Writing. It’s something we all learned to do at an early age, but some people are more adept at it than others. If you’re trying to improve your writing, here are a few tips I’ve picked up since I started writing at age 3. 🙂
Write often. Then write some more. It’s amazing how much more confident you feel about your writing when you practice, practice, practice. Blogging, notebooks, a journal or your Mac, the platform and audience doesn’t really matter. Just keep writing.
Can’t write? Read. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something — or someone — you like. It doesn’t have to be business-related or in your field. As much as I enjoy psychology and sociology books, my favorite author of all time is Stephen King, a master of words. I’ve learned so much from reading his works.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King
Say something. Seriously. Read what you just wrote and ask yourself what the takeaway is. If you can’t come up with anything, then neither can your audience.
Don’t waste words. While the type of writing depends on your audience, platform and objectives, never waste words. If a word or paragraph doesn’t add anything to your work, leave it out. Being eloquent doesn’t have to mean being wordy.
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Proofreading isn’t optional, even in the era of instant publishing and smartphone communication. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation reflects poorly on the author, no matter what platform. It’s usually helpful to have others proofread your work, but if that’s not possible, at least try to walk away for awhile. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can see.
Beat writer’s block. It happens to anyone who writes sooner or later, but there are actions you can take. Get moving. A brisk walk, an energetic game of basketball or an afternoon hike can be just what you need. They also draw your attention elsewhere. Sometimes when you try so hard to think about something, your brain locks up. It’s not a coincidence that so many great ideas, from novels to solving a client’s issue, happen in the shower or during a run. Think about something else, and the words will probably start flowing again.
Carry a notebook. While I’m old school and love to fill notebooks with my chicken scratch, you may prefer the digital domain. Either way, always carry a notebook (even if it’s your smartphone). You never know when, or where, an idea will strike.
Related reading: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper
Write to your audience. It’s helpful to know who your audience is so you can write to them. Speak in their language, play to their interests and use words they understand. Have you ever read something that seemed like it was written just for you? That’s the power of writing to your audience.
Pay attention. The world is full of writing topics; you just have to see (hear, smell, feel or sense) them. Pay attention to your surroundings, even during mundane tasks. You’ll be surprised what can come out of a walk in the park or your daily commute. I’ve had ideas for blog posts pop into my head while driving through a local metro park and making leg lamp cookies.
What tips would you add?
Where’s your favorite place to write (or read)?
Have you ever read writing outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and loved it?
While we’re all expected to be writers these days, some people just aren’t comfortable putting their thoughts on paper (or screen). Is that you? Then I’d love to work my magic for you.
Join the conversation:
3 thoughts on “On Writing…”
Hi Jaime, All good tips! I especially like the one about “Don’t waste words.” My sister Michele, who is an excellent editor, says that editing is basically deleting the surplus.
I too carry a notebook around. I’ve started blog posts in places like doctor’s waiting rooms and parking lots.
As for ideas, I have been inspired by magazine articles and NPR radio programs (my favorite is On Point). And I agree that it truly helps to get outside and move, or at times, just think about something else.
Michele has a great point. It’s amazing how much gets cut from the first draft to the final product.
Isn’t it amazing where inspiration can strike?!
I love magazine articles. Sometimes people laugh because I still love leafing through physical magazines and reading the Sunday paper (in hard copy). It’s just like a great book; there’s just something about holding it in your hands. As an advertising professional, I love looking at the magazine ads too.
I’m going to have to listen to NPR more. What I’ve heard, I like, and so many others recommend it. Maybe it will give me some ideas too. Thanks for reading!