For many, being a writer is an attractive career option. There is huge satisfaction to be derived from getting your thoughts down on the page or from crafting a well-made sentence. To know that someone has read your work and been moved by it in some way is massively rewarding.
But for every moment of pleasure, there are countless moments of challenge and difficulty. Being an effective writer is to overcome those challenges.
Here are five ‘secrets’ that might help you to become a more effective writer:
If you want to be a writer, then write
It sounds obvious, but the first thing an effective writer must do is actually write. I know from my own personal experience that it is very easy to spend countless hours imagining the life of the writer, reading blogs of those that have made it or simply dreaming up potential topics to write about.
So just start writing. Just a word or a sentence. Every journey starts with a single step.
Find some extrinsic motivation
I guess this is where my advice differs from that of others. Some will say that the best sort of motivation is intrinsic. In other words, it comes from within (either within yourself or within the task in hand).
I would argue that extrinsic motivation is just as vital.
What do I mean by that?
Well, I always knew that I enjoyed the act of writing. I knew it was something that gave me ‘flow’ (that feeling when time passes quickly because you’re so immersed in a task). But that was not enough to make me write on a regular basis (or indeed at all).
I found that in order to find the motivation to write regularly, I needed a purpose. In my case, that was writing for a blog which I shared with my Facebook friends, providing that extra bit of push to keep the project going. I added extra extrinsic motivation by signing up to Infobarrel, with the promise of greater potential readership and maybe the odd dollar of earnings.
Extrinsic motivation unlocked and sustained my intrinsic motivation.
Establish which times of day you are most effective
There is no point pushing yourself to write when you are in the middle of one of your daily energy troughs. If you want to be effective and productive, aim to write when you are at your most motivated.
For me, those times would be the first half of the morning (which unfortunately is generally taken up with my stay at home dad duties of getting our children fed, washed and dressed, and the eldest one out to pre-school) and in the latter part of the afternoon (which unfortunately also coincides with meeting the needs of two hungry toddlers).
So I tend to end up trying to write for an hour after lunch (when my energy levels are at their absolute lowest) and after the children have gone to bed (when I am drunk).
Wait, you didn’t expect me to practice what I preach, did you?
Now THIS is a writer's office
Create the right writing environment
The best environment in which to work will differ from writer to writer. JK Rowling famously wrote the first Harry Potter in a branch of the world’s largest coffee shop chain. Dylan Thomas wrote in a quiet boathouse overlooking a Welsh river estuary.
My perfect writing environment would be a room dedicated to the purpose, with very little in it other than a desk, a chair and a computer. It might be in a purpose-built wooden structure, with a view over a beautiful garden or countryside. There would be ready access to coffee.
My actual writing environment is a cluttered kitchen table, covered in crumbs and childrens’ drawings.
Again I refer you to my earlier comment - I never said I was an effective writer.
If in doubt, go for a bike ride
Or a run. Or do some yoga or pilates.
It sounds counter-intuitive. Do something that is not writing and that will sap your energy.
But it doesn’t seem to work like that.
Often, it is whilst on my bike that I have some of my best ideas. Whilst my conscious mind concerns itself with avoiding the next bus or pothole, my unconscious mind is being zapped with endorphins (or some such biological factor), enabling it to unravel the latest challenge that I have come up against in my writing.
Exercise seems to increase, rather than use up, your energy levels. On many a day of listless flouncing around the house, I have found that an hour’s bike ride turns me into Mr Uber-motivation and, despite soreness in my legs and a greater need for snacks, I have much greater desire to get stuff down on paper.
So there you have it, my five secrets to becoming an effective writer. Now you need to stop reading (secret 1) and I need to get out for a bike ride (secret 5), where I can think how best to get my own writer’s room (secret 4).