Whether you’re writing for fun or for business, often, the most difficult part is getting started. All the thoughts spiralling in your head, whispering discouraging beliefs about what you “should” be doing to craft a great piece, can stifle your creativity. But following these seven tips will help to free your mind so you can become a better writer.
1. Write an ugly first draft.
The key to getting started is to eliminate the “shoulds” and start. Don’t be concerned about what it looks like. Forget about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Get the raw thoughts out of your head and onto the page. It doesn’t matter if you go high-tech or back to pencil and paper – get it down as fast as you can. The key to remember here is that you never, ever publish your first draft!
2. Write to one person.
There may be thousands of people on your list, but only one person is reading your stuff at a time. So, write to that one person. Visualize her. Give her a name. Share your story. Make sure your readers can envision that you are speaking directly to them.
3. Show don’t tell.
Don’t state things as you see them; instead, put yourself into the mind of your reader. Think of all your senses and not just what you see. Consider sound, taste, smell, and what something feels like. Paint a picture. Using metaphors and analogies will break down complex ideas to make your point easy to understand. If you’re describing a 50,000 square foot area, which may be difficult to visualize, you could say it’s about the size of three hockey rinks. (For awesome comparisons, check out https://www.themeasureofthings.com.) Google the “Tell Me Without Telling Me” TikTok challenge for some interesting insights.
4. Edit, revise, re-read, and re-write.
When you have your draft out of your head and onto the page, it’s time to play with it. And this will take several edits as you flesh it out (add detail), smooth it out (add transitions where needed), remove repetitions, and correct errors. Editing isn’t done in one sitting; instead, you’ll want to let it percolate as you do other things, like the dishes or going for a walk. Have fun with this process. You’re creating art with your words.
5. Read it out loud.
When you have your final draft nearly ready, read it out loud to catch mistakes you usually skim over and so you can literally hear your voice. If you sound like you’re reporting on a hockey game, you’re not using your voice to write conversationally.
6. Write daily.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Writing daily will make it easier to write and feel good about what you have written. But in the case of writing, there really is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Once I write an article, I leave it overnight and will make further changes the next day. I could keep going on and on, always finding a word or two to change. The challenge is to know when good is good enough and get it out there.
7. Read. A lot.
Every writer is a reader. If you want to get better at writing, pick up a book and read. As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” A musician listens to music. An artist visits art shows. So, it’s natural for a writer to read to be inspired and to learn.
It takes time and practice to develop your writing skills. Make time to write each day and ask for feedback from your peers. Their insights will help you identify with your readers and hone your skills.