How to Write: My 8 Secrets

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to write and wasn’t obsessed with words. I’ve done crossword puzzles since childhood and have been known to read the dictionary. I’m a natural writer — by that I mean no one has ever formally taught me how to write, but it’s always come easy to me and I’ve been told I do it fairly well.

Over the past couple of years, the discipline to write weekly for my job has forced me to develop a routine that has helped to stimulate that part of my brain, so I thought I’d share some tips.

1. Don’t even try to edit as you write.

Throw down your thoughts as they come — word vomit on paper/pixels, if you will. Edit later. The idea is not to produce a perfect piece of prose, but to get the essence, the ideas down. If you get stalled on just the right word, put [what you want to say, but this isn’t how I want to say it] in brackets and keep dumping your thoughts. You’ll never finish if you stop and try to get it perfect. Mulitple numerous a zillion drafts are your friends.

2. Write about what you’re passionate about.

This is cliche advice, but `tis so for a reason. It’s so hard to get the thoughts to flow when you really don’t feel anything. And if you don’t feel anything, do you think your reader will? Find a way to feel something about what you’re writing or don’t write it.

3. Write to your audience.

This is hard for some folks to do. Get out of your own head, and into that of whomever you’re writing for. Are they interested in what you’re saying? If you’re writing for your business, could your blog post be used for brochure copy? If so, delete it and start over. Think like your reader and ask yourself “What’s in it for me?”

4. Find a place you can relax.

Let your mind just … go. My best writing is done while Im lying down with my eyes closed. I have to be comfortable – not too hot, not too cold, quiet, no distractions. I put a pillow over (part of) my face to let me family know not to talk to me unless the house is on fire. They recognize this sign for the most part. The point is, your mind won’t let loose until your body is relaxed. If you fall alseep, no big deal — I’ve done this beofre and awakened wth a great idea.

5. Read it aloud.

If you’re not alone, read it silently to yourself, but pronounce all the words. Not only will you find typos, but you’ll also notice things that don’t make sense, are unnecessary, or need more explanation. Practically speaking, I use WordPress’ preview for this. I like to see it as it’s going to look after it’s posted.

6. If you don’t know, ask, for goodness’ sake.

Don’t make a dumb grammar mistake just because you’re too lazy to check. Invest in an online subscritpion to AP Stylebook. It’s about $30 per year and it’s worth exponentially more. Not sure whether or not to hyphenate or to leave down and closed? Check AP. They won’t steer you wrong. Or at least Google it. Please.

7. Don’t be afraid to be casual, if it fits your audience.

A formal writing style is great for a business website, your resume, or professional document, but if it’s your own blog or website and you cater to the blue jeans crowd, feel free to use a more casual tone. There’s a difference between casual and unprofessional, and if you know what you’re doing you can make it work.

8. Love words.

Do things that increase your vocabulary; read, solve crossword puzzles, flip through a thesaurus or dictionary. Listen for new and unfamiliar words and look them up. The more words you know, the more easily they’ll come flooding through your brain when you need them.

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  1. Denise

    I, too, have always loved to write! When I was a kid, I WAS Pollyanna or Heidi or Jo or Beth when I was reading those books. It was no great leap for me to make up stories about my own created characters. I wrote my first “novel” in fifth grade, sheets of notebook paper stapled together down the side. “The Mystery of Carson Manor.” Moved on to poetry in high school capped off by my valedictory speech which included a little Rod McKuen. Ah, the seventies! No trouble deciding to major in journalism in college. I have been blessed throughout my adult life to work in a series of jobs that were all about writing – PR to corporate communications to marketing to, now, trends analysis. I don’t think we have ever met, Beth, but I feel we are kindred spirits in many ways.

  2. beth g sanders

    We must be! My current job has done wonders for my writing process. I write weekly devotionals and I’ve really had to discipline myself to think and brainstorm and create. It’s really helped me figure out a lot about my own process.


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