Writing well may come naturally to some people, but if you're anything like me, it's much more like hard work. Sure, we can all fire off those emails, texts or instant messages throughout the day, but thoughtful, artful writing is much harder to come by. If you're a blogger, article writer or student in school, you're probably highly motivated to improve your writing, but may not know where to begin. Over many years of writing and research, I've found the following 10 tips have helped me improve my writing and turn it into a daily pleasure.
- Find your writing zone. Distraction is the number one enemy of good writing. Find a place where you're physically comfortable and not likely to be disturbed. Get a cup of good coffee and your favourite laptop, iPad or moleskine notebook, and use this as your regular writing space. Writing is a discipline - so that means finding ways to turn what initially might feel like a chore or feel difficult into a good habit.
- Find time to be alone. Many people find that they write best when they are alone. If this means getting up an hour earlier in the morning to steal some time while the rest of the world sleeps, or going to your local library, getting away from people may be the best remedy for your writing.
- Timing is everything. Writing doesn't happen best at all times of the day. Your brain might feel especially foggy and distractible at 9 o'clock in the morning, but especially lucid at 1am. Experiment with different times of the day and find which works best for you.
- Make a habit of writing. Write regularly, even when you don't feel like it. Writing with a friend helps, and websites like 750words.com reward you for writing regularly and even offer tools to track your daily writing habits, mood and writing style!
- Read, read, read (or consume) a lot. The ideas we have for writing don't appear out of thin air. The more you read, watch, or listen to, the more grist there will be for your writing mill.
- Keep notes. We all have writing ideas at the strangest times or the least convenient of places. Keep a notebook handy so you can jot these down and remind yourself of them when you sit down to write later!
- Don't self-censor! (at first). The second deadliest enemy to developing your writing is self-censorship, and most people find it hard to even get started because they don't like what's coming out of their pens! Writing about something is sometimes a good way to think about something, so save your delete-key-happy fingers for after you've got your ideas down.
- Minimise on-screen distraction. Many of us write on computers or other electronic devices. Emails, pop-ups, the internet and even your background wallpaper are all potential sources of distraction. Turn off your internet connection while writing, and write in full-screen mode to avoid having your train of thought derailed by a pesky tweet or email.
- Be an observer. The best writing often comes through careful observation of the world you live in.
- Ask for feedback. We become so involved in our own writing that we are usually unable to see how it is perceived by other people. Ask a friend whose opinion you trust to read your writing and to give you honest feedback. She will usually see many things you may have overlooked. We also tend to be intensely emotionally invested in our writing, so don't take your friend's responses too personally!
What tips do you have for aspiring writers out there? What works well for you?