Once you're an adult, and you've been writing for a while and teachers and workshops are long behind you, how can you become a better writer? I mean besides the obvious, which is writing a lot, reading a lot, and sharing your work with good readers. How can you improve your prose? Are there any techniques, like Hanon exercises for pianists or running sprints for marathoners?
I'd like to know because I think the years of following Anne Lamott's "shitty first draft" advice have done a number on my prose style. For those unfamiliar: Lamott suggests that writers -- especially new or blocked writers -- should not worry about quality in the first draft, but just get it all down and make it better in the revision process. It seems like good advice: I know I couldn't have written a single paper in college if I didn't do it that way. But I'm wondering if it's so great for fiction. Fiction lives in the words on the page, not in the outline. Lately I've found that I don't like what I write. Is it because I'm just throwing down any old thang in order to have something to revise later? The problem seems to be that I have no motivation to revise if the prose is crap. I can't work up any love for the shitty first draft.
So: how to get better without obsessing over every sentence? I had exactly one idea about this (and hope you have more): read Strunk and White again.
First revelation: so many ideas I thought were my own turn out to be things I stole from S&W! Second: a lot things here are not obvious. For instance: Do Not Inject Opinion. Sometimes we feel like it's all about opinion. But no.
Funny thing about Strunk and White: this sentence: "By the time this paragraph sees print, uptight, ripoff, rap, dude, vibes, copout, and funky will be the words of yesteryear..."
(Neither Strunk nor White would have anything good to say about my colonophilia, I know.)