I don’t see myself as a good writer
Writing does not come naturally to me, yet it’s an art of self-expression I deeply love and admire. I view writing as a form of innate skill where some are predisposed to do it better than others. But like any activity or skill, writing can be learnt, sharpened and fine-tuned.
As we sharpen our writing skills, we find our rhythm and which writing style suits us. In my quest to sharpen my writing skills over the past few years, I’ve detected certain steps I take to smoothen my writing process and make it less of a chore.
Any aspiring writer has to understand on a deep instinctual level that the first draft of any piece of written work will not be good.
Established writers, John Grisham, Stephen King, Malcom Gladwell etc have dealt with it and so will you. With constant, deliberate practice and editing, your writing will greatly improve over time.
Below is my checklist for writing anything
Beginning with the end in sight
Before I start writing any piece, I envisage how the final piece of writing will sound. I go deep into my depth to figure out the type of anecdotes, stories, sentence construction and flow I would like to see in the final work. I ask myself the following questions,
how will the final piece of writing sound?
What type of stories, anecdotes, data etc. will I be sharing?
How will my writing make the reader feel?
After these questions have been answered, it is time to work my way backwards to achieving what was initially envisaged. Then I ease into the next stage which is the planning process.
This is where the tiny pieces of the grand scheme are put together to make the bigger picture. Here, I deliberate on sentence structure and flow, data, stories and any other relevant information that will be helpful to the success of the written piece. I think about the stories, data I will use etc. and figure out where I can find them.
This is my favourite stage in my writing process. Here, I get to search for data, web links, article and research reports I’m going to use in my writing (Pro Tip: Create a folder to store links, data and research reports you chance on and would like to use in your writing)
The gathering of data will helps me in writing a concise piece and minimizes the temptation to reference from the internet where I’m more likely to fall in a blackhole of endless entertainment content. This is the main reason I go through the information gathering stage so as to not be distracted when I sit down to write the main piece.
Allocate Time for Writing
I have my sketch or an outline of what I want to write. My data, stories and anecdotes are ready to be used in my writing. Now comes the real deal. The actual process of sitting down to write.
At this stage I dedicate time blocks to write (usually an hour) followed by a 10-15-minute break. Having all the information I need at hand quickens the writing process and makes it a bit easier.
Another way this stage works for me is to set targets. Such as “I won’t stop writing till I have written a 1,000 words or I will take a longer break when I finish the key concept of the piece.
In the first few minutes of writing, there’s always that distraction lurking somewhere at the back of my mind. Unwarranted thoughts such as opening the fridge when I’m neither hungry or thirsty. Or recounting the last argument I had with someone and thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said pop up to distract me during this stage of the writing process. A wondering mind is part of the early stages of deep work. I have noticed in my case, it takes between 15 – 20 minutes before I can be fully engaged with the piece I’m writing.
I try my very best to bring distractions to a minimum. Such as switching my phone to silent or turning it off.
Editing is the last stage of the process and I most often take a break between writing and editing.
One thing that has served me well is to have someone else look at my written work, it brings a fresh perspective and insights to the written piece. No matter how confident I am in my editing abilities, I’m amazed that a fresh perspective from a non-attached reader leads to edits that improves the quality of the written piece.
With long form writing such an articles, I usually sleep on it and re-read to observe whether there are things I can edit to make the writeup a good one. I edit out unnecessary repetition, anecdotes that does not go to the point and ensure that the central theme for the piece is emphatic and clear.
Extra Pro Tips
Use more anecdotes, comparison and examples if you would like your writing to be longer
Write without aiming for perfection (Remember, the first draft is not always good)
Having a good snack by you to chew on whiles you write also eases the writing process.
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