Advertising
Advertising

10 Tips To Write Better, Faster And With Insight

10 Tips To Write Better, Faster And With Insight

When it comes to most skills, practice usually makes perfect. The more we do it, the better we become at it. Easy, right? Well, with writing, this isn’t always so simple. Transcribing your thoughts onto paper quickly and efficiently is pretty challenging for anyone, no matter how often they write.

They don’t call it writer’s block for nothing.

It can actually become more difficult to write well as you start to write often, resulting in stagnation or the output of works that aren’t really your best. Fortunately, there are practical and applicable tips for improving your writing and ensuring that the quality keeps growing. Here are just a few of them:

1. Write in silence or with music that helps you focus.

Let’s face it: the music we like is pretty distracting, especially the type of music with strong lyrics.

That said, some of us like white noise over silence. For me, writing in a coffee shop is actually preferable to writing in my office.

Everyone is different in this case, so it’s important to identify the best method for getting you focused, whether it be classical music, techno, or even nature sounds.

The more focus you have, the easier it will be for you to write quickly and in one setting.

Advertising

2. Outline what you want to write, first.

You want your work to be useful for the people who read it. The trouble is that our scattered thoughts tend to lead to essays with a flow only we understand easily.

This can be avoided by simply thinking through what you’re going to write before you start rambling away. Granted, it’s still important to let yourself be inspired as you’re putting the words together, but structure will help you keep everything organized and on point.

3. Read more.

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The best writers are the best readers.

This is because reading ensures that you’re still learning and consuming content. The details of writing include the ability to form phrases and transitions that exhibit expert writing skills. Most of these “details” are picked up subconsciously as we read books and news articles consistently. In fact, I personally take this to the extreme by always opting for Closed Captions and subtitles for all of the visual media I consume, which includes movies, television, and even video games.

It may seem excessive, but this allows you to draw from a larger pool of words and expressions that keep your writing fresh and unique.

4. Observe and travel.

If reading helps you learn the details, observation helps you learn the big picture. New experiences and ways of thinking are crucial for anyone who wants to keep their momentum going.

With writing, we sometimes fall into a rut. We start writing about the same things in the same ways, and we run out of things to say. That’s why you need to have the traveler’s mindset.

Advertising

Always be on the lookout for new sources of inspiration. That hiking trip that your friends are going on? Instead of flaking out, go with them and write about it.

5. Kill your comfort zone.

Writing can be like a relationship. We spend so much time with that person, that we begin to get bored with the relationship. The same goes with writing.

Kill your comfort zone by writing somewhere new. Go to a coffee shop, out in the woods or even sit in your car to write. Force yourself to stay there until you’re finished.

Writing in a familiar environment with too many distractions (like our homes) keeps us from writing faster. But if you’re in a place where the only thing you can do is write, then the task gets done much quicker.

6. Deviate.

Because we get bored with our writing pretty easily, it’s smart to shake things up. You can do this by deviating from your old patterns and trying a new format.

For example, if you write opinion articles a lot, shift gears. Try interviewing someone else and making sense of their opinion. In other words, give objective a writing a shot.

Also, you should always be looking for new places or websites to write for. The excitement you gain from writing for someone else can be the spark you need to reignite the passion you have for writing. This then leads to work that is more meaningful and full of passion that your readers will respond to.

Advertising

And it’s pretty easy to find new opportunities. A lot of great websites are always looking for new contributors, so you never know who is willing to give you a shot.

7. Take a break.

Don’t burn yourself out. If you’re at the point when you don’t feel like writing anything at all, take a break for a while. Eventually, you’ll actually miss writing.

For some of you, this isn’t possible because you have deadlines and commitments you can’t drop. Even so, consider taking a vacation when possible to let your mind refuel. You’ll be itching to write again before you know it.

8. Find some rivals.

Nothing inspires me to step up my game more than keeping up with the successes of others. You don’t want to be envious, but it’s OK to view someone else’s success with respect and a desire to catch up to them.

This is a far cry from what some people say is beneficial for the average writer. I’ve been told plenty of times that I shouldn’t dwell on what other people are doing. “Listen to your heart,” and all that.

That’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is that healthy competition spurs the best in us. Make friends that are better than you at writing and challenge yourself to be just as good as them, if not better.

9. Write for yourself.

This may seem contradictory to what I just said, but stay with me.

Advertising

When you first start to write, it’s usually for yourself. You don’t have an audience yet, so no one is really expecting anything from you.

Time goes on, however, and people start watching you. It’s easy to start believing it’s more important to write for them than yourself. In some cases, your job is to cater to an audience, which is fine to an extent. But if you want your writing to keep growing and making you happy, then it’s important to set aside a place where you can write for yourself, whether it be a personal blog, a journal or something different.

10. Be yourself.

When people read your work, do they know for sure it’s you? Does your writing give off a flair that distinguishes you from everyone else?

If the answer is no, then make that your goal. Insert some personality into your writing so that it can be just as likable as you are (hopefully).

This looks different for everyone. Personally, my most unique writing is when I let myself be humorous. Stories and anecdotes are also smart ways to invoke some character.

Also, this is a great method for keeping people hooked on your writing. They’ve gotten to know you, which makes your take on the subject far superior to someone else’s monotone offering.

More by this author

Jon Negroni

An author and blogger who shares about lifestyle advice

How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People 7 Ways To Deal With Negative People 24 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer 15 Must-Have Apps For Your iPhone 20 Books That Are Guaranteed To Make You Cry

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next