You may not feel like a “writer” but you write everyday. Here are three simple ways to take your skills to the next level.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a writer.
You might not label yourself that way, and you might not write for money or on any kind of full-time basis, but let’s be honest: if you’re a blogger, business owner, teacher, pastor, marketer, dabbler-in-the-creative, or even just a human person with a Facebook profile, you’re a writer.
You write more often than you might realize.
In a world where information is as good as currency, you might be asking yourself some questions.
- I’ve always wanted to write a book — where should I start?
- How do you go about writing a blog post?
- How can I write content faster?
- What if I have writer’s block. What can I do to overcome it?
The answers to these questions vary, depending your circumstance. But one piece of writing advice remains nearly always consistent.
It goes like this: keep it very, very simple.
Simplicity and clarity are everything when it comes to writing.
They are the difference between a mediocre writer and a great one. This is true across all writing disciplines — fiction, non-fiction, copywriting, etc. And this truth can catapult you from a writer who is struggling to get words on the page to a fast, efficient, prolific writer.
Simplicity is very powerful.
The first step to simplifying your writing is don’t overthink it.
For some reason, most of us think of writing as a buttoned-and-laced kind of activity. By that I mean we come to the page with our “best” foot forward, worrying about sounding polished and making sure we have correct grammar.
The problem is communication simply doesn’t happen this way.
Can you imagine if you thought about every conversation the way you think about writing an email? Or what if every time you spoke out loud, you had to check your sentence first to make sure there was correct grammar?
Communication would be exhausting. Nobody would want to do it.
No wonder people are terrified of writing.
The truth is good writers aren’t really good writers (shh… don’t tell). They’re just great editors. They get the words out on the page without much thinking at all — the same way you would if you were chatting with a friend over dinner — and then they work to edit later.
Remember writing and thinking are two separate activities. Think before you write, but when you sit down to actually do it, don’t overthink it.
Just get the words on paper.
One practical tip you can use is to set a timer while you’re writing. Give yourself 45 minutes to write a 700 word blog post. It shouldn’t take you longer than that.
The second step to simplifying your writing is have a formula.
Too many artists balk at the idea of a formula for their writing (“I want it to be authentic and profound!”) but here’s a hint: the best writing isn’t authentic and profound. The best writing is simple and clear.
If you’re trying to write without an outline, no wonder it’s taking you hours to get a few hundred words on paper. It’s like a blind man trying to hit a moving target.
You don’t even know what you’re aiming at.
Formulas help guide our thoughts and get the words out.
This is why teachers teach five-paragraph essays (a very, very basic formula) and why storytellers memorize story structures. When we have a formula to start with, it helps keep things simple and clear.
Before you write, ask yourself, “what is this piece of writing trying to do?” Is it meant to entertain? To inform? To get people to purchase? To connect? You might ask yourself, “What do I want the reader to think, know, feel or do at the end of this piece that they couldn’t do before they read it?”
Great writing does something. It moves.
There are millions of formulas out there you can use. Find a story structure or some other kind of formula and practice with it.
The third step to simplifying your writing is use fewer words.
It’s easy to get stuck thinking you need to have a bunch of words to get your point across — which is not always true. Often you can say what you need to say much quicker.
Ask yourself: what does the reader actually need to know? If it’s unnecessary, cut it out. Your reader will thank you.
And you’ll thank yourself when you don’t spend hours writing a blog post.
More from No Sidebar
No Sidebar: At Work
You’d be hard pressed to find a job these days where writing isn’t an important skill. In fact, if you want to get a job in the first place, you have to be able to write a resume — a skill no one teaches you but everyone expects you to know.
Additionally, email. Need I say any more?
Even if you’re a writer chances are you don’t so much love sitting down to write emails. And yet, if you want to communicate clearly, let alone get your inbox to zero, you’ll have to have some serious skills as an email writer.
No matter what you’re writing for your job, don’t get stuck in the “I can’t write!” trap. Remember: just keep it simple.
No Sidebar: At Home
Many people the days are looking for opportunities to write outside of work. They recognize the power of putting their stories on paper and want to start doing it.
But how do you grow your skills as a writer? And is it possible for anyone to become a writer or do you have to be some sort of “special” person to do it? The answer might surprise you. In fact, let me give you a hint: you just have to do it.
And yet “just doing it” is perhaps the most difficult part for any writer — even a seasoned professional.
Here are a few tips for staying focused, even in a distracting environment.
No Sidebar: In Your Soul
Becoming a better writer doesn’t just make you a better writer, believe it or not. It makes you a better person all around. The thoughtful process and the discipline it takes to sit down and get the words on paper just might re-route your whole life.
Some people might say “writer” is an exclusive title, to be saved for only those who are truly gifted. But the truth remains: the more “writers” the merrier.
Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate.