Over a year ago I started getting serious feedback about my writing. By this I mean I found other aspiring writers and we formed a group where we gave substantive, constructive, critical reviews of each other's work. Since then, much of my writing time has focused upon addressing the editing suggestions from the group.
Recently, I declared war upon certain words and sought to eliminate them, as much as possible, from my writing. I began with the chapters I had already edited based upon the group's feedback. This process improved chapters whose major issues I had already addressed.
In the last few days I expanded the war to chapters I wrote a long time ago and have yet to submit to the group for review. In particular, I had the opportunity to reread certain sections I felt proud of when I first wrote them. Sections I edited several times before the founding of the writers group, but have not looked at recently.
I discovered how serious feedback has helped me grow as a writer. The prose I once felt proud of I now see as amateur dreck. If I dared submit these chapters to the group they would savage them, with cause.
This isn't a case of a writer being harsh upon himself. Over the last year the group has helped me see a variety of problems with my writing. Problems such as the overuse of the passive voice, reliance upon adverbs and adjectives rather than dialogue and actions to describe character's emotions, run-on sentences, rambling paragraphs, info dumps, and so on.
I saw all of these problems and more in the my older, non-group edited works. It will take months, at least, to correct all the problems I found in a cursory review.
At first I shook my head and felt depressed at the magnitude of the task required to clean up these chapters. Then I started to feel better, pretty darn good actually. Why? Because I could see the problems now, whereas a year ago I couldn't. I would never write chapters with those problems now. Or at least, the problems would not exist to the same degree.
I have improved as a writer. I can now correct many of the issues with my writing myself. I still need the group to edit what I consider a final version, because there will still be problems I will not see. But because of their help I can find and fix many problems myself.
There are gifts you receive that you cannot repay. I count helping me become a better writer as such a gift. They only way I can repay it is to do my best to help the others improve their own works.