As a teacher, I have given lots of writing advice . . . from commas to narrative structure, I’ve covered it all in the classes I teach. But when I simmer down what I know about good writing, I come to five basic pieces of advice.

5. Write often, all the time, and with abandon. Carry a notebook to jot down ideas. Journal in the morning. Journal at night. Keep a blog. Have a regular writing practice. Just do what you need to do to get words on the page.

4. Read with every spare minute you have. Carry a book to the doctor’s office. Put one in the car so that you can read in traffic. Lay them on the back of the toilets in your house so you can get those spare minutes, too. Read. Read. Read.

3. Immerse yourself in the type of writing you’d like to do. If you’re like Jansen Herr, read automotive journalism until you’re everyday language involves torque and governors (way to go, Jansen; you’re already there). If you’re like Brenda Boitson, pour yourself into winning travel writing contests and query out to travel magazines all the time. If you’re like me, read more books on slavery than you ever knew existed and spends hours in the Special Collections library trying to read 19th century hand-writing.

2. Get yourself into a writing group. Find people who will give you honest feedback (Your mother is not one of these people; she is obligated by birth-right to tell you everything you do is amazing.) and talk with them regularly about what you’re writing. Share your work with them and read theirs. Build your support network.

1. Persevere. As with anything worth doing, writing takes practice, a strong stomach, and a willingness to keep at it even in the face of setbacks. So give yourself the space to fail but not the space to quit. Write even when it hurts.