Gil Jones: The Top 5 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

Author Jodi Picoult stated famously once, “You can always edit a bad page. But you can’t edit a blank page.” In today’s world, that maxim could easily apply to the first draft of an email, a social media post, or a letter to a friend. We all know good writing when we see it. It educates us. It conveys information in a compelling way. It moves us.

But how do we improve our own writing skills? The simplest answer: write, write, and write some more. If you’re a perfectionist you’ll sit in front of a blank screen forever. Writing is a journey skill way more than a destination skill. You’re going on an adventure. And you’re at the wheel. The trail in front of you is yours. And it’s one step at a time. Beyond that advice, freelance writer Gil Jones goes over 5 tips that can help you improve your writing. Gil’s 1st Writing Tip…

READ BABY, READ

You can’t write well if you don’t read. Period. Reading both “good” and “bad” writing exposes you to different styles, forms, language, and genres of writing. It exposes you to writing that is better than your own and helps to develop a critical eye for writing that is ineffective. Regular reading helps expand your imagination and approach while even helping you go from making a sentence kind of maybe hit someone in the leg to hitting them between the eyes. Stephen King taught me that when you write, the most important thing isn’t to remember your syntax it’s to remember your scars. And Anne Lamott taught me the best writing happens when you throw your feelings into the text. Feelings that connect with people. If you’re a robot you should write for engineering students. If you’re a creative feeler you need to write to move hearts, and a planet full of them. Since every human on our spinning globe felt something today. And they need to know they’re not alone. Gil Jones’ 2nd Tip…

FIND CLUES TO YOUR CREATIVE DNA THROUGH MEDIA — AND SILENCE

Watched a movie lately? What made you Laugh? Cry? Think? Do you like Comedy? Action? Drama? Romance? What. Moves. YOU? I’m pretty sure that’s how you’re wired, and if you know how you’re wired you just took a huge leap toward what you want to write about and how you want to write about it. When you read books and articles or watch a YouTube video or short — ask yourself what’s grabbing you at your core. Do you gravitate toward sports and competition? Interviews of celebrities? The Food Network? CNN or Fox News? Your DNA is telling you something. Are you listening. Most people I know who want to be writers can’t hear their own God-given soul’s voice over the speed and roar of their lives. It’s pretty tough to hear the center of your own personal world inside of you when you’re sitting in the front row at the Daytona 500. Here’s the deal: If you won’t or can’t get quiet enough to listen to who you are get out of the writing business, because you always start from you. If you’re willing and able to do that then go on to the 3rd tip…

TAKE TIME TO WRITE. LIKE EVERY DAY.

Did Gil Jones just say every day? What a dreamer! Uhm… I didn’t stutter. I remember when my writing coach Dave sat me down at our first meeting and I was like “Dave, I have about an hour for coffee with you, blow me away with your knowledge and watch me become J.K. Rowling!” He looked at me for a second to see what I was medicating with and said “I want you do something: write. You know, just every day. Sit down and write at least a thousand words every 24 hours. Do that for 3 months. And email me a copy each day.” So the next day I woke up and thought about writing. Then I rolled over until that feeling went away. I was good at that. After a week Dave texted me and said “Where’s my copy of your writing? Since, you know, writers write.” Whether you feel like it or not, whether you’re inspired or not… write! A little productivity is better than no productivity and when you’re even a little productive practice makes perfect. I played basketball overseas on a Division 1 team back in the 90’s and every day we went out and shot baskets, since that’s what basketball players do. Nobody slept in. Professional basketball players play basketball. Consistent determination means progress. So let me say it again. Writers, and this might blow you away… WRITE. If you don’t want to do that every day then maybe call Hallmark and print out some cute cards. Gil’s 4th Tip…

DON’T HIT SEND… YET!

Pause before you Print! First Drafts are called FIRST DRAFTS for a reason. There’s gonna be more. There SHOULD be more. Once I draft an email, Facebook or Twitter Post, or a chapter I may be sending to a publisher — I go take a shower. Or go to a movie. Or watch a game on TV. You know that draft I just finished up? It’s still bouncing around in my mind, being massaged like potter’s clay readying to be sculpted into Michelangelo’s David. Or at least I hope so! If I don’t do this discipline my finished copy tends to come out looking like my 2 year-old’s… play dough offering. So go for a walk. Wash the dishes. Take a nap. Kiss your significant other. You know how you try to remember a name or bring back something simple from memory and you just can’t? Then you go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and before you know it… there it is?! When you turn off the thinking part of your brain your subconscious and unconscious fuses are lit. So let them fire up and go to work! Coming back to the piece with a refreshed brain and new eyes is the time to edit. Have fun with it! Edit and rewrite until the piece flows smoothly. By taking time away from the creative process before editing, it allows your mind to settle down and fire up and come at the writing with a more critical eye. You know, like Michelangelo. Last but not least…

GET TECHNO

My buddies and I will be talking about a skill or another piece of information that we know might be out there that we need right now and usually one of them pipes up and says “There’s an app for that.” And my head explodes! I get so pumped that just the help I need is at my fingertips. From apps that help you organize more complex writing, to those that let you write distraction free and others that help you be more creative — find the program that works the best for your writing needs. This might blow your mind but thesauruses are online too when that word you’re using is going over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. There are dozens of fantastic programs online that are available that can help any level of writer improve their writing and since we live in the 21st century it’s more than okay to indulge in technology to help improve your writing. So, go for it!

Oh, and don’t forget. Writers, well, write. So get to it. Your adventure is waiting for you.

Gil received his Business Degree from Bradley University and his Masters from Western Seminary. He is an entrepreneur who started and grew the two largest churches in Colorado history. He is currently a speaker, teacher, and author around the topics of truth, trauma, and spiritual consciousness. Gil is a father of 4 and lives in Maui with his wife Beth and their two adorable Rottweilers Ulani and Nani. You can see more of his work at gil-jones.com and reach him at info@gil-jones.com.

Gil is a former top state tennis and saxophonist in Arizona. He graduated Bradley University with a Business degree. He is currently a freelance writer.

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