4 Ways to Become a Better Writer
I almost failed Grade 11 English.
Yep, me. Someone who now includes in their professional bio, on the first line, that she’s a writer. Someone who actually makes a living by writing. I was nearly a failure at the English language. It’s true – my grammar was awful, sentence structure was lost on me, and the words just didn’t flow easily. I got tutoring after school and that helped me bring my grade up to something passable. I was so ashamed of my inability to put words together that I essentially stopped writing altogether after high school. I occasionally wrote scripts for some of the TV shows I produced back in the early 90s, but mostly I delegated that work to other people on my team who were better at it than I.
After I got out of TV, I was put into jobs where writing was an essential skill. In fact, my first REAL job after I graduated from college the 2nd time was as a web content developer! I started to learn that writing was nothing to be afraid of. Eventually I wrote all kinds of things, from web content to training manuals and business proposals. I got better and better the more I did, and eventually I even started to enjoy it! In 2006 I started this blog on a whim. My first posts were terrible, but over the past 7 years I’ve been able to further refine my voice. Now I love writing – not a day goes by where I don’t write. I HAVE to write.
One of the primary reasons that people don’t blog (even if they want to) is because they don’t feel as if they are good enough writers. But the truth is, I believe anyone can write well if they are given the right direction and the right tools. If your writing confidence is holding you back from finally starting up that blog, here are a few tips to get you up and running.
Read to Write.
I think the single best way to improve your writing is to read a lot. But don’t just stick to one thing – read a wide variety of things. Find blogs that you enjoy, both for subject matter and writing style. Read novels you love, and business books from authors you admire. Read something every single day, and take note of the style of the writing – is it casual? Conversational? Is the vocabulary sophisticated or simple?
Then, endeavour to mimic (not copy) the things that you admire. Of course, you want to add your own spin as well, “make it your own”, as they say. Your style and voice will develop over time the more you write. There isn’t a writer in the world who doesn’t read voraciously. Think of it as the fuel for your writing fire.
Spelling and Grammar Matter. A Lot.
As I mentioned above, my skills in English class left a lot to be desired. My biggest issue was grammar – I could put every tense into a single sentence like nobody’s business! And while I am still not immune to dangling the occasional participle, I have gotten a heck of a lot better at grammar since high school. It takes continuous practice, and Google is my friend. If I’m not sure of grammar, spelling or the definition of a word, I look it up, even to this day.
Nothing kills the credibility of a blog faster than sloppy grammar and spelling, so check these things closely before you hit the publish button. And yes, mistakes will happen from time to time – nobody’s perfect. But strive to get better at grammar and spelling if you’re not, and in time, you’ll have more confidence in your writing.
Don’t Over-think It.
I’m not going to mention any names here (you know who you are!) but I know people who sit on blog post drafts for weeks, even months sometimes. They tweak and fuss to make every sentence perfect. They don’t even consider hitting publish until they have read it through 50 times and revised and polished. Sometimes, the post never even sees the light of day, after all that!
Look. Your blog is not War and Peace. Every post does not need to be epic, and it certainly doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, some of the best blog posts are incomplete thoughts, that can spark great conversations in the comments.
Want to know my typical blogging process? Sit down at computer (usually with a coffee). Come up with idea. Start writing. 20 minutes later, stop writing. Read through to check grammar and spelling. Publish. Promote.
Your mileage may vary on this system, but it works for me. I spend more time thinking about my blog posts in the shower or driving to work than I do actually writing them. I rarely leave a draft undone. Try just sitting down and writing something, without thinking too much. It takes practice to get faster at it, but I think you’ll like the results.
Speaking of Practice…
The only way to get better at anything is to practice. If you want to become a better writer, then you need to sit down, every day, for a period of time, and write. At first, it will feel awkward and choppy, like any new thing does. But after a while, you’ll get into the rhythm, and eventually, you’ll get into the zone. The zone is the best place in the world – where everything just melts away and the words just flow. But you will only ever reach the zone through practice and plenty of it.
Make a pact with yourself to write for at least 15 minutes every day from this day on. You don’t have to publish all of it (though I recommend publishing a lot of it!). The more you do, the more comfortable you’ll feel. And the more you show it to other people, the more confident you’ll become.
There you have it! Happy writing and please, share your latest work in the comments, I’d love to see what you’re up to!
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