style, and don’t copy someone else’s.

      • Eric B. –> I agree with that as well. It’s good to learn from others, but don’t take others styles. Learn to express your own personality in your writing. Learn to engage with people in your own way and on a personal level.

      • Arisu says:

        I think that if you read to learn, you´ll find plenty of concepts and ideas for your writing.

        And if you read a lot, your style will come out by its own. Just by choosing what you like and what you don´t.

        The problem would be if you only read one author, then I think doing it just like him would be inevitable.

        On the other hand, if you read, and never try to write, you won´t become a great writer.

        • Arisu –> Good points. It really takes a variety of things to become better at writing. You need to read a plethora of good authors. You need to write and practice. You need to edit and revise. I like your points about learning from the strengths that you admire in different authors as a way of creating your own style.

          • Arisu says:

            Thanks, I think variety is very important in what you read and what you write. And the same person can find something to improve his own writing by reading a blog, a magazine and classic literature.

            But at the end, is your own approach what makes original.

            • Arisu –> You’re right. It’s important that bloggers don’t just copy someone else. That’s no good. People who can learn to express themselves as an independent voice will rise above the copy-cat crowd. I believe that whole-heartedly.

              • Arisu says:

                I think so too. When you´re writing someone elses ideas, feelings and experience, the post lacks a heart of its own.

                And you´re losing the opportunity to contribute with something unique and special, that something that only you can do.

                I guess people copy cause they think they can´t come out with something as good as what´s there already. But the truth is, they have what it takes to be awesome, if they try and explore the things they´re passionate about.

    • emil giurca says:

      but if you read more than you write … isn’t there a chance that eventually you will end up in a place where you just mimic other people’s styles ?

      • Eric B. says:

        Yeah. You’ll have to watch out for that.

      • akira07 says:

        We need to be careful about that. But if we’re become mimic on the other style, try to modified it with your own creativity. I think your style will be original :D.

      • Rish says:

        My adviser once told us that reading is appreciating the works of others. Prominent writers are also there to inspire the amateur ones. But if copying styles and figures is merely present, then there will be no effectiveness at all. Anyway, I know each writer has his/her own style or uniqueness and creativity. 🙂

    • Bruce Teague –> Yes and no. First off, I agree that reading is one of the best ways to become a great writer. In this article though, I wasn’t trying to compare the effectiveness of reading to the effectiveness of writing but rather I was looking at the effectiveness of writing often versus the effectiveness of writing seldom. The more you write, if you are actually taking the time to learn from each piece and compare it against other works and stuff, the better you will get. Four times a week is a good pattern to be in as a writing pattern.

  • Mukund says:

    I definitely accept with Bruce Teague. Only when you read more, your writing will improve rather than writing more with the same level of English and other craps you know. Definitely, when you read more, your knowledge improves and the you present your things on blog improve.

  • I love this idea. It’s the blogger’s aesthetic.

  • Joe Cassada says:

    The old adage is true for any craft: “Practice makes perfect.” I agree with Bruce that reading more improves your writing skills. it’s like learning from the best. Authors who are already published have writing skills worth learning from.

    I love to write, but I find I become a perfectionist and scrap a lot of my articles because I don’t think they pass muster.

    • Joe Cassada –> It is good to learn from others. That is certainly true. I’ve seen a lot of people hold off from ever starting because they are ‘still learning’ though. I find it best to get out and start writing and then keep learning as you go. I’ve not seen many people grow as a writer who don’t write.

  • […] How to Become a Great Writer […]

  • Mukund says:

    Hi Nicholas! I would like to bring to your notice that the Ad running on the right side bar of your blog is not well formatted. That is, when I hover over it, I find that the HTML tags are not placed proper, so I hope you check that out soon.

    • Sat Chem says:

      On mine, I don’t even see the ads. I see the “Our Comments are Do Ads Follow”. Do you want me to print screen it so, you can see.

    • Mukund –> Yeah. That ad is hosted at buysellads.com. I’ll have to contact them and let them know that the url is broken on it. They pay me a flat rate of $30 per month to leave that ad there so I don’t want to remove it, but I do want to get it fixed so I’ll be sure to contact them right away.

      • Mukund says:

        You are pretty the same! Even I never remove or touch my ad units when it comes to LinkWorth. I have been making some regular $28 with them every month for displaying a text ad!!! But I feel your site is too good that you should definitely contact BuySellads and do something about that!

