If you want to be a writer, sit down and write. And if you want to write well, write all of the time.
Developing a Writing Process
If you don't produce, no matter how skilled or talented you are, you won't thrive.
Sit down and write
If you want to be a writer, sit down and write. Commit to see your projects through to the end. Because you've decided to be a writer.
We don’t need to write a lot. We just need to write often. If you are starting out and don't know where to start, just write every day. Write every day, and you're actually being a writer. Write on paper, napkins, journals, your site, social media. Just write.
Know what works for you
Determine when you are at your best creatively. For me, it's the first thing in the morning. I can write for about 2-3 hours straight before I fade. Then I switch to other things. Know what works for you.
Tap into your big mind
Big mind is our 'mind of wisdom' free of ego and control. Our best work comes from the big mind, not the little personality which is often full of worry and concern. To access our big mind we’ve got to train ourselves to sideline our little mind and flow. Flow is actually simple, do the work you want to do, remove all distractions, and work deeply. It's as simple and as hard as that.
Learn to unplug
Whatever it is you’re doing needs to stop while you write — phone calls, texting, email, Instagram, Facebook. All of it. We have to train ourselves to unplug. Being unplugged is the gateway to flowing.
Hone your creative process
By honing our creative process and 'flowing' creatively as much as we can we are creating the conditions for good work to happen. We each develop a process that works for us. And then we use it.
Employ mesmerising repetition
Keeping a daily writing routine can be mesmerising. Our minds get transfixed when we write every day. We get a rhythm. We experience momentum. It becomes a kind of ritual. The way is to train ourselves into using our complete attention when we work.
Stop each day when it's working
I stop writing each day where I feel it's working. I use that feeling as momentum for the next day. When you end your writing sessions with a clear idea of what you'll be writing next you maintain momentum. And avoid a blank page the next day uncertain on how to move forward.
Don't think about it
From Hemingway: You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry… As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Those negative thoughts are a distraction from getting your words down on paper. Fill your head with positive thoughts instead and keep moving forward.
The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. — John Irving
How to Write Well
Good writing is readable. It's clear, concise and brief. The very opposite of writing that's long and drawn out.
Do the work you genuinely want to do
Naturally, we want to write the best work we can. This will be the work we genuinely want to do. So we do that work. That work will be the work that others find useful or interesting.
Writing is about expressing ideas
Writing is about expressing ideas. It's about learning, and finding the essence of an idea and expressing it in simple words.
Writing about what you know or want to know
Writing about what you know, or want to know. Write to isolate ideas and making meaningful connections. Writing well requires deep thinking, patience, persistence, and focus. It's a rewarding challenge.
Write about something meaningful
Good writing is about something meaningful and worthwhile. Something important. It might not be important in the grand scheme of things, but it 's important to the people reading it. And to matter to others it has to matter to you first. You can't make audiences care unless you care first.
Write content that's useful, interesting, or both
Well written content that's focused, clearly written and meaningful will always be useful. Good writing uses clear communication to directly benefit others. Being useful means asking questions about why things are the way they are, and presenting the answers we've found. useful writing digs deeper and ask more questions.
Being interesting means being curious
Being interesting means being curious. Asking questions, and looking for answers. Sharing your natural interest in life and yourself. As we learn more we have more interesting ideas to share. As we follow our curiosity, we learn more, and deepen our knowledge. As time goes on, we have more ideas to share. And we discover interesting connections between ideas.
Good writing is transformative
Good writing is transformative. It produces clarity, understanding and insight. For us and for readers. We can achieve useful or interesting by maintaining a focus on writing clear, concise and easy to read material. We explain it and how we arrived at it.
Simplify your writing
Simplicity in writing makes our content more accessible. Simplicity in writing doesn’t mean dumbing down your words. Writing simply is about being clear and precise. It's about writing content that's easy to read and accessible to more people.
How to write simply
We make each sentence about one idea. Then use the next sentence to build on that idea. We use short sentences and scrap adverbs. We allow our writing to unfold the big idea in small, logical steps.
Eliminate unnecessary words
Eliminating unnecessary words like "actually", "really", "very", "extremely" can make writing more clear and bold. Edit them out and never look back. Ditch empty qualifiers which add nothing, for stronger adjectives. For example, instead of ‘very unpleasant’, you could just say ‘uncomfortable’.
