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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.