One of the best ways I’ve found to improve as a writer is to not just be a writer. I dabble in photography, graphic design, theatre, even painting when I find the time. And I find that all of these additional artistic skills–even ones I don’t ever claim to be proficient at–are extremely useful to me as a writer. Why? Because the skills required are so different from the ones needed for writing. They teach me about new perspectives and open up my eyes to different ways to view the world around me.
Writing can be very much an internal activity. Although observation is key to writing, much of the craft starts in the brain and stays there, percolating and puzzling things out. It’s about shifting language to fit with what your imagination is telling you. But arts like painting or dancing or cooking or photography require a whole different set of skills to do well and so they engage different parts of the brain. Not only is that beneficial for those of us who work constantly on projects of a similar nature (What project am I on again?), it also expands our creative abilities.
Think about it. Painting and photography and so on are visual arts. You have to hone your observational abilities, really learn to see things on a deeper level. You may be able to catch details you never thought of before. Things like music and dance engage sound and think of the wonderful ways that skill could enrich your writing. Think of the way you can turn even ordinary sounds into music. Cooking engages the too-little used creative senses of smell and taste. Have you ever thought about how the air tastes when you walk outside? There are some days, when a distant wildfire is blazing in high summer, where you pretty much taste the smoky, sandy, ashy air around you.
So broaden your horizons as a creative person and explore all the arts you want. Each will help you improve the other, because each provides its own viewpoint on the world. Use all your senses when you create, because it only makes the work richer. By expressing yourself in more than just the written word, you’ll make those precious words you do write all the sweeter.