7 Tips to Help You Hate Writing Less
Writing can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It can also be an absolute nightmare.
We’ve all felt the anxiety and dread that comes with sitting down to write. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing, like any other skill, takes time and lots of practice to improve. It takes a lifetime to master. But with a few extra tips and a steady routine, you can start notching up some regular articles that you can be proud of.
Here are 7 tips to get you going and keep you going:
1. The first draft will never see the light of day
The first step to writing anything is to get just get your ideas down — no matter what form they take. Just start writing. The first draft doesn’t have to make any sense to anyone else except yourself. Think of it as your dirty little secret — the extra piece of cake you sneak without telling anyone.
Start with a basic structure and use some general headings to guide your writing. I like to write the main theme at the top of the page in caps to remind myself what it is I want the reader to take away upon finishing my article.
This is a screenshot of the initial outline for this article. It’s ugly. But most importantly, it provides a rough structure and flow for me to flow.
With the first draft completed, walk away. Think of your article as a steak that’s just been grilled on the BBQ — it needs to rest before you cut into it. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk, pour yourself a glass of whisky — whatever you do, just take a break from writing. The net tip helps you take on the role of editing wizard so you can turn your ugly first draft into a thing of beauty.
2. Editing is where the magic happens
Edit grammar, punctuation and syntax, making sure to check online for any rules you’re unsure of. Be a stickler. Nothing ruins a good article like poor grammar.
Editing also involves shaping the story and ensuring the flow of the article. Assess sentence structure and be mindful of waffling paragraphs. Be concise and stick to the point. Structure your paragraphs with an opening sentence that sets the theme. Then follow it up with additional sentences that support that initial point.
If you’re like me and have written the big point at the top of the page, keep going back and checking each section against this. Remember, this sentence is your north star and ensures you stay on track. Ask yourself how every paragraph relates back to the overall theme of your article and if anything deviates — get rid of it.
The editing phase is where the majority of the work is done. You may have to edit your article multiple times — this is fine. Be patient. Enjoy the process of crafting your ideas into a coherent, well-constructed piece that adds real value to your readers.
3. Don’t overthink— just write
Generating new ideas can be one of the hardest aspects about writing. The best way to tackle this is to write whatever’s in your head. Don’t overthink it. Just write. The more you write, the more ideas you’ll come up with.
Ideas will hit you when you least expect it so keep a notepad handy to jot them down. Even if they don’t make sense, write them down for reference later. This is a screenshot of the Notes app on my phone where keep track of my ideas. Some of these I’ve turned into articles, others seem like gibberish upon reflection.
Give yourself time to think about new ideas. Most of my ideas come to me when I’m on the subway or sitting at the coffee shop. During these times I let my mind wonder and I capture whatever idea comes into my head, regardless of its potential to be written into an article.
Case in point:
No wonder there’s a question mark after it — I have no idea what I was thinking when this idea came to mind. But it may turn into something worthwhile one day.
But don’t hold your breath…
4. Authenticity wins every time
At Newscred’s #ThinkContent Summit earlier this year, author, poet and millennial Instagram influencer, Samantha Jayne, discussed how authenticity is essential to reaching millennials. She’s absolutely spot on. But don’t fall into the millennial trap — everyone appreciates authenticity, no matter their age bracket. It’s human nature to gravitate towards content that you can relate to and that comes from a genuine place.
Write in your own voice. Write what you know about it. And write about your experiences and how you feel. People will appreciate the fresh perspective you offer.
5. Use white noise & repetition to get rhythm
Try playing some classical or meditation music as white noise to block out the distractions. Recently, I’ve found this meditation mix with soothing rain and high pitched tones gets me into a page-crushing early morning flow.
You can also try listening to the same song on repeat. The repetition will send your brain into auto drive, blocking out distractions so you can focus on your writing.
No day-dreaming, no distractions. Just pure focus on the page in front of you.
6. Read, baby
Obviously, to be a better writer you need to learn from the best. So if you’re not already, start reading. Read books and articles that span across a variety of subjects, genres and authors. Pay attention to grammar and sentence structure and notice how different authors use elements of story telling to deliver their point.
The latest book I’ve been reading is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. The book is a business/social psychology book that explores how we form habits in life. What’s interesting though is his delivery. Duhigg breaks down the book into sections and threads 2–3 individual stories together for each section. He weaves in entertaining anecdotes to add extra flavor to the fascinating information he reveals about the human brain. This delivery is captivating and makes me compelled to finish the chapter just to find out how the stories end. Those kinds of skills you can pick up and start incorporating into your own writing.
7. Practice, practice, practice
There’s no avoiding the fact that you can’t get better at writing unless you actually write. Set yourself a goal to write something every day. Go a step further and challenge yourself to PUBLISH something every day. The regular deadline can do amazing things to your work ethic. and will give you the kick up the arse you need.
And remember, no-one expects you to be a Hemingway from the outset. Writing is like any other skill, it takes time and practice. Be patient and enjoy the process. The more you read and write, the better you will become.
This is post 6/30 as part of my 30 posts in 30 days challenge. If you enjoyed it in and want to follow along as I continue to write about anything and everything for the next month — hit the little heart button.
Or don’t… I’m not fussed.