Well, I spent this afternoon responding to discussion board posts which ranged from excellent to unreadable, and it sparked a thought… well, actually it sparked a number of thoughts. Some of them were very interesting and were posted on the discussion boards… some of them didn’t get posted. However, one of those thoughts was about how writing across different mediums generally creates stronger writers. For instance, if a fiction writer learns how to research and write academic papers, this will help him improve his research and character development for fiction. Similarly, if an academic writer learns to write fiction, it will help him improve his ability to connect his arguments and develop a centralized theme and goal, and his word choice in his papers (this I know from experience). So, simply put, learning to write in a different medium (and I mean learning to do it well) will help you to improve whatever kind of writing that you already do.
There are a lot of ways to improve your writing, and we talk about many of them here. However, many times we don’t think of learning something completely new as a way to improve what we already do. However, every style of writing improves your fundamental use of words and information in a different way. Academic writing is about logic, evidence, proving a point; journalistic writing is about telling someone else’s story, or making someone else’s point; writing historical fiction requires the ability to integrate your own character’s and stories into an existing world and setting; writing fantasy or science fiction requires detailed creative efforts that mirror the real world; any fictional writing requires the ability to build effective plots and multi-dimensional characters. However, fundamentally every style of writing is about the effective use of words to communicate intent. Writing a good research paper is as much an art as writing a good short story, and writing a good short story is as much a science as writing a good research paper. Learning different styles of writing will force you to learn to use and view each of these fundamentals differently, and each of these different uses can be applied to every style of writing.
Being a martial artist, I naturally want to use martial arts as an illustration. I’ve known many fighters who spent their lives studied a single style, be it Wing Chun Kung Fu, Shorin-Ryu Karate, Hapkido, Muay Thai, etc, and many of them are very good within their style. However, pit them against someone with a fundamentally different fighting style and suddenly they’re lost. It’s very interesting watching someone who’s only ever practiced Wing Chun try to fight someone who’s only ever practiced Brazilian Jujitsu. Neither fighter really knows quite where to begin, and so nothing really happens for while as they feel each other out. However, a fighter who’s studied multiple styles closely can apply principles from each style to his own fighting. A Wing Chun fighter who is also skilled in Shorin-Ryu Karate, Aikido, and Brazilian Jujitsu can be hard when he needs to be hard, be soft when he needs to be soft, fight standing when he needs to fight standing, and fight on the ground when he needs to fight on the ground. Moreover, he can apply principles from each to the others. This will make him a stronger fighter over-all.
So, branch out. Learn something new. Personally, I’m thinking about trying to learn how to write a script.