9 Ways to Get Better at Writing
Writing well is hard. Very hard. There are no short-cuts or “hacks.” The only way to improve is practice.
Writing well is hard. Very hard. There are no short-cuts or “hacks.” The only way to improve is through practice. Even so, there are a handful of principles that can help speed up the process.
Write Every Day.
Even if it’s only a single paragraph. Heck, even if it’s only a single sentence! Perhaps more than any other endeavor, I’ve found consistency to be absolutely essential to developing as a writer. Set aside a time each day — even if only just 15 minutes — to write.
Read Every Day.
As you do, note what you like about certain passages (replicate these things) and note what you don’t like about certain passages (avoid these things).
Exercise Every Day.
My best work— from ideas for articles to paragraphs to sentences— always seems to pop into my mind in the midst physical activity. Consider exercise a part of your job.
Sleep with a Notebook.
During big writing projects I often wake up in the middle of the night with ideas worth exploring — sometimes even entire paragraphs — in my head. I quickly jot them down in a notebook I keep on my nightstand so I can fall back asleep without having to worry about holding onto the idea.
Develop a Routine.
I write at the same time, out of the same places (a few neighborhood coffee shops) with the same drink (americano with steamed milk) snacking on the same thing (nuts and cereal). I do everything I can to offset the uncertainty — the terror — of the blank page.
Don’t Write and Edit at the Same Time.
When you write, just write. Getting stuff out of your head and onto the page is hard enough. Don’t make it impossible by trying to do it elegantly the first time around. My routine is straightforward: I write in the afternoon; edit the prior afternoon’s work the following morning; and then resume writing again later in the day.
Stop While You’re Ahead.
If you’ve been writing for more than 90 minutes and the going starts to get rough — stop! Trying to “force it” is almost always unproductive. Plus, if you end on a positive note it’s easier to pick back up on a positive note.
Work and Re-Work and Re-Work Some More.
It’s damn near impossible to get anything right the first time, or the second time, or even the third time. Accept that you — like just about every other writer — need to work like a craftsperson. Chiseling away at a sentence isn’t something to get frustrated about. It’s something to embrace. Also, read your work out loud. Doing so is the best way to get out of your own head, something integral to making sure your work makes sense to others.
Write for Yourself First.
If you find what you are writing interesting, odds are, you’ll do a better job writing about it and your audience will find it interesting, too.
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Also, if you’re interested in more details and their application (and want to support my own writing) please consider purchasing my new book, Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.
Brad Stulberg writes about health and the science of human performance. He’s a columnist at Outside Magazine and New York Magazine. Follow him on Twitter@Bstulberg.