Writing helps organize your thoughts. It’s the process of taking abstract ideas and laying them out in a logical way. Jeff Bezos requires every executive to write a memo before each senior executive meeting at Amazon. The first 30 minutes of the meeting is spent reading all printed memos. It guarantees that everyone’s attention is focused on the issues at hand.
When the author is writing the memo, he or she is forced to figure out how to express ideas, questions, and issues with reasoning and logic. The writing process allows execs to understand issues better.
“Full sentences are harder to write,” Bezos says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”
Bezos isn’t the only top business mind that emphasizes the importance of clear communication in the form of writing. A Shareholder Letter by Warren Buffett is one of the most anticipated investment documents each year. It’s easy to read and understand. Buffett explains important economic and finance topic with clarity and precision.
Writing is hard. Writing something good is even harder. Writing something great requires a little bit of talent and tons of practice.
For the last few years, I have been documenting my experiences in marketing, startups, and tech through in-depth articles. Writing was never something I was good at. In 2017, I had an opportunity to write an industry how-to book — Mastering Product Experience in SaaS (I even wrote an in-depth article on how to write an industry “how-to” book). Immersing myself in producing a book put me on the path to find great resources to improve my writing.
Here is my list of top ten books that will improve your writing. Some explain how to write better, some help you understand how to structure your schedule to improve your productivity, and some talk about writing philosophy.
The list in no particular order:
1. The Story by Robert Mckee
Myk’s score: 8.8
Technically, this book is not about writing but about storytelling. However, writing is always about the story and narrative. This book explains how great stories are developed. It will forever change the way you watch films and what you pay attention to.
2. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
Myk’s score: 9.0
Think reading a book about writing and styles is a yawn? You will be surprised; Pinker is an amazing writer who makes it entertaining and fun.
3. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
Myk’s score: 8.5
This book was recommended to me by Daniel Pink, while he was signing my copy of his new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (haven’t read it yet). The Elements of Style is the old-school classic. It’s a great reference for the most common pitfalls in writing and grammar.
4. The Bedford Reader by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy
Myk’s score: 8.0
The Bedford Reader is a manual. It’s not something that you will read from cover to cover. And you probably don’t need to. However, this book breaks down in great detail all essential elements of a great essay: how to create strong arguments and structure your narrative.
5. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by by Anne Lamott
Myk’s score: 7.9
Even though Anne Lamott describes a writing process from a creative perspective, you will find a lot of helpful tips on how to approach writing, whether it is fiction or a more professional genre.
6. The Storytelling Edge by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow
Myk’s score: 8.1
The Storytelling Edge is a fun book with tons of examples of how companies successfully connect with customers and brands through great stories. My favorite part of the book shows how extreme editing (Sludge report) make your writing concise and clear.
7. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Myk’s score: 8.1
Everybody Writes is a book that I wish I read earlier in my marketing career. Ann Handley discusses writing through the prism of marketing and content strategy. Every company is a media company and everyone is a content producer. She gives great tips and suggestions on how to write better content for the digital world.
8. Deep Work by Cal Newport
Myk’s score: 8.7
Writing is a form of deep work. To be productive you will have to understand how to structure your writing sessions to maximize your effectiveness. Newport gives you tons of ideas on how to do that and explains why it’s important to limit distractions while you write.
9. The Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Myk’s score: 9.1
What does psychology have to do with becoming a better writer? The short answer is everything. We perform at our optimal capacity when we are in a flow state. This book explains how we get in flow states. It’s one of the bestselling psychology book.
10. Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
Myk’s score: 8.4
While writing Mastering Product Experience in SaaS, I was exhausted and nearly burned out. Someone recommended this book and I’m glad they did. It reminds you how to stay focused and how to balance stress and rest to achieve optimal performance.
What are your favorite resources to improve your writing skills? Share in comments.
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