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20 Ways to Become a Better Writer

20 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Two years ago, if you were to tell me I’d one day be writing for my favorite magazines and finishing my first screenplay… well, I wouldn’t believe you. That’s because even though I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, you couldn’t tell by looking at my former lifestyle.

At the time, it was filled with so many things not related to writing I barely had the focus to write a shopping list. A shopping list. I still don’t understand how it happened, or why the most important thing to me was always shuffled to the bottom of my priority list.

All I know is this: if you want to become a better writer, the longer it takes you to get started, the stronger your resistance will be to get started at all. You’re the only one who can shuffle your writing goals to the top of the pile where they belong. It won’t happen overnight – for me, it was a gradual progression, shifting from my old lifestyle to my new one – but it will happen.

Below are 20 lessons I’ve learned along the way that will help you become a better writer. All it takes is five minutes to get started. Soon, finding time to write will become an automatic way of thinking, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

1. Streamline Your Focus

The good news is, there’s never been a better time to be a writer. The bad news is, it can be hard to decide what your niche is going to be. If you find yourself working on blog posts and articles and novels and poetry and eBooks, your head’s going to spin and your words aren’t. You have to decide what area of the writing industry you’re going to start out in, build a solid foundation, and establish yourself.

When you spread yourself over several areas, you’re not going to be able to offer enough creative energy to make an impact in any of them. Step away from the flurry you’re creating and ask yourself: as a writer, what is your ultimate goal? Once I stepped back and asked myself this question, the answer was too clear to ignore. I literally dropped everything that didn’t relate to my ultimate goals, and haven’t looked back. You shouldn’t either.

2. Learn From The Best

The best way to become a better writer is to learn from the best. Once you’ve defined your ultimate goal, find out who the influencers are in your niche. Follow them on social media, study their writing, and get to know the inner workings of what makes them successful. Use this information as an ongoing guide for your own success: learn the ins and outs to craft your own plan.

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If you’re a big fan of a particular writer who teaches an online course that will strengthen your skills, sign up! It took me almost a year to save up the money, but I broke into women’s magazines by learning from a writer I’ve admired since high school. My first article sale more than paid for the initial investment, and better prepared me for the business side of building my clips.

3. Create a Space to Write

While mobile technology has made it possible to write anywhere, anytime, it’s important to have a primary location to write from. Creativity is spontaneous, but fleeting. You want to make sure you have a small slice of consistency in place to capture it for future use.

Fill the space with everything you can think of that inspires and motivates you to become a better writer.

4. Define Clear Writing Goals

Be as specific as possible about your writing goals and break them down into tiny, actionable steps. The smaller your steps, the less overwhelming your overall goals will feel. As you become more comfortable with the process you’ll take bigger strides toward success in your own time, and on your own terms.

5. Never Lose an Idea

One of your first steps to become a better writer should be creating a system to keep track of your ideas. The second an idea comes to you, you want to be able to conveniently write it down. Never assume you’ll remember it later (you rarely will, and you’ll look funny slapping yourself).

This was one of the first items on my agenda. I upgraded my desktop, laptop, and cell phone so I can access my writing files from anywhere. Now, if an idea strikes and I’m standing in line at the grocery store, I can type the idea into my cell and it’s waiting for me in my office when I get home. It’s made all the difference in both my productivity and the number of opportunities I’m able to create for myself.

6. Find Your Voice

How you express yourself on paper (or rather, screen) should be the same as how you express yourself in your everyday life. Unfortunately, when many of us start writing, our words come off sounding stiff and contrived (a.k.a. boooring!).

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To break this cycle, write how you naturally speak. The best way to do this? Write your article, blog post, or presentation in an e-mail. When you write e-mails to your family and friends, you’re as “you” as you can get. Your guard is down and you’re not focusing on how you sound – because of that, your words practically leap off the screen. Once you’re consistently writing in this voice, move back over to your word processing program.

