“It’s hard to improve your writing,” a student told me last week. The remark shocked me, because as far as I could tell, her writing improved week by week.
“You’ve gained three new clients this month,” I pointed out. I asked what she meant by “improving.”
She named a couple of writers. “I’ll never be able to write like that,” she said, her tone wistful.
That made me smile. My student is in her early twenties. The writers she named have had long careers. They’ve spent decades writing.
It suddenly occurred to me that the writers she admired have social media accounts. “Contact them,” I suggested. “Ask how many hours a day they write.”
Improve your writing the easy way: sit at your desk
Over the years, I’ve met writers, and worked with many. Here’s a simple formula if you want to improve your writing:
Desire + Time.
Do you want to improve? Wanting something is always the first step to getting it. The second step may be more challenging, but desire helps and so does enjoyment (see the second tip, below.) The second step is: spend time.
Before I forget: my student got two replies to her direct messages. One writer spends six hours a day; the other spends up to 14 hours because he’s currently working on edits for a book, while writing another one.
Let’s look at three tips you can use today.
1. Use pen and paper: plan before you write
The digital world is wonderful, but many writers find that because writing is thinking, handwriting helps.
Numerous studies show that handwriting:
- Encourages creativity;
- Improves and promotes cognitive abilities; and
- Enhances memory.
I think best when I use pen and paper. When writing fiction, I handwrite a scene summary before I use Scrivener. This helps me to plot out the scene effortlessly. (Check out the Easy-Write Process. I spent years refining this process; you may find it helps you to avoid stress.)
Hand-drawn mind maps decorate my office walls.
I’m convinced that my paper planners help me to eliminate procrastination. (I used to be the Queen of Procrastination.)
Over the years I’ve attempted going “paperless” twice. Not only did I find that I was much less productive, the experience made me miserable.
Jotting notes and doodling on paper are easy ways to improve your writing; try them. You may find that rather than “wasting time” handwriting saves time — and relaxes you as well.
Hate your handwriting? Practice: try these drills.
Seriously; practice. I spent a couple of months practicing my handwriting many years ago. It’s still a scrawl, but it’s been a very legible scrawl ever since.
A suggestion: use voice recognition. Dictation helps you to write more and sell more.
2. Lure your inspiration out of hiding: laugh
When you sit down to write, you can be as grim as you please, but do be aware that struggling and rigid willpower won’t help you to improve.
When you enjoy your writing your creativity flowers.
A quote from advertising genius David Ogilvy:
“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
Today, you need good ideas. Lots of them. As Ogilvy suggests, have fun.
3. Schedule your writing: if it’s important to you, put writing first
How important is your writing to you? The more important improvement is, the more you’ll improve. (Desire + Time.)
Even if you’re a full-time writer, I suggest using a planner and scheduling your writing sessions. Close your office door.
Writing part-time? The same applies: schedule. Your writing routine will become a writing habit, and that’s a good habit to acquire.
Patience: you will improve your writing over time (it’s inevitable)
The more often you perform a task, the more you’ll improve. Use the above tips. When you look back at today’s writing output a year from now, you’ll be pleased, I promise.
Keep writing — and remind yourself often to have fun.
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Resources to build your writing career
Resources to build your writing career
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