The truth is being a good writer is a challenging skill to master. It takes practice, discipline, creativity, and a willingness to experiment and screw up.
But you can use certain tried-and-true hacks to be a more productive and effective writer. Whether you’re struggling with writer’s block or feel like you’re really bad at it, try implementing these strategies to make the words fly off the page.
1. Write every day
Writing takes practice. Carving out some time to write every single day, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes, will inevitably improve your writing. Think of it like working out. The more you train, the stronger you become.
Before writing, give yourself a goal for what you want to accomplish in your 10-minute session. This could be an email to an important client, an essay, a piece of fiction, or a love letter. It doesn’t matter what it is or if it’s good, as long as it gets you in your seat writing something down.
2. Write for concentrated periods of time
Many writers swear by the Pomodoro Technique. This involves breaking up your writing time into small, focused intervals or “pomodoros,” typically 25 minutes each, followed by short breaks.
Why is this effective? The Pomodoro Technique helps fend off procrastination by forcing you to do it for short periods of time rather than long stretches, which can be intimidating. It also helps you manage your time better by scheduling your writing time and breaks==
One bonus tip: Silence all social media, email, phone, and web browsers during your pomodoros to avoid distraction. It’s only 25 minutes — you can do this!
3. Read more
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, you can’t be a good writer unless you read good writing. That’s sort of like trying to be a good tennis player but never playing tennis.
Reading can be difficult in our hyper-distracted world, with Instagram posts and TikTok videos vying for our attention. Last year a Gallup Poll found that U.S. adults read roughly two or three fewer books per year than they did between 2001 and 2016.
But reading well-written books and articles can help broaden your vocabulary and expose you to different writing styles and techniques. By reading good writing, you will learn much from what you take in, like osmosis. Your grammar will improve, your word choice will get smarter, you’ll have better ideas, and you’ll have an overall appreciation for writing.
4. Be done, not perfect
“Done is better than perfect,” professional freelance writer, David Hochman, told me on my podcast Write About Now. Hochman has written thousands of stories for different publications, and his advice to aspiring writers is to stop worrying so much about your content.
“Don’t agonize over getting it perfectly,” he says. “It will not happen, especially if you’re the final judge. Sometimes the simple act of just finishing something is enough.
To hear my entire interview with David about writing hacks, check out the podcast below.
5. Write first, edit later
It’s a rookie mistake to edit yourself while you write. Professional writers know the best technique is to let it flow in the first draft, getting your ideas on the screen without worrying about perfection. Later, you can go back and edit.
When you focus on writing without stopping to edit, you allow your creative side to take the driver’s seat, generating ideas you may not have thought of otherwise. You also avoid getting bogged down in the details such as stopping to do a “quick” internet search, which takes you down a non-productive rabbit hole for 2 hours.
6. Show don’t tell
One hack that will make your writing stand out from the pack is providing good, sensory details that allow the reader to experience the story rather than simply being told what’s happening. It’s more effective to show what’s happening in a story than simply telling them.
For example, rather than writing, “the room was a mess,” you might write something more descriptive like, “Dirty clothes were strewn across the floor and papers and books were scattered across the desk.”
Or as Anton Chekhov, a much better writer than me, once said: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
7. Avoid overused or filler words
Good writing is concise. Avoid using unnecessary words that might confuse your readers. A good hack is to go through your writing after it’s finished and slash and burn any words that don’t add to your argument. Here are some common culprits:
“Very”: This word is often used to add emphasis, but it can be vague and imprecise. Instead, try using a more specific adjective to convey the same meaning.
“Just”: This word is often used to downplay the importance of something, but it’s often just unnecessary.
“Really”: Just like “very,” this word is often used to add emphasis, but it can be imprecise. Try getting ride of it or using a more specific adjective or verb to convey the same meaning.
“So”: Whenever you write so, especially at the beginning of a sentence, ask yourself if it would be just as good without “so.”
“Moreover; Furthermore; Hence; Therefore” Unless you’re writing a thesis that requires formal, academic language, avoid using puffed-up words that make your writing stiff and boring. Try to write more like you’re talking to a friend.
Don’t beat yourself up
Remember, writing is hard—even the best writers complain about it. Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Do your best and learn from your mistakes.
And don’t let ChatGPT do all the work for you.
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