To excel in any profession it takes both dedication and talent. From doctors and lawyers to singers and actors and everything in between, you must continually practice to stand out in your respective field. Writing – whether as a profession or simply as an everyday skill – is no exception.
Writing is the core of my profession, but it’s also an essential skill I use well outside of what earns me a paycheck. This is why I am always on the search for ways in which I can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of my writing.
Thanks to technology that directs us to resources and connects us with fellow writing professionals, there are more opportunities than ever to improve your written communication. So how do you narrow them down? Really, it’s trial and error to find the triggers that inspire you to become a better writer. I know I have spent years trying to find my own. While what works for one will not work for all, these are five launching points that provide a solid foundation for overall “good” writing and will help point you in the right direction.
Understand your purpose
Diving into a writing project before you fully understand exactly “why” you’re writing is like shooting an arrow before you’ve seen the target. Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up with a well-crafted piece, but the outcome that is far more common is mismatched content that reads more like a stream of conscious than strategic and intelligent thoughts.
To understand your purpose, first put it into words before you write anything else. For this very article, I organized my purpose and main points before I started writing. The title and bolded sections (the bones) were formed before I filled it in with content (the meat). If you struggle to identify a purpose, this is a big red flag that indicates a weak idea and lack of organization.
Purpose is one very important component for quality writing, but so is passion. An article can have a clear purpose, but passion is what draws readers in and makes them want to consume the information. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, you will be excited to sit down and put your thoughts into words. You’ll also enjoy reading and re-reading these words until they say exactly what you want them to.
But finding this passion can be a mental challenge. So often the fear of putting your thoughts into words, or a lack of confidence in your ability to do so, can overshadow your passion. Overcome these roadblocks by shifting your focus back to you – not your critics, competitors or writing idols – simply you. When you are writing for self-satisfaction, you will be open to embracing the same passion with which people dance when they think no one is watching.
Do it for yourself
For writing to become an enjoyment and not a chore, you must learn to do it for yourself. This is the point I just touched upon above, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into exactly how you learn to write for yourself.
If you have complete freedom to select your topic, first choose a topic about which you’re knowledgeable, curious or passionate. In doing so, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the topic – and enjoy it! All good writers are able to gain some level of enjoyment in their writing. If your topic is strictly chosen for you, the angle with which you approach it becomes ever important. It’s possible to take the driest topic and turn it into something you enjoy (even if only slightly) and make the writing about you!
Put the effort into proofreading
One essential component of good writing that we can’t tip-toe around (oh and I’ve tried) is proofreading. Yes, it’s that element of writing that simply isn’t as fun as dreaming up big ideas and writing from the soul – but it’s absolutely necessary. Proofreading can be intimidating because it takes time and a very specific knowledge of a complicated topic, making it all the more valuable of a skill for good writers to have.
Aside from hitting the books to brush up on your grammar, you can also turn to technology to provide you with some pretty helpful tools. Google can serve as a quick spell check, but it won’t catch the more complex errors. I often use Grammarly for proofreading because let’s face it, the English language is challenging enough to speak, let alone write. What I really like about this particular tool is that it teaches you why you’re making common grammar mistakes so you develop into a better writer – not a lazy writer.
Stop overthinking it
Finally, in order to become a better writer you quite simply need to chill out – relax! When you’re stressed and hyper-focused, your writing will reflect this. It will seem rigid and anxious. Writing is an art form after all, and it requires organic creativity that is only able to freely flow when you’re relaxed.
Before writing, take a deep breath. Close your eyes and find a relaxed space in your mind. Don’t look at a clock or agonize over how long you’ve been staring at a blank page. If you’re feeling blocked, take a break and walk away. You can’t force good writing and the grade school philosophy of “sit there until you finish it” will only turn your temporary writer’s block into a lifelong fear of the written word.
What have you found to be the most helpful tips and tools for becoming a better writer? Share your advice in the comments below!