Staring at a blank screen sipping coffee as you try to mustard out a few more words is the ritual of writers. We’re stubborn people, we look straight into the abyss till our eyes bleed and the voice in our head screams struggling to find the right words to say. Oddly enough, this torture is… satisfying. We always come back for more like a money starved boxer fiending for their next fight.
What do we like about writing? Well, I’ll assume you’re like me. I believe writing is pure freedom, and pure creation. It’s your chance to decide who wins, who loses, who sinks and who soars. Writing is a reflection of you and your chance to let your voice ring throughout someone’s head.
That’s some pretty heavy shit right?
Every so often people will message me looking for ways to improve their writing and fortunately for them I came up with a list of tips I would recommend.
Please read, comment, share and let me know what tips I’m missing.
To be frank, getting started writing is a bitch and not just any ol’ step-on-your-toes bitch, but rather a big bitch with bubble gum who smacks her lips harder than a drummer at a football game. Yep. That bitch.
Writers are famous for being procrastinators. Why? We hate getting started. It sucks, and you read it here first. For me, the first 15 minutes of writing are Hell and I’d rather be doing anything other than writing. I stare at the screen, I start, I stop. I curse, I walk around. I’m all over the place. However, once I stomach the first 15, I find myself getting in the zone and that’s where the magic happens. In the zone, words flow like honey from a cracked beehive except this time, there’s no pesky bees flying around to sting you.
So what’s the tip? Force yourself to start and get going. Stare at the screen and put fingers on keys. You don’t have to love what you put down at first, but get in the habit of putting something down; you’ll need the momentum and you can always edit later. Once you’re going, you’ll be like a homerun… going, going & gone into a flow. The act of starting will create the inspiration and momentum to write. Forget about waiting to be inspired but focus on inspiring yourself. You have to be the match that ignites your fire.
Write What Interests You / Write What You Would Like to Read.
When you write, you should really only focus on one thing: writing pieces that entertain you and solely you; nothing more, nothing less. This is your time to be the selfish bastard who has their cake and eats it too. This is your time to be the asshole who’s the first person to stands up and rush to the front of the plane when it lands so you can line-cut 50 other annoyed people because you know #2 is for fucks. This is your time to delay your whole family from eating dinner at the normal time because you were “late.” Be selfish in your writing my friends, it’s all about you.
You create your best writing when you yourself are entertained. What I’m about to say should be painfully obvious: If you’re not entertained, how could you possibly expect other people to be entertained? When you write, try to make yourself laugh and hold your own attention. Try to inspire yourself and try to flood your brain with the visuals you would want to see when you read your work. If you can successfully accomplish this, believe me, other people will gravitate to your words.
Every topic I write about are things that I would want to read, oddly enough that’s why I write them. Only write for yourself, and when you do that & concoct a piece that makes you proud, that’s when it’s ready to be shared with the world.
Remove Your Inner Critic.
But what if my Mom reads this? What will my girlfriend think? Will I lose any friends? But… But.. But… Who cares. The biggest way to accelerate your writing potential is to remove the inner critic, the “But what if someone reads this?” voice that screams in your head.
What you need to do is think more optimistic. Yeah, what if someone reads this? What if someone reads this and they actually like it? What if enough people read and like your work so much so that you’re able to pursue writing as a full-time career? How about them apples cowboy?
The truth is people are more drawn to people who are vulnerable and say things that are real, instead of pedestrian and diluted. By this I mean, when you write, focus on sharing your truth in your words. If you remove your inner critic and give yourself permission to write free, you should notice a great improvement in your writing. This is much easier said than done, but you accomplish this by doing and not thinking.
Stop Writing and Edit the Next Day or Several Hours Later.
So here you are, Mr. or Mrs. Writer who just poured their soul into the paper. Great. Now do me a favor: take a break and look at your work later. Why? You’re going to notice more compelling ways to share your words. By looking over your work with fresh eyes, you’ll allow yourself to catch mistakes and find more clever phrasing. Fresh eyes = fresh mind.
Read What You Wrote Out Loud.
The voice in your head always sounds different than the voice coming out of your mouth. By reading what you wrote out loud, you’ll be able to notice the cadence of your writing and see how words flow and mesh in your cocktail of a paper. This is single-handedly the #1 tip I share with people.
Read. Listen to Music. Watch TV. Find Ways to Learn New Words.
The more words you know, the more phrases you pick up, the more interesting it will make your writing. I don’t think it matters how you consume content but make an effort to learn new words. I get most of my phrasing from listening to podcasts, comedy and reading articles. I will also force myself to read from people who have an immaculate vocabulary so you at home can read me type “Immaculate” and not “great”. You get the idea, expose yourself to better writers you they can rub off on you and influence your work.
Write Often. Be disciplined.
Similar to building muscle, getting better at writing doesn’t happen after one heart pounding session. It takes time, discipline and commitment to improve any ability, writing included. By writing everyday (or nearly everyday.. we’re not superheroes) you’re going to improve your skill. Try to find a time that works best for you. Most people either prefer the morning or the night. Whatever you prefer, sit down and get going.
Focus on Being Understood.
Hey Suzie, You’re not in class anymore.
After years of being graded on your writing, (usually from some peach-of-a-teacher who hates grading papers) what you need to learn or rather unlearn is when you write for fun nobody is grading your work, so let your inhibitions run wild. Great writers aren’t people who are great at grammar, they’re people who are great at telling stories; know the difference. When you write, focus on being understood as that will make you closer to the reader. This is a simple idea with big rewards.
Have you even been around someone who hated their life and wasn’t having fun? Yeah? Did it make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside when you were around them? No? Ok. Glad we’re on the same page. Having fun is crucial to writing because when you have fun, it’s as if your energy is pouring out of your words and into someone’s minds; it’s contagious.
It makes me happier than a cookie escaping fat camp to write and I hope it does for you too. If you want to be a good writer, have fun. Take the pressure off yourself, you deserve it. You must learn to genuinely enjoy the process of writing because it will never change. Once you have fun, writing isn’t work, it’s relaxation.