7. Call a Truce With Your Inner Critic

If you’re not careful, your inner critic will become the brick wall that stands between you and your writing career. If you find your inner critic’s interrupting too much – perhaps causing your blog post to take as long as a novel – simply say to them, “Once I’m done my first draft, it’s all yours.” Believe it or not, after stating this arrangement, your inner critic will wait patiently for the words to pour out before picking them apart.

8. Define Your Speed

While it’s good to use the cracks and crevices of your day to accomplish as much writing as you can, this strategy becomes counterintuitive when you accomplish only a fraction of what you’d hoped. Emotionally, your automatic assumption is to feel like a failure, when in fact you just need to accurately define your parameters.

When your ambition overpowers your reason, you end up creating a to-do list fit for a robot, not a person. You don’t take into account potential delays, interruptions, or physical exhaustion. You also don’t take into account the speed at which you write. It’s the emotional equivalent of grocery shopping when you’re starved.

It takes practice to create a list of daily goals you can actually finish. Each day, write down what you hope to accomplish. Keep track of how long each task takes and any delays that happen along the way. On subsequent lists, you’ll start taking into account the speed at which you write, potential delays, and will trim it down to a realistic size you’ll feel confident about.

9. Know Your Worth

Just because you’re lacking experience doesn’t mean you should accept writing jobs that barely pay for your morning coffee. Content farms play on the rush instant gratification that gives us. After all, who wouldn’t want to become a writer “right now” and make money “instantly”? The only way you’ll become a better writer is by seeking out quality opportunities – otherwise, you’ll not only remain inexperienced, but also the inexperienced writer who works for a content farm. Not exactly a shining addition to your resume.

10. Write For Love

On the other side of the same coin, don’t take a writing job just for the money. Write exactly what you want to write about, become the best at doing so, and the money will follow.

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I was once offered a freelance copywriting job that would’ve allowed me to downsize my web design business and focus more on my writing… and I turned it down. While the pay was decent, I didn’t want to be a copywriter. I wanted to write what I love – otherwise, what would be the point of writing at all?

If it’s not a clip you’d be proud to have in your portfolio, don’t write it.

11. Study Your Market

If you want to freelance write for magazines and blogs, learn the entire pitching process from start to finish. If you want to sell eBooks, learn the entire publishing process from the beginning to the end. You don’t want your creativity stifled because you’re learning the business-side of writing as you go along.

On the flip side, you don’t want to spend so much time learning that you become intimidated and procrastinated on execution. Consider your first few ideas of your “testing period.” Learn the first step of the process, then execute it using one of your ideas. Learn the second step, and continue until your first pitch/project is complete. As you practice, you’ll tweak the process and make it your own.

12. Quality Over Quantity

Even though the business side of writing will constantly give you pressure, creativity cannot be rushed. As much as you want to have a new query letter submitted by the end of the week, or your latest eBook done by the end of the month, don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of your deadline. If you need more time, then take it. Never submit mediocrity now when excellence is just around the corner.

13. Have Tricks Up Your Sleeve

There will be days when you won’t feel like getting started, even when you’re working on a writing project you’re madly in love with. Make sure you have a few tricks up your sleeve to help motivate you. Whether it’s a morning routine that triggers you to get started, or bribing yourself with a gift once your goal is reached, do what you have to do to follow through.

14. Go Big

Many people will tell you to start by writing for smaller markets, then work your way up to larger ones. I say, go big or go home. When I broke into the women’s magazine market, I had no clips. Seriously, not one. But I worked really hard on my query letter, researched my article idea thoroughly beforehand, and pitched my first idea like it was my fiftieth. Don’t tell them you deserve a shot, show them you have the chops through your query letter. Even if they don’t accept your initial idea, you’ll end up on their radar, earn their respect, and in time will land an assignment.

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15. Know The Rules, But Make Your Own

All writers have their own strategy when it comes to their creativity. They have their own process for planning, outlining, and executing every piece they write. As you’re reading books and articles on how to become a better writer, it’s important not to use the advice literally, but as a starting point to create your personal process. Your creative process will end up being a fusion of the advice you’ve filtered through and tested, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t.

