5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Everyone wants to become a better writer today. No, not “a writer”. A better writer, because no matter who you are, these days, your life involves writing. You may not like it. You may struggle against it, but today business is 24-hour, non-stop, and global. You need to communicate often, and do it well. Preferably, without slamming your head against your desk, and wishing you were dead.

Let’s look at five ways you can become a better writer.

1. Keep it Short

Keep writing short

 

Steve Jobs was a genius. He knew good writing, and how to write. He kept it short.

You don’t need to confine yourself to one-word answers in your email messages, as Steve did in in the message here, but it couldn’t hurt.

Here are two words which will improve your writing TODAY: say it. Just say what you have to say. Don’t circle around the topic. Don’t waffle. Don’t try to “write.” Say what you mean to say, straight out, no messing.

 

2. Do It More

write more

I love “10 steps to becoming a better writer,” by Brian Clark.

Writing takes practice. That’s why professional writers write every day: they know that writing is a muscle. They know that when they take time off from writing, they lose their facility with words. The more you do anything, the better you get at it.

To repeat: the more you do anything, the better you get at it. Your writing is always the best you can do, at the time. Your writing will be better tomorrow, and even better next year. Write.

 

3. Get Interested: Passion Shows in Your Words

You can feel energy, or the lack of it, in words. So, to write well, you need to become interested in your topic. “Interest” is active, rather than passive. I’ve written well about concrete rebar, mulching, and pathology tests. (By “well” I mean that the words did what they were supposed to do – they sold products.)

Whenever you’re tempted to say: “this is boring”: learn more. The more you know about something, the more interesting it becomes… and you’ll become a better writer.

You can write about anything with passion. Find out more about your topic, and you’ll become passionate about it.

4. Be True to Your Values and Beliefs

You need to be able to think: “so what?” when someone criticizes what you write. Not in any passive-aggressive, or defensive fashion, but because you know you can do it again, and do it better, if you need to.

You may not need to, because part of your acceptance of criticism is knowing your values and beliefs, and being true to them. You calmly consider the source of the criticism, and take that into account.

If you’re an author, take note of reviews, but never, ever respond. Remember: “so what?” If you’re not capable of insouciance: don’t read reviews. Lose the attitude that you’re always right. You may not be, but it doesn’t make you a lesser writer, or indeed a lesser person.

5. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.

Good writers are readers. They read books. You become a better writer by reading good writing, and bad writing too.

Stephen King:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So there you have it. Five ways to become a better writer. As Woody Allen famously said:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Show up. Write.

And if you’re ready to SHINE, start today. Get coaching. Or, join our final Team Up session for the year; it ends soon.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Writing Habits: 3 Great Habits To Improve Everything You Write

Writing Habits: 3 Great Habits To Improve Everything You Write

If you develop good writing habits you’ll improve all your writing, and writing will become fun for you too.

Want a great writing tip? Here you go: “The only difference between professional writers and everyone else is that professionals expect to write junk.” I’ve forgotten who said it first, and I’m sure I’ve mangled the quote, but it’s true. Your life will be much easier if you expect to write junk, because you will. And you’ll fix it later.

Consider developing these three habits.

1. Write daily.

Yes, write daily. You’ve heard this before, many times. If you don’t yet have the daily writing habit, get a wall calendar, and follow Jerry Seinfeld’s advice:

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Before too long, you’ll have the daily writing habit.

Initially, you’ll find this a challenge, because you want to write well. That’s natural. Sooner or later you’ll understand that sitting down to write is really all you need to do. Just start writing. Words will come out.

Think of your daily writing stint as a meditation if you like:

… as revered Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki points out in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, when you take your posture (sit to meditate), you’re meditating:

“When you have this posture, you have the right state of mind, so there is no need to try to attain some special state.”

Similarly with writing. When you take the posture – sit down to write – you’ll write. You don’t need a special state, nor you do need to be inspired.

Currently I’m writing a novella. Most days when I sit down to write, I’m convinced that since I don’t have any words in my head, there aren’t any words in there. I’m always wrong. (Thank heavens.)

2. Develop processes and checklists. Stop thinking. Write.

When I’m working with my book coaching authors, they tell me either “I don’t know how to start”, or “what else should I write?” if they’ve started.

Processes and checklists help.

Develop a writing process for a form of writing by chunking everything down into the smallest possible component, and make a checklist.

Let’s say you want to write some blog articles.

Here’s a process, as a checklist:

  • Brainstorm 20 topics;
  • Choose three topics (or more);
  • Spend five minutes of research on each topic (optional. You can research before you write, or after your first draft);
  • Brainstorm ten titles;
  • Choose three titles, find appropriate keywords;
  • List three or four points under each title;
  • For each article: write two or three paragraphs under each point;
  • Find references and/ or sources;
  • Whiz through a quick draft of each article;
  • Leave each article to gestate for 24 hours;
  • Write the final draft of each article…
  • Etc.

3. Tomorrow is another day. (You’ll improve today’s writing tomorrow.)

As Scarlett O’Hara said: “After all… tomorrow is another day.” Writing is always a process: tomorrow, you’ll be in a different frame of mind.

If today’s writing seems junk, a fairy godmother may sprinkle it with fairy dust overnight, and tomorrow you’ll think: “it’s not so bad… It might even be good.”

No fairy dust? Never mind. You’ll fix it.

These three writing habits will improve everything you write. Soon, writing won’t be a chore. You’ll look on the writing you do as the best part of your day.

If writing’s a challenge for you, get a writing coach. As one of my students recently said: “this is the best investment I’ve ever made.”

, and on Twitter: @angee

Writing to Grow Your Business: 5 Easy Tips to Get It Done

Writing to Grow Your Business

Got a blog and social media accounts? If you have, you’re cleverly using content marketing to promote your business.

