What Can You Do to Write Better? No, I’m Serious

Listen. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of your thoughts pushing and shoving one another to squeeze out of the teeny hole in your brain so they can each get their shining opportunity to be showcased on paper, or computer, as is the human condition. Technology! You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. On the one hand, it is the embodiment of advancement, convenience and clarity (Excel, anyone?). On the other, an absolute nuisance and a lawsuit waiting to happen (picture an overhead projector refusing to work, then being poked at with a long metal prong by a deeply infuriated teacher, until it falls on said teacher’s head. Such fantasies should not be ignored). I suppose you must have noticed the irony of this latter statement, coming from an instructor (yours truly) who actually teaches how to use technology in the classroom and online.

My apologies. I digress. Yes, I was talking about that screaming mass of brain needs to be creatively purged. This is much like a revolution, if you will, but you are experiencing this horrible inability to transfer these thoughts on paper. They’re there, right there, frustratingly close, toying with your emotions, but you still cannot get them and your brain to cooperate. Is all hope lost, then? Do we wait until we are ready to put those ideas onto paper? What if we wait too long, will the unwritten words be lost?

Now, before you read on, let me make this very clear: I am in no way an experienced writer or author. I write to make a difference. I write about deeply personal things in the hope of helping at least one person out there realize they are not alone. So please understand that the advice I am including here is mostly based on my personal experience in writing, be it journal entries or more academic articles.

So are we clear? Great! Below are ways that might help you get those ideas onto paper:

1. Always write with the intention of writing for yourself.

That sounds counterproductive, especially if your main purpose is to show your work to people. But it’s true. Think about it, though. Whenever you write a piece that you know will not be seen by anyone else, you tend to feel more comfortable being yourself. The creative juices flow more easily, and the end result is more satisfying more often than not. Why? Because you’re not expecting to be judged. Many times when we write, there is that thought at the back of our minds that invades our creative process, the one that wonders whether so-and-so would like this, whether they would be able to stomach the brutal honesty, or whether it was even good enough for them. I’m not saying it happens to everyone, but it certainly does to some of us!

If you are one of these people who is even the slightest bit conscious, it may hinder your writing process. What can you do about it? Open your heart and let go of other people’s expected reactions. Accept that you are writing as you are, and your style is going to be appreciated. You might very well get comments, suggestions to improve, but know this is always for the betterment of your work and not to shoot you down. Write from a place of openness.

2. Love what you are writing about

Unfortunately, no one has a switch that can turn on the passion inside of them when it comes to writing about anything. Chances are you are more inclined to unleash your creative juices on particular topics than others. The piece on World War II? Not your cup of tea, perhaps, so you’re more likely to struggle with it than if you were to write on, say, religions and the dogmas attached to them (I know, I know, I had to drag religion into this). My point is, love what you are writing about. Get passionate about it, and proceed to watch your fingers fly over the keyboard in a frantic bid to create that masterpiece. Complicated topic? Look for alternative sources (no, not alternative facts, I said sources!) that have simpler explanations, ones you are more likely to understand. Once these concepts are easier to comprehend, you will find it is easier to find things to like about it. Understanding is key.

3. Don’t force it

I understand this is tough when it comes to assigned writing, material that you’re given to do even if you’re just not into it. Things get even more complicated when there’s a deadline shoved in your face.

In my experience, I’ve had the most difficulty producing written pieces if it in any way meant my time writing them was limited. Deadlines are my kryptonite. I hate them with an unbridled passion. I feel like they cage my thoughts and creative style.

So what can you do to ease this on you? Look at other articles written on the same topic, and observe the styles employed by these different authors. What patterns do you notice? What kind of language structures do they use to effectively pass on their message on this topic? You may glean a thing or two that may kick a little inspiration into that brain of yours, who knows? Sometimes looking at what other people write and the angles they take is all the inspiration one needs to start the writing process without having to force it. Deadlines be damned! No, I didn’t mean that.

Again, these are tips that have helped me and others. They may not work for you. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them, though…

Go get them, soldier!