Writing is a bitch. A big fat one too and with equality boiling over our lids, I should have used a different word, to sum up, the complexity of assembling words in a way, so they make sense in a sentence, and later in a paragraph, and then… you know what I mean.
Too late — and not important. What’s important is that writing is hard. Not in the sense of doing, because literally (almost) anyone can put pen to paper, but in the sense of doing it right.
It’s almost like surfing. Excuse my sudden detour to one of my favorite leisure activities, but just like flaring up your local with a smooth style, smooth writing takes years. And even when you think you’ve mastered the art of words, you will always have days where just nothing seems to come together, and you are left feeling like a complete rookie.
That’s okay because YOU CAN’T win against the high powers of writing. You can’t master writing, but you can get better at it by following some pretty simple but vital habits.
Write like it’s a game
Correct. Stop treating it like your life depends on a good story, a smart conclusion, or punchy facts because it really doesn’t. Loosen up. Relax. When you write and don’t overthink every single word you put to paper, it will show in your work.
When you tense up, your writing becomes predictable and one-dimensional because you keep looking in the same places for inspiration. Mix it up! Get creative with your writing and try out different techniques or apply a different tone.
Write down whatever comes to mind — you can always do the research later to back up or fill in the gaps. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander and just keep writing down what you feel or think at the moment.
When you give your imagination the chance to jump into the driver seat, you’ll see that your writing will open up and become less restrictive. Look at writing like it’s a game. Whatever game you play — whether it’s Poker, Monopoly, or just a good ol’ round of Slap Jack, you are always trying to add new tweaks to your game to get ahead.
Apply the same rules to your writing, and you’ll be surprised by what it does to your flow and productivity.
Walk away from your writing
That’s right. If you don’t feel it, don’t do it. I know there are plenty of experts out there that suggest the contrary; preaching to write every day in order to get better at it.
While I do believe that the more you repeat something, the better you get at it, I don’t think people should write just for the sake of it. Skipping a day, two days or a week doesn’t make you better or worse at anything — it just doesn’t.
If it doesn’t come naturally to you and you have to force yourself to go to the gym, to play the piano or write 500 words a day, your input (effort) is greater than your output, which in turn is an assault on your productivity, nonetheless your creativity.
If you’re forcing yourself to pump out words daily just because some writing course told you so, the chances are that what you’re creating is pretty average at best.
If you’re struggling to produce anything half decent, then leave it for a day or two. Don’t think about it. Do something else. Try knitting or bungy jumping, or whatever the hell else that takes your mind of that article you wanted to finish and get back at it when you feel you’re ready to kick ass — writing-wise.
Being a writer is overrated
Seriously it is. The same kind of “overrated” as being an Entrepreneur, CEO, Marketing Genius, or a Cotton Candy Connoisseur. The bottom line is; labels are overrated because labels come with expectations, and expectations come with pressure.
Once you are labeled a certain way, it’s like having a target on your back. All of a sudden, the person who loves to write stories becomes the writer who writes stories. Suddenly, you aren’t just writing because you want to, but because it’s expected from you, because after all, a writer writes, right?!
Shed the labels. Free yourself from the responsibilities a writer has, and the quality of your writing will improve simply because you care less about all the trumpery and demands that come with a job or a title. You don’t have to tell people who or what you are — show them.
Read to write better
At first glance, this one seems lame. Too obvious, too overused, but I’m not talking about reading books or magazines.
A while back, I started reading song lyrics and watching movies and TV shows with subtitles. It’s a super cool and intuitive way to learn by association. It’s surprising how much the brain can retain when you can link words to a particular event, and during a 2-hour movie, there are a lot of words you can process. For me, it helped a great deal to fill up my arsenal of words in a short amount of time.
I definitely catch myself using phrases, words, sentences, etc. that I picked up through watching or listening to things I dig.
Copy like you mean it
Seriously; you like something — use it! Don’t plagiarize, but recycle smart. Do you really think all these great writers come up with their unique content all the time?
You know I’m talking about the material that pays for mortgages and closes book deals; I’m talking about the Steven King’s, Sarah Perry’s, and Ryan Holiday’s in this world. Sure, they are amazingly talented, but they don’t come up with every single idea themselves. These people are masters of listening, absorbing, paraphrasing, and recycling opinions or views of others. They re-package content, so it sounds like them and reads like them, and there is nothing wrong with that.
In fact, everybody should do the same! We live in a world where information is so prevalent, and access to it is often just a few clicks away. Make use of it!
Go look for the good sh*%T and find a way to make it your own.
Doesn’t that make writing just a whole lot more fun? Try it for yourself and let me know what you do to fight that tiny little thing called writing.