I’ve been writing sporadically for years, but never really made a commitment to it. That is until about 1 year ago from today.
I decided I was going to build a habit out of writing. Since then, I’ve published a post every Tuesday and Friday, like clockwork. 104 posts later and here we are.
It’s been challenging and liberating all at the same time, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing. It’s changed my life for the better and I know there’s more to come.
Along the way, I’ve uncovered some lessons when it comes to writing. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.
1. Write for yourself, you are patient zero
Whenever you’re writing, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: write for yourself. Not for some target market that you’ve concocted or what you think your audience wants to hear.
Just write for yourself. Write what makes you happy and in the voice that mirrors your own. Don’t try to be something you’re not because that’s how you lose authenticity.
2. Overwriting means you’re still uncertain
Have you ever tried writing something and you’re just going on and on about it. You touch on multiple topics and ideas, but it has no flow or structure or central theme? Well that’s because you still don’t know what you want to say.
Overwriting is what happens when you’re uncertain about your words. When this happens, it’s good to write it out all the same, but be aware that you need to revise it because you still haven’t hit the nail on the head.
3. Writing and editing should not happen at the same time
DO NOT DO THIS. I catch myself doing this now and then and it always ends in disaster. Writing and editing are two very different things that should be kept separate.
Ideally, you first write to your hearts content. Write it all out, no matter how bad you think it is. It’s essential to get it all down.
Then you can go back and fix it, but don’t try to write and then edit and then write because it gets you nowhere fast.
4. Some writing works, some doesn’t, just be consistent
I’ve written posts that I thought would be amazing and they’ve bombed. I’ve written posts that I thought were terrible and people truly enjoyed them. You never really know what’s going to work.
There will be ups and downs along the way, but the important thing is to be consistent and just keep writing.
5. Writer’s block is a myth
Everyone talks about writer’s block, but honestly, I don’t think it exists. Somehow, I’ve been able to meet my Tuesday and Friday deadline, every week, for the entire year.
What we call writer’s block is just another form of procrastination, where we lack the motivation or urgency to write.
Sure, you may lack inspiration now and then, but you can still write if you make it a necessity. Don’t use writer’s block as an excuse.
6. Ignore the voices in your head, focus on the next sentence
You know that internal voice in your head that is always critical of your work? The one that questions your ideas and motivations and work? Yeah, you need to ignore that guy.
There are two choices when writing, either you sabotage yourself or you do the work. Focus on what’s in front of you: the next paragraph, the next sentence, the next word, and not the voice in your head. It’s just the resistance talking.
7. Writing can teach you how to finish
One of the best things I’ve learned from my writing routine is how to finish regularly. Every week I knock out two posts, two finished pieces of work that I can hang my hat on.
This not only helped me build momentum on my other projects, but it taught me how to create a habit out of finishing. A habit we could all benefit from.
uncomplicated simple language
Words have power, but that doesn’t mean you need to write jargon filled pieces that require a dictionary to understand. Write using simple language that anyone can understand.
If you have trouble with this, one of my favorite tools to keep you honest is the Hemingway App. Simply paste in your text and it analyzes it based on difficulty, overuse of adverbs, use of passive voice, and more.
Give it a try, you’ll be surprised how much you can simplify your writing.
9. Your first draft will always be crap
First drafts suck. It’s just a fact of life. Even so, they serve as an integral part of the process. The first draft allows you to get your ideas onto the page. Until you do this, you don’t really know what shape things will take.
It’ll be crap and illogical and full of errors, BUT it will help you see the bigger picture and find the voice and main idea that you were searching for to begin with.
10. Writing helps you solve problems
One of the best parts of writing is that it helps you make sense of the world. When you’re facing complex problems or difficult situations, writing them out, helps you better understand them.
When an idea is floating around in your head, its abstract, larger than life, and hard to pin down. Once we put pen to paper, we realize what our abstract thoughts really are. They don’t seem so complex anymore.
P.S. it’s great to have a commonplace book handy for this sort of thing.
11. Writing requires reading
If you want to write then you have to read. You have to be active in both parts of the process: creation and consumption. It gives you inspiration, teaches you the principles of writing, and expands your mind.
You can’t be a writer, if you’re not a reader, so pick up a book and start learning.
12. There are no rules
Despite any lessons I’m sharing with you, there are no real rules to writing. There’s no simple way to deconstruct the process or hack your way to success.
There’s only one thing that is true: if you want to be a writer, then write. Alan Watts probably puts it best:
Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer.
Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves.
Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king.
Writing is easily one of the best habits I’ve picked up over the years and hopefully I’ve been able to share some valuable insight to any fellow or aspiring writers out there.
Here’s to another year of writing and many, many more lessons.
Image via flickr