16. Learn How to Say No

If you spend all your time being everything to everyone except yourself, you’ll never get your writing career off the ground. As you begin spending less time with your friends and more time on your writing, prepare for them to resist the idea. They’re not meaning to discourage you, they’re just fearful of how their dynamic with you is going to change. Once they realize they’re just as important to your life as they were before you became a writer, the resistance will subside. To get to this point, you have to stand your ground and make the word “no” to your new BFF.

17. Let Your Writing Leave The Nest

When you’ve finished your writing project, set it aside for a few days so you can emotionally detach yourself from it. Not only does this give you the opportunity to breathe before the marketing process begins, but also allows you to start looking at your piece as a product to sell. This shift in mind frame will help you take criticism and feedback from industry professionals more as business advice to improve your craft, and less like your soul is being attacked.

18. Write In Bursts

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting at the computer for too long, I become restless. I spend more time staring blankly at the screen than I do writing – it’s as if my mind has flatlined. The hardest thing for me to let go of when I moved from working for someone else to working for myself was how my workday was structured. Working for someone else, I would work for four hours, take a 30-minute break for lunch, then work for another four. When you build your writing credentials to the point where you can go off on your own, don’t take this habit with you.

Instead, work in short, concentrated bursts. Some writers write in 15-minute bursts right up to 90-minute bursts. End your bursts whenever you feel yourself getting restless, take a small break, then go back in for another. The increase in productivity thanks to this small change is impressive!

19. Plan WAY Ahead

Many writers plan their editorial calendars up to a year in advance! It might sound nutty, but it’s surprisingly efficient. Plan your word/page count goals as far in advance as you can, blocking off windows of time to write like you would for a meeting or appointment. Your schedule isn’t just a schedule: it becomes written proof that by a certain date you’ll reach your goal, making you more likely to stick to it.

20. Develop a Consistent Routine

Becoming a writer isn’t just a career choice – it’s a lifestyle choice. The best way to become a better writer is to respect your writing like you would respect another person: make time for it, keep your promises, and most importantly, follow through.

The best thing I ever did for my writing career was stop talking about it – instead of going on endlessly to friends and family about what I wanted my writing career to be, I wrote my way there.

Don’t get me wrong: creating a routine is hard and no two are the same. You’ll go through a gigantic testing period until you get it just right, but as long as you persevere you’ll find your groove. You’ll no longer worry about saying “I’m a writer” to prove your identity – you’ll be too busy writing.

How do you continue to become a better writer? Let us know your tips + tricks in the comments below!

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Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

1. Know What You Want but More so Why You Want It

Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

2. Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Skills Save Money, Lost Productivity and Efficiency

Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

3. Know How to Set and Reframe Your Own Goals

Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

4. Great Time Management and Organization Skills Make You Highly Productive

Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.

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In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

5. Be a Flexible Team Player by Being Able to Change Roles When Required

Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

6. Initiative, Self-Motivated and Driven

When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

7. Be Confident but Not Arrogant

Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

“How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

8. A Positive Attitude

Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.

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Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

Take a look at these tips to learn more about staying positive:

10 Tips To Make Positive Thinking Easy

9. You Are Resourceful but Know the Value of Asking for Help

There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

Hesitate to ask for help? This article may just change your mind:

Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

10. Emotional Intelligence Creates a Harmonious Workflow

Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

You can learn how to improve your Emotional Intelligence from this article:

7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

11. Be Able to Adapt Your Learning Style

There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.

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We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

Want to find out what your learning style is? Take this quiz:

How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

12. Flexible Leadership Style

Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

If you want to be a better leader, these books are great resources:

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

13. Incredible Communication Skills That Actively Listen and Give Clear Messages

Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

These books are also nice resources to learn effective communication:

13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships

14. Accountable, Responsible and Dependable

We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.

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When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

15. Exercise Proactive Self-Awareness

Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

Here’s how to practice self-awareness:

How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

16. Apply a Problem-Solving Growth Mindset

When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

Learn more about developing a growth mindset here:

5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

17. Be Teachable

If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

Stay Versatile and Keep Learning

Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

More Resources About Career Success

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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