Keep it short keep it sweet
We work to limit sentences, paragraphs and chapters to as few words as possible. But not every sentence should be short, as too many short sentences kill the rhythm of your writing. The solution is to mix short and long sentences, and read your text aloud and listen for flow.
The value of brevity
The value of brevity is it increases clarity and treats your readers like intelligent human beings. When we over explain the reader is not given the opportunity to join the dots. It's okay to have put space around ideas to allow the read to do their role. The more we explain it, the less they may understand it.
Make it readable
Readability is determined by how understandable a piece of writing is. It boils down to word difficulty (number of letters per word) and sentence difficulty (number of words per sentence). Keep this in mind as you write. To write readable content we express ideas and information in the simplest possible manner. We use plain, simple language. Short words, and brief sentences.
Eliminate words that are too complicated
Eliminate words that are too complicated. Keep your writing concise and brief. Avoid writing filled with jargon. The result will be writing that's highly understandable.
Keep the reader focused
Good writing has a focus. Each chapter, paragraph and sentence has a clear idea. Each sentence, paragraph, and chapter leads the reader towards the goal of the writing. The writing is organised to focus the reader on one idea at a time and keep the reader knowing where they are, and where they are heading.
Present information clearly
Good writing has clearly presented information. Anything that doesn't support the clear direct communication of the idea is edited out.
Keep it organised and flowing
Well organised writing is clear and precise, and structured in a logical way that flows. The chapters, paragraphs, and sentences are well ordered, fitting together neatly and drawing the reader along. The layout of the type is also highly legible and aesthetically pleasing (on all screens and devices). Well organised content becomes easier to read and accessible to more people.
Assume the reader knows nothing
Assume the reader knows nothing. But don’t assume the reader is stupid. Think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible. — Unknown
Get your facts straight
When our writing is supported by research it has confidence, and the material doesn't feel flat and uncertain. Research underpins all good writing, and there's no excuse for not doing it.
We focus on improving
We can learn to thrive on criticism. If we are open and listen to the feedback we receive from ourselves, and from others. We keep an eye out for what could be better. And we focus on improving. Forget about praise. It's nice to get a pat on the back, but it does nothing to improve the work. If we write, edit and seek to improve we can be sure to wind up somewhere worthwhile. We can trust our hearts desire to write, and relax into a process of improving our craft.
Write shitty first drafts
The first draft is the opportunity to get your ideas down in writing. Then you can start the work of producing well organised piece of writing. "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say." — Mark Twain
Get an editor
Even great writers need editors. The editor makes sure we've communicated clearly and said what we meant. They provide some some loving care and professional attention to detail. They ensure we have written content that's easy to read, focused, precise and with good grammar.
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour
A good writing tool can be a game-changer. These are writing tools I've used extensively and wholeheartedly recommend.
Roam is a cloud-based notes tool, designed for 'networked thought'. It's less of a note-taking app and more of a long haul research tool. And it's deeply impressive. Roam is built to both accommodate any structure and also accommodate changing structures. Its 'bi-directional links engine' and 'knowledge graph' mean you’re not tied to a folder hierarchy, but instead, you create connections between blocks and pages of information as you go.
Notion is extremely flexible, has templates galore built-in (not that I use these) and comes with fabulous typography. I can't recommend Notion enough.
A dedicated writing tool, Scrivener simply provides everything you need to start writing and keep writing. It's focused on that job and does it very well. For larger writing projects (like books) it's well worth a trial.
The Hemingway is 'like a spellchecker, but for style.' It grades your writing for readability to indicate how understandable a piece of writing is.
A mind mapping app can tease out the network of ideas in you've got in your head. Free Mind is the best one I've found. Sadly it's not being developed further, but it's great as it is.
Milanote lets you organise your ideas and projects into visual boards. It's like mind mapping, in that your network of ideas quickly becomes clear. Milanote is beautifully designed and functions wonderfully. I really like this app Although Notion has taken over all text, idea and project management duties for me.
Miro is an 'online collaborative whiteboard'. I quite like their 'Collaborative Mapping and Diagramming' tool, it's a good tool for mind mapping.
Write yourself messages for the future. Thoughtback stores the messages you enter and then randomly sends them back.https://thoughtback.com/
Readable App measure whether written information is likely to be understood by the intended reader. The apps designed tell you how easy a piece of text is to read and provide tips for improving its readability.
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Live creatively by trusting your intuition, following your passions and staying open to new experiences and possibilities. https://freemind.substack.com/