How do you become a better writer/artist?
Well, besides the obvious response of lots of practice (duh) my #1 answer is this:
Expose yourself to good writing/art. Expose yourself to an eclectic range of good art.
There is so much crap out there on TV, online and what’s left of bookstores that it’s easy to see only crap art and think it’s good.
“But art is in the eye of the beholder!” you say.
Yes I know. And I agree, but there’s also a standard of objective ‘good’ that nearly every accomplished writer/artist will agree exists. We may not agree on what we like, but certain works transcend personal tastes – Michelangelo’s Pieta, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lucas’ Star Wars, Mozart symphonies, and David Bowie’s works. These pieces of work are generally accepted by the great majority as masterpieces in their field/genre. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but that they overwhelmingly impact the collective human consciousness, lasting for generations and centuries. They alter society’s perception. They resonate far beyond their creator’s original intent. They’re not trendy; they’re classic.
Now I don’t love all classics. Can’t really stand Dickens, or Warhol, but many others do. But that’s not my point. My point is that in order to improve oneself as a writer or artist, one MUST expose oneself to the classics in order to find out what one likes/dislikes. Classics are classics for a reason. They’ve lasted because at some level they’re good. They’re impactful. They’re important.
If you’re an writer/artist and all you expose yourself to is trendy, lightweight pop culture, fluff and bubble gum TV show, music, art and books, if all you like are the things that last a few years which no one remembers in a year or two, if you’ve never bothered to read or listen or study ANY of the classics from centuries or decades ago then you’re doing yourself disservice. You don’t have to like it all. You don’t have to like any of it. But you need to try it! Trust me. Once you understand what great work really is, then the standard of good takes on entirely new meaning.
And you’ll improve by default.