It is very difficult to be a good writer. And the main problem with writing is that everyone can do it. We can all write stories, articles, papers and, more recently it seems, texts and tweets. We accept that not all of us can become a competitive gymnast, for example. But because of the fact that we can all write, many of us are under the delusion that we are good writers.
Writing well is a skill. Sure, it takes talent, but don’t make the mistake of confusing talent with skill. Talent is a gift. Skill is something you attain after hours and hours of working at your craft. Writing is no different. If you desire to be a good writer, you must work at it. And this brings us to the first sure-fire way to become a better writer.
I made writing a habit. For 30 days I wrote 1,000 words per day. Some days the content I wrote was bad. Some days it was awful. And some days it was surprisingly good.
1. Write More
Much more. You don’t see a competitive bodybuilder working out 2, maybe 3 times a week, do you? If someone dreams of becoming a competitive bodybuilder, they are in the gym for hours a day, 4-6 days a week, putting in the time.
Writing is no different. If you aspire to be a great writer, you must make writing a habit. And this habit won’t be like the flossing habit you promised your dentist you would make. (Seriously, can you remember the last time you flossed?)
Learn the writing habit. Make writing so important that it’s front of mind throughout your day. Get up 30 minutes before you normally do and get in some writing. I used to aspire to be a better writer. I thought, ‘one day I’d love to write a book.’ After several years, I realized that the ‘one day’ I was dreaming about was simply that – a dream.
I made writing a habit. For 30 days I wrote 1,000 words per day. Some days the content I wrote was bad. Some days it was awful. And some days it was surprisingly good. The point is after 30 days of writing 1,000 words per day, it became a habit. Writing was ingrained in my mind.
Even though I’ve now relaxed the number of words I write daily, I still schedule writing time every day. With all the content I’ve created, I can literally see the improvements I’ve made. Having this track record of content reinforces the fact that I’ve made progress, and I know that if I keep it up I’ll make even more.
Write often. Make it a habit.
2. Write in a Quality Environment
An old professor of mine, and now a great friend and business associate, told me that after so many years of working in airports with all the ambient noise, he can’t write when it’s quiet. Whether it’s heading to a coffee shop or listening to music, he needs noise to focus.
I’m the opposite. I find that I write best when I’m in a quiet, calm, and uncluttered environment. I sometimes even listen to white noise to block out everything else. After many experiments, I’ve found that my best writing environment occurs in the early morning when it’s still quiet outside. I make it a point to wake up extra early in the morning so I can get in my writing.
Writing more is the first step. Writing with focus; now that’s what will really improve your content. Seek out the environment that you find it easiest to concentrate in. Put yourself in that environment as often as you can. Focus is a skill that is rare nowadays – and that’s what makes it all the more powerful.
3. Write Down All of Your Ideas
You can be the best runner in the world, but if you’re forced to run in high heels, you’re not going to win any races. Why? Because this would be a bad idea.
Similarly, if you put in the hours on a terrible article idea, you’ll likely have a mediocre article by the end of it. Mediocrity doesn’t breed success.
We all have good ideas; we all have bad ideas. To be able to consistently write about interesting topics, you need to have a ton of ideas to draw from. Write them all down. Whether you use a good old fashioned notebook or store them online with Evernote, make sure you record everything. We’ve all had that flash of inspiration that we’ve later forgotten because we didn’t write it down. Don’t let that happen!
Notice how the first three all include the word “write?”
Cliff notes. Write more!
4. Get Your Writing Critiqued
Being a good bad writer won’t get you anywhere. Likewise, keeping your writing to yourself won’t help you grow. Let others experience your writing. Let them tear it apart; critique it, slam it, cover it with red ink or burn it. Welcome their feedback.
If you’re trying to get your material read, don’t wait to be published. Start a blog. Write an ebook. Offer to guest post on a blog. Write articles for magazines and mail them in.
There have been many great writers in the world who have left their mark. Study their work. Build on it. Cultivate an attitude of learning. Rekindle your curiosity.
Join a writing group. Find like-minded people and help them out the best you can. Giving criticism is almost as good as receiving it. I don’t always make it, but I try to go to a regular writing Meetup whenever I can. Even if no words are spoken, being in a supportive environment and sharing a common goal can do wonders for your writing.
5. Good Writers are Readers. Read More.
I would hope that reading is a major interest of yours. If not, why write?
I think the following quote makes a case for regular reading.
“None of us is smarter than all of us.”
We all have something to learn. If you’re trying to improve your writing, reading the work of writers better than you is a great place to start. There have been many great writers in the world who have left their mark. Study their work. Build on it. Cultivate an attitude of learning. Rekindle your curiosity.
6. Speak in Your Unique Voice
You are unique. Don’t try to make your writing sound like everybody else’s. There are times when your personality can shine through more than others, but make sure you don’t try to too hard to emulate others.
Great writers inevitably have a unique voice. We know how they write. We love how they write. They would have never achieved what they did by trying to sound like everyone else. Likewise, develop a style to your writing. Write how you speak. Remember that you’re not writing to a computer or a search engine; you’re writing to people. The most successful writers recognize this and are able to make a connection.
Developing a writing style takes time. Work on your writing habit and getting your words in first, and your style will emerge.
Write often, write quality, write ideas, open yourself up to criticism, read, and be yourself.
If you follow these six steps and make writing a habit, I guarantee your writing will improve.
Now, to practice what I preach, do you have any criticisms for me? Are you offended at my sometimes lack-of-proper-grammar approach? Leave a comment below – after all, this will only improve my writing 🙂