I may have touched on this topic before but I've become even more convinced that is a critical tool for writers, especially those who wrestle with writer's block.
A few months back (or maybe over a year, in fact) I discovered a little-discussed trend among the writerly inclined. There is apparently something called copy work.
You've likely heard that artists learn by copying and that statement is usually followed up with whoever said that clarifying that said artist should in no way shape or form pass on this copy work as their own with the intention of making money.
Of course, copying something and then selling it is bad. But there is a way to copy something and retain all of your noble intentions. The practice involves copying something word for word and period for period, in order to pick up on certain stylings by your favorite writers. This isn't actually that much different from reading the work of those who inspire you and examining it a little more closely with the intention to learn something. Copying the work of your idols is really a way of slowing down that process even more.
I've been doing it off and on with the intention of finishing the first book of the Harry Potter series (you may have heard of it) and I have found that the process has, at least, provided me with a noticeable increase in confidence in my own writing; I'm able to enjoy the process of writing just a little more than I did before.
The best part is that this I can do this whenever I want to feel a little creative but having trouble getting those creative juices flowing.
This is one of those pieces of advice/information that I wish I'd known before I was married with children and had a full-time job. I cringe when I think of all those days in high school and college where I was just sitting around waiting for an idea by watching TV or surfing the internet, sure that I would never possess enough creativity to write an entire book.
This may not be the only exercise that you need in order to improve your writing. But if you aren't sure that what you are doing in any given moment will help you get to where you want to be in life...pick up a favorite book of yours, open it to the first page, and start copying it down.
There are different styles and schools of thought about this practice; I personally, typically, do it by hand, word for word but I think that I've heard of writers who typed up manuscripts. I remember hearing about one published author who would type out The Great Gatsby on an annual basis but I can't remember their name at the moment.
If you know who I'm thinking of let me know in the comments.