A common question I get from students is “Will you teach me how to write better?”
While it’s a perfectly fine question, it totally misses the mark on what’s important— and that’s okay.
It isn’t about your writing ability, it’s about getting deeply in touch with your story. Your biography. The adventure that has been your life. The ups, downs, villains, heroes, tragedies, and triumphs.
Communicating your story is about ten times more important than writing ability — let me prove it to you.
You Learned To Write In High School
I don’t need to teach you how to write sentences. I don’t need to teach you how to organize thoughts on paper in a clear and concise manner. We did that in high school.
While I had some great English teachers — I didn’t always have great curriculums.
What high school failed to do for me was teach me how to convey a feeling with my writing. Some people might call this rhetoric.
The ability to persuade or to move people.
The reason for this is I wrote more book reports than creative essays. There is absolutely zero room for emotions and personality in a book report.
High School Also Taught You Wrong, Sort Of
Not only did schools fail to teach me rhetoric, they also failed to teach me how to journal. How to reflect on what was happening in my own life. What better time for reflection than freaking high school?
The emphasis was always on getting your ideas straight and backing up your ideas with research and proof, but that same thinking doesn’t matter as much when writing online.
Here it’s all about you. You don’t need to research your own life. You got it already in your own head.
In my English classes it always used to feel like a race to find the hidden motif inside The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird. The answers were there. They were concrete. The spectacles in The Great Gatsby. The green light. All that stuff.
But with your own story, only you know the answers. Only you know the motifs and themes and it’s up to you to figure that out.
The battle isn’t to write clearly and concisely anymore, it’s to figure out what the hell you’re going to write about in the first place.
It’s Simple, Just Write Your Story
Everyone seems to not understand what it is they want to write about. How about this.. Look inside! Look inside yourself. What have you gone through? Did you go to jail? Did you get divorced? Do you have kids? Did you win a gold medal at the Olympics? Better yet, did you almost make an Olympic team but fail near the very end? What is your life story? Where were the hard times?
I guarantee that if you look inwards and write articles designed to be read by a younger version of yourself, then that’s 80% of the work already done.
The other 20% is headline writing and strategy and structure and figuring out which platform to publish it on.
But if you can get in touch with your story, like really get in touch with it, then you’ll be on your way.
Here’s how to do that.
Publish Something Every Day For 30 Days
Desperation is the mother of ingenuity.
After day 5 or 6, you start scrambling for new things to write about, and as your brain works overtime to get words down, you’ll tap into idea reservoirs you never knew you had.
Real reflection is difficult work, and you need to push your creative boundaries to start working overtime.
Ask Yourself These Three Questions
- What was the hardest time of my life?
- What was the biggest hurdle I ever overcame?
- What group of people do I feel bad for the most?
The hardest time of my life was right after college ended. The biggest hurdle I ever overcame was figuring out a way to make more than $1000 per month as as a fresh college graduate without a real job. And the group of people I feel bad for the most are, you guessed it, college graduates with lots of student loan debt.
I write extensively for recent grads and everybody who’s feeling lost in the current job market landscape.
I started a publication on Medium three years ago called the Post-Grad Survival Guide.
My entire writing career was based on these three questions. Write them down and start to figure out your own story.
Journal Privately For Two Weeks
I don’t want you to journal about your day. I want you to journal about your life. Try to tell your life story in 14 parts.
This will force you to think about 14 of the most noteworthy parts of your entire life. Not only that, but you’ll be reflecting on these moments and kicking up a lot of dust that may show you things you weren’t prepared for.
For me, one of my first journal entries would be about how I was constantly bullied as a child. After six or seven years of abuse, I started to befriend a lot of other misfits in the class who didn’t fit in with the popular kids.
Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for the “misfits” of society. Those who don’t really fit in.
Do the same thing — I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what you find.
Remember this: It does not matter how well you write — it only matters how well you tell your own story.
Get a few free writing tips from me here.