  • I agree with the reading. I don’t think you will wind up sharing the person’s style but if you are having problems with useless words like “that” and “is.” Then I think you are you seeing the flow of sentence structure which will make you a better writer in the end.

    • Jamie Favreau –> Yeah. I agree that reading probably is more important. However, I maintain these two principles: 1. Those who read and never write won’t get any better at writing. 2. There are actually many factors to improving writing but the main thrust of this particular article was comparing writing quantity and it’s effect on writing quality.

  • I’ve been writing for about 20 years (I’m 30 now), I use peer editing during a short time and it helped a lot, for me getting feedback is more important than just writing. I don’t have an average production and the lenght is mostly short. I wish I knew my strongest / weakest points! Besides articles (blog entries), I write poetry. I read 1 novel per month and countless blogs, but there’s a gap between reading and writing, the second is much harder.

    • Natalia Ventre –> Nice. That’s a long time to be writing. You must enjoy it. Feedback really is vital. I love both comments and criticisms. Every note that people leave me is an opportunity for me to learn and become a better writer. Thank you for your feedback.

  • I have the same experience too, when I was an elementary student, I have an art teacher who teach me how to paint. He told me to create one high quality painting. But, I prefer to make a lot of paintings rather than just create one painting to fill out my wall. After that, I don’t want to learn from him again, and now I already filled out my wall with a lots of great paintings.

    • Reza Winandar –> So you’ve learned this principle first hand. Doing something often is more beneficial to becoming efficient and effective at it than just doing it once with the goal of doing it great.

  • As a former aspiring artist myself, I really appreciated your story to illustrate how quantity enables quality.

    Even though it sounds to be counter-intuitive on the surface, it really makes total sense.

    I would also add that after a while, writing more articles not only improves the quality, but it also increases the amount of satisfaction derived from writing.

    What was once a chore, is now something to be looked forward to, and is even something to be missed when too much time goes by without being able to write.

    Thanks for another great article, Nicholas!

    -Jay

  • Arisu says:

    Hey Nick! You really did an extraordinary work on this posts! I loved the story.

    And I think practice really makes perfect. You may have a great idea of what you want to do… but if you haven´t try it before your skills may not be good enough to acomplish what you had in mind. And it applies to any activity, but for blogging I think you can do more that just write – you can edit it, look out for images, think of an activity for your readers to practice or write list posts, tutorials, etc. Till you find what works for you, and till you learn how to do your own perfect posts.

  • Nicholas,

    This is a great story.

    I think the pressure to create something great creates a paralysis to the creative spirit.

    I am trying to call everything I do an experiment and it has created a similar effect for my output.

    Answers to your questions:

    My articles have been short to medium lately. Two reasons. With a newborn now crawling I am often chasing my daughter. 2nd reason I often feel like people might be bored by long articles. I need to get over it. Also I am still learning to write longer articles.

    I write two articles a week right now. 1 Each for both of my blogs.

    week point for me is editing. I am too impatient to get an editor and too cheap.

    and I must cut this comment short and entertain my daughter.

    I love your blog.

    thanks,

    Brian

    • Brian Monahan –> I believe that short to medium is the right answer. I hate to say it but long posts just don’t get the same attention as short ones. Which is sad because those are the ones that you put the most work into. As for editing, just take a minute and read the article out loud to yourself and you’ll catch most of the major things. That is usually my method.

      Have fun with your daughter.

  • Mik says:

    I try to write every day, some makes it on one of my blogs, others just end up in one of my many Moleskine notebooks.

    But I have always been writing something, even while on the bus, sometimes it is really inane nutty stuff. Mmm maybe I should start posting some of that stuff.

  • I wish I had an art teacher like that. 😀

    I think my strongest point is that I try to have as much fun as possible when I sit down to write.

    My weakness is that i don’t try to pressure myself to write everyday. 😀

    So, thank you for posting about the experiment. It’s a very good reminder for me to really be more persistent and consistent about writing, that way I can develop and strengthen my writer’s muscles. 😀

    • Pinaybackpacker –> It’s good that you are willing to identify your strengths and weaknesses. That’s really the first step. Sometimes people don’t feel inspired to write and so they wait and wait and go days without putting the pen to the paper. However, I’ve learned that I become the most inspired when I actually start doing it. Once I get the creative juices flowing everything gets better. Just remind yourself to get at it on those days that you don’t want to.

