by Ken Liu
First, writing more allows you to find out if you actually like writing.
A lot of people like the idea of writing. Many of us probably have had the experience of being inspired, feeling the flow, and banging out a bit of prose that we're proud of. And we think: I can do this. Being a writer is easy.
Unfortunately, being a writer means that you have to write whether you're feeling inspired or not. A pro has to produce under tight deadlines (such as when an editor suddenly expresses interest). To make a living, a writer sometimes (often) has to force herself to sit in a chair and put words on screen even when she'd rather do anything else.
Writing more is the only way to find out if you can write away from your muse.
Second, writing more is the only way to get better.
There are no magic books you can buy, no prestigious workshops you can attend, no writing groups you can join, no secret tricks from experts that you can copy, that will short-cut this process. All of these things will help, to various degrees, but nothing will be a substitute for putting in the hours and pounding out the words.
Writing is a skill that requires your brain to be rewired in certain ways. Persistent practice is the only way to discover your voice, to hone it, to learn how to wield it to say what you want to say.
Finally, writing more also starts a positive feedback cycle that makes more writing easier.
I think writing is really a way of thinking in slow motion. It is how I work out the implications of the fictional world, to get to know the characters and to experience their feelings. When I write, I must fill out the details that had only been hazy shadows in my mind.
So as I write, I tend to discover new things about my world, about the ramifications of the speculative "what if" question I asked, about the characters I put on stage. New ideas take shape, sparks created by the chiseling of words onto page. Sometimes these lead to new scenes, new plot twists, but sometimes they become the seeds of new stories, entire new worlds that I long to set the next story in.
Writing more is the best antidote for writer's block. It is when I'm writing consistently and regularly that I find myself constantly bombarded with new ideas, kernels for fresh tales. The more you write, the more likely it is that you'll be inspired, that you'll feel again the mythical flow.
If you want to become better as a writer, begin by writing more.
Ken Liu’s fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, among other places. He has won a Nebula, a Hugo, a World Fantasy Award, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the Sturgeon and the Locus Awards. He lives near Boston with his family.
Learn more about Ken Liu on his website and blog. Stay connected on Twitter.