The straight-up truth is this: exceptional writers continually stretch their “writing muscles”. Pro athletes continually workout, drill and train. Likewise, sharpening and developing your writing skills helps you communicate better. The more effective your communication, the more influence and engagement you’ll gain from your community.
Create a writing habit
Anything worth pursuing takes discipline over the long term. In this instance, I am not talking about the practice of obeying the rules using punishment. Although some days writing feels like punishment! I speak of discipline as the act of developing a writing habit through self-control. Setting a routine and sticking to it takes discipline.
Take time to brainstorm
As busy as we are, we often do take time to think. Your brain needs time alone with you. Take at least 5 minutes a day to dream and create ideas. Stretch and free your mind!
Look at life with a different perspective
As writer Henry Miller once said, “Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.” Simply “be” in the world. Be observant. Take notes of people, places and things that capture your thoughts.
Allow planning to be your best friend
Every writer plans and organizes their research differently. I am constantly revising and developing my process. My process is not always the same, depending on the type of content I am writing. For the most part, outlining your content comprises of the following:
- Determining the central purpose and focus
- Writing a compelling headline
- Researching and capturing ideas, notes, links, images, and thoughts
- Organizing the key points that support and draw a conclusion about the central purpose
For heaven’s sake, just WRITE
“Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.”-PD James
This may seem counterintuitive to my earlier points about planning and brainstorming. It’s actually a cautionary measure! Sometimes we get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” Don’t become too bogged down in dreaming, creating, researching, outlining, and organizing that you lose sight of what the ultimate goal is: to actually WRITE.
Make peace with crappy writing
Are you guilty of editing as your write? Do you often feel like what you’re writing is absolute crap and you end up hitting a wall? Raise your hand proudly! Welcome to the club. Your first draft is likely ugly and awful (maybe even the second and the third too!). The reality is EVERY writer feels this way. You need to let go and cut yourself some slack. Get started and just write—edit later! Go ahead, write badly with gusto! Scott Berkun says that writer’s block doesn’t really exist. “It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well”-Scott Berkun, from Writing Hacks—Get Started. By the way, I highly recommend you read this entire article. Scott gives fantastic tips that can help you to start writing when you feel stuck.
Read voraciously and with variety
It’s been said that writers who are avid readers make the best writers. The broader and more challenging the material you read, the more likely you are to develop an eye for the brilliant vs. the chaff. One technique that I use quite often is scrutinizing writing that I really admire—no matter what the topic or genre. What makes their content so appealing? What does the sentence structure look like? What action words do they use? How can I adopt some of the styles to my writing?
Use caffeine for creativity and motivation
Disclaimer alert: yes I am passionate coffee drinker. However, this recommendation is based in scientific fact! The benefits of drinking moderate amounts of caffeine increases feelings of energy, sharpens alertness, enhances concentration, and focuses your attention. Caffeine can decrease mental fatigue and enhance your short-term memory. All great benefits for a writer, don’t you think? 🙂
Move your bod
Creative people have always claimed that exercise inspires them. The philosopher and author Henry Thoreau claimed that his thoughts began to flow ‘the moment my legs began to move.’ Now it’s been proven through a recent study. People who exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t in finding creative solutions. Right after a workout or a brisk walk, I am the most productive and creative. Have you experienced this?
Seems like a no-brainer, huh? Don’t be afraid to get multiple people from different walks of life to read what you’ve written. Multiple eyeballs and feedback on your work will help you refine and clarify your message.
“Good writing is a reflection of your thoughts, your ideas, and your reasoning.” Jeff Haden
Be true to your character, style and personality. Authenticity, more than ever, is critical to the integrity of your writing.
Edit and Proofread
I admit it, I am terrible at proofreading. If you ever find glaring errors in my work, speak up! While I do have two people that proofread and edit my work, mistakes do happen. If you don’t have people to edit your work, at minimum, always use spell check and grammar checkers that are built-in to your writing software. When in doubt about punctuation or grammar, look it up! There are tons of websites with helpful information.
Read it aloud
As I review this post, I am reading it aloud at my desk. My dog is giving me the “look” again. I’m positive she is wondering why I am talking to myself. “As silly as you may feel, it’s the best way to make sure what you’ve written makes sense. Anything that doesn’t flow, is confusing, or is missing a word or two will quickly make itself apparent.” says Jenna Britton. You’ll also be able to verify that your are speaking in your natural authentic voice.
Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”—George Singleton