  • ZXT says:

    I’ve been writing for 13 days now…and I think I suck at writing. But I will try to follow your advice and maybe I can improve it a bit an article after an article.

    • ZXT –> If you ever want me to look at an article with you and talk you through a post revision, I would be glad to do that. I can teach you some basic concepts that appeal to readers and then I can take what we learn and post it for everyone else to benefit from it.

  • Ron Boracay says:

    Prior to your “group discussion”:

    My answers are:

    I am writing since my high school days. Writing love letters (poetic one, I know, its to corny) makes me a somewhat, average writer.

    I usually find or grab some inspiration in everything I write. Also, I use to read lot of novels, stories and even watch great movies to improve my writing and word combining ability.

    Regarding the numerical figures:

    The number of articles I write per week depends mostly, on the demand on the net (sometimes, by the demand of my boss).

    I don’t give weigh much on the article length, as long as I give my point on my article, I will be contented with it, no matter if it is a 1 sentence or 8 paragraphs.

    My strongest point prior to writing article is, I think, my ability to construct or make an average article in short period of time.

    Weakest? Ahh, hate to say this, but grammar and spelling kills me. I need proofreaders.

    • BM says:

      that’s my weakest too. I think that’s forgivable if English is not your native tongue.

      • BM –> It’s forgivable by people who stick around long enough to get to know you. But many people may not do that.

      • Arisu says:

        BM>>

        If English is not your native tongue, I think that you should try extra hard to do a proper article, grammar may be an issue, but spelling not, there are a lot of online dictionaries people can use.

        If you wanna reach a bigger audience, you need to put more effort in what you do – even in my comments I try to use proper grammar and spelling, cause I want to connect with people not confuse them.

      • Ron Boracay says:

        Forgivable maybe for those who are just starting out in the field of writing (just like us). But if we want to take writing professionally, then I think, much better to practice more and learn from our own mistake.

        Thanks for the response guys.

        • Arisu says:

          Ron Boracay>>

          Exactly! If you really want to write professionally you need to work hard to make it work.

          Also, if you really want to help others or make really good friends online, you need to work hard -but some mistakes are forgivable – 😉

  • Nicole D says:

    Clearly I have much to learn. Thank you for the important tips.

  • akira07 says:

    Ok, i’ll try to answer your question. I’m become blogger since 1 years ago and that’s mean i’m start to writing 1 years ago. My post in the beginning of my “writing career” is so bad, i’m always laugh if i look it back. But time by time, experience tell me how to write better article, even my article is not good yet, it still better than 1 years ago.
    I ever win a blog review contest and it’s motivate me.

    I have no fixed schedule to update my blog and have no habit in making article with fix length. I just go with the flow, when i have idea, i write it.

    Well, my weakness part is english 😀

  • Rish says:

    An applause for this post! It’s sensible and I love it.

    How long have you been writing?

    Well, first, I remember when I was awarded the “Best in Writing” when I was in my preschool. LOL. That wouldn’t greatly matter but it urged me to go on. From then, my writing career didn’t stop as well as my learning.

    What method do you use to improve your writing?
    I just write and write and then force the people I know to discriminate my article. I wanted a negative verdict to know my mistakes. 🙂

    How many articles per week do you write on average?
    It varies. But usually, there are about 6 from 600 words and over. That’s not bad.

    How long are each of your articles?
    No less than 500 words.

    What is your strongest point in writing articles?

    When I am inspired,then you will never see my hand stop until I finish a masterpiece.

    What is your weakest point?
    It is difficult for me to appreciate my works..

    I may not sit to write every morning. Will I consider myself as a writer? 🙂 LOL. Great post again and again. 🙂

  • Why do we have this desire to pick on one thing,just one thing as the sole deteerminant of success.Reading good writers,writing frequently,putting ourselves in the shoes of readers …And other factors,will all help.Success requires mastering many skills.What kind of writing do you enjoy? I love enriching information tinged with humour and I believe a lot of people do too.Lovely article.I enjoy writing and reading.I think being discipled and having deadlines will help.I used to write poetry when I was younger,and one of the things that helped was making sure I wrote everyday.Thanks everone.
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