Content marketing helps your business by stretching your marketing dollars. However, it has an unfortunate drawback: someone has to create all that content… and that means writing.

Perhaps you’ve discounted content marketing because you hate writing.

If so, these five easy tips will help you to get it done.

1. Batch-create: “a thousand forests …”

Emerson said: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn,” so when you think “content”, think BATCHES. Every piece of content you create can grow, and grow again. For example, I could use each of these five tips to grow additional articles.

Batch-creation is fun. You can:

  • Write two or three or more articles if you’re writing anyway. (I wrote this article while I was writing this one.)
  • Write a collection of tweets while you’re writing an article. (Use a spreadsheet to keep track of when you posted your tweets, and an URL shortener.)
  • Compile a collection of articles into an ebook, or a Pinterest pinboard, while you’re writing an article.
  • Add article ideas to your content calendar. I added a couple of ideas to my content calendar, while I was writing this article.

2. Trash into treasure: use what you already have

You’ve got a treasure trove of content you’re ignoring:

  • Responses to customer questions. Check your email – within five minutes, you’ll have a mass of content you can repurpose into blog and social media posts.
  • Business photos. Every phone’s a camera now. Click away! Chances are you’ve got hundreds, if not thousand of images you can use. Image poor? If you snap two images a day, at the end of the week you’ll have ten images you can post wherever you choose. (Don’t forget the caturday hashtag on Google+, if you’ve got a cat.)
  • Marketing collateral. White papers, polls, questionnaires, and more. Shake the dust off these materials, and use them as seeds for fresh content.

Browse your computer and your company’s library. Turn that trash into treasure.

3. Take the drama out of writing: it’s just talking

Can’t write? If you can talk, you can write. Instead of sitting down to “write”, pretend you’re writing an email message to a buddy. Chat away. When you’re done, delete the “dear Fred”, or whatever salutation you used, and you’ve got content.

Alternatively, use a voice recognition app.

4. Prepare, then write. Like cooking, writing’s all in the prep

Imagine you’re cooking a meal. What do you do? You get a recipe, shop for the ingredients, prepare the ingredients (peel the potatoes etc), and then you start cooking. If you’re cooking a stir fry, getting the ingredients ready takes longer than cooking.

Consider your content calendar as being like your shopping list. Then prepare the ingredients: I prepare the coming week’s content on Sunday afternoons by writing drafts. I use Trello to organize the research and graphics for blog posts.

By the time I’m ready to write (cook), it’s easy, because all the prep is done. If you combine batch-creation with prep, you’ll double the amount of content you create.

5. Take time to think: court your Muse

When did you last sit down to think? On my freelance writing blog, I talked about the value of musing in writing more and more easily:

At least once each day, allow yourself to sit in a quiet place, and think. This is not worry time. Choose something pleasant to think about. You can think about a current project, or about your goals — or about anything else.

The word “muse” comes from the nine Muses, Greek goddesses of inspiration.

9 Muses of inspiration

The nine Muses

When you muse, you reflect on something: musing has a lot in common with daydreaming. Bring your subject to mind, and allow your Muse to inspire you.

So there you have it. Five tips to help you to get your business writing DONE.

Get help with your writing

Got questions about your writing? Get help.

 

, and on Twitter: @angee

“This Is Me”: Quick Ways to Get Found With a Profile Page

profileonline

These days, nothing is certain. Except you – you’re all you can rely on… Your skills, talent and knowledge. But who knows you? The more people who know you, the more options you have.

“Who are you?” That’s the most common question when someone sees your name online. You need to be able to share who you are. On my freelance writing blog, we’ve been discussing profile pages as a way of making money even without a website. A profile page is your online calling card. It’s a way of sharing who you are. It can tie all your social networking sites together, to build a picture of who you are, without a website.

Why would you want to show who you are?

Let’s look at some reasons.

  • You’re a small business person. You need a way to build credibility and trust. For your leads, your suppliers, and everyone you come into contact with. If someone Googles you, you want to share who you are;
  • You’re employed. You’re not job-hunting yet, but if someone needs your skills, you’re open to better offers;
  • You have an idea for a start-up. You’re bootstrapping, but you may want some capital for your venture soon;
  • You work online, or want to. You want people scouting for someone with your experience and skills to get in touch with you. A little judicious moonlighting would help out with the mortgage, and your kids’ college fund. You need a profile page.

“This is me” – websites on which you can create profile pages

There are many profile websites; let’s look at three good ones.

about.me – simple, easy, fast. Does what it says on the label

I like about.me. Your profile page is easy to set up, and share with others. The site’s adding some social media options, so you can network on the site.

Here’s my page on about.me.

My profile page on about.me
My profile page on about.me

Google+ – if you can’t beat them…

Google+? Yep. You can file this under “if you can’t beat them, you might as well make the most of it.”

Here’s my profile on Google+. The big benefit of a Google+ profile is that it’s Google. People who want to know about you will Google you, so they’ll be able to find you. You’ve got social media with a profile page baked right in.

Don’t fight it… :-)

Flavors.me – I haven’t tried it, but it looks good

I haven’t set up a profile on flavors.me yet, but the site looks good. It seems to have more options than about.me.

So there you have it. If you don’t have a website, at least create a profile page. Get findable, and visible.

Apropos of never knowing who’ll see your page online. I set up a dinky little website in 1997, because I was writing a book for Allen & Unwin on using the Internet for business. Although I never paid much attention to the site, it got me loads of business over the next few years. I even wrote an online creativity course for Barnes & Noble University when someone spotted the site. You never know who’ll see your name online.

, and on Twitter: @angee