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7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

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7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

If writing was easy, we would all be best-selling authors by now. Whether you’re a career author or an aspiring blogger, I invite you to consider these 7 habits of a good writer so you can develop quality content that your audience adores.

1. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Before you even begin to write, you should ask yourself the following questions:

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  • Who am I writing for and what exactly do they struggle with?
  • How am I going to help them through that struggle?
  • Why do I want to help them? (hint: this is the most important one)

The best way to illustrate this habit is by example, so here’s how I would answer these questions: I write books for busy women who desire to lose fat and get fit so they can feel healthier and happier. They struggle with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that make it difficult to find the motivation to begin a healthy living plan. I will help them by guiding them in the direction of increased self-confidence and mental strength, which will help them overcome the Mental Monsters they face every day. I want to help women specifically, because I have personally struggled with body-image issues, emotional eating, and low self-esteem myself. While men do face these struggles, they are far less likely to admit it (much less read a book about it), so I’d rather focus my attention on women since that is where I can make the greatest impact as a writer.

Who are you writing for? How are you going to help them? Why do you want to help them? Know the answers to these questions if you want to connect with your ideal audience; otherwise, you might find yourself performing for an empty house.

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2. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The above saying, popularized by Mr. William Shakespeare, is something you should apply today. Do not interpret this to say you shouldn’t write a full-length novel epic in proportion;  however, if you are adding content for the sole purpose of increasing your word count, I’m afraid you might find yourself with all fluff and no substance.

3. Condense, condense, condense.

When you have completed your blog, article, or book I encourage you to walk away from your finished project for at least a few hours (maybe even a few days). Look at it again with a fresh perspective and you’ll probably discover words and sentences that add little or no meaning to your work of art. If it doesn’t need to be there, cut it without mercy. The more quickly you can make your point, the more powerful it will be.

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4. Analyze your competition before you start.

If you’re writing a book about how to become a successful freelance blogger, you should look up other books about that very subject on Amazon before you write a single word. Find the most highly-rated books in that niche and check out the reviews. What did people like the most about this book? Don’t rip-off their ideas, because nobody likes a copycat, but do seek inspiration wherever you can find it. Also, pay attention to the negative reviews, because if you see a common theme in the criticisms, you’ll have an advance heads-up telling you what to avoid in the publishing of your book. You might want to buy a few of the top-rated books in your niche while you’re at it for inspiration that might steer you in the right direction.

5. Talk to (not at) your audience.

Have you ever read a self-help book that was helpful, but you felt like they were talking in words that were over your head, as if they were speaking a different language (I’m talking to you, Stephen Covey!)? If you don’t consider the language your audience speaks, you could elicit the same reaction. Buy magazines that are targeted to your audience and do a little research. For example, if you write for women, you would be wise to buy a few issues of Women’s Health or Shape. Pay attention to the language used in articles and advertisements and decide how you can apply this style to your writing (while maintaining your own unique voice). Your reader should feel like they are having a friendly chat with you over coffee. Unless you’re in the business of writing dry technical manuals, the more conversational your writing, the better.

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6. Feedback is your friend.

Wanna know a dirty secret that helped me craft a book that was so contagious it has now been read by over 20,000 people in 3 short months? My audience wrote it for me. I don’t mean that literally, because that would make me a dirty plagiarizing thief, but it isn’t far from the truth. During the writing process, I would post brief excerpts from my book on my Facebook page to see how they did in terms of interaction (i.e. likes, shares, and comments). This allowed me to quickly identify which ideas were winners and losers. If an excerpt exploded in interaction, I developed that idea further and made sure to highlight it in every way I could. If an excerpt didn’t do so well, this meant it needed to be modified, condensed, or cut. Assuming you have an audience of readers, you might consider giving away advance copies of your book in exchange for honest feedback. Just make sure you actually ask detailed questions like:

  • What did you think was most and least helpful?
  • Are there any sections that seemed out-of-place or beside the point?
  • Did anything seem like it was lacking in detail and needed to be fleshed out in more detail?
  • How do you think this book could be more interesting, helpful, and relevant?

While performing this process requires time and patience, it will greatly enhance the quality and relevance of your work. There is no better editor than the audience you are writing for, so let them help you make your work as powerful as possible. You could even ask them if they’d be willing to leave a review for your book as soon as you’re done, increasing the odds that browsers will consider it a worthy investment.

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7. Always produce.

If you are an aspiring writer, the best advice I can give you is this: the only way to get better at writing is to write. People often tell me things like, “I’d love to put a blog out there, but I just don’t think I’m good enough yet.” I know putting your content out there for public consumption is scary, but it’s best to swallow your fear and click “Publish.” The sooner you become comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like your work, the better. Everybody is a critic and there is nothing you can do to change that. And besides, while you could receive some comments that are unnecessarily nasty, others might offer valuable feedback that will help you improve your craft. If you have a hard time finding the time or interest in writing, click here to check out the ultimate writing productivity resource.

Writers: What would you add to this list?

To help the aspiring creative types reading this, I invite you to drop a comment listing any additional habits of a good writer that you feel would be useful. I’d also love to hear questions from aspiring writers who haven’t developed the courage to begin: what is holding you back and how can I help?

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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