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
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
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.
“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.