This happens to be a timely topic for me since I’ve resolved to write more often in 2023. And not just more often—daily. For good reason too. It’s one of the best ways to overcome all of the following: writers block, fear of putting thoughts out to the world, and a topic tank on empty. No matter what your next writing effort is—grant proposal, business plan, 2023 Goals/KPI’s, social media post, or the next blockbuster novel—here are some hints that will make it easier.
1. Write daily
I don’t know about you, but for me transitioning from note pad to notes app inspired my collecting of daily ideas. These range from intriguing restaurants, to better ways to SEO anything digital, to something remarkable I’ve just read. Checking my notes app at the end of the day yields plenty to think, speak and write about. In fact, this blog materialized from a “brevity in writing” podcast I noted and intend to emulate in this post. For some, pen on paper journaling trumps journaling on a computer, iPad or mobile device. Either will do and even voice recordings translated later are helpful. Your goal is to capture thoughts, ideas, stories, facts and opinions worthy of writing about.
2. Read (and listen) daily
Reading blogs and printed materials, and listening to digital newsfeeds benefit us by exercising our brains, enriching our vocabulary, and challenging us to reconsider preconceived notions. When a writer’s thinking and style of delivery appeals to me, I get what they say and occasionally seek to imitate their style. For me, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, is that kind of writer. I would love to hear your favorites in the response section of this post.
3. Find your “point of entry” for everything you write
Find something in the content, idea or story you write about that connects with you, your emotions or values. Something that stands out and has the potential to “hook” or engage your reader. This entry point makes you more human to the reader, giving them insights about the writer and why they want to share this. Recently I wrote an article about a scholarship awarding 501 (3)(c) and discovered through interview that the founders’ purpose for awarding scholarships focused the story best. This point of entry respects who you are writing for—my next suggestion to consider.
4. Before you begin to write, think of your Purpose and Audience
What you write (content) and how you write (style) depend on these two words. Identify both before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Consider what your audience needs and wants to hear, then write using a style that will engage them. Decide if humor, anecdotes, case studies or data works best to keep them reading.
5. Learn the rules, then learn to break the rules
Review good writing suggestions in books such as William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. He suggests crisp writing that focuses on such key tactics as:
• Use active verbs over passive verbs (e.g. The scream silenced conversation. (vs) Conversation was silenced by the scream.)
• Avoid adverbs (words ending in ly) along with very and nice that have no meaning.
Also review Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh. Like Zinsser, he advocates for a crisp, clear writing style, devoid of all unnecessary words. When writing for the digital world, think “write tight.” Be brief. Grab your reader and give them at least one thing worth remembering. Brevity also demands choosing the right words—powerful words that leave an impression on your reader. Don’t show off – avoid the “Curse of Knowledge” syndrome—using million-dollar words that confuse the reader or acronyms that only an expert will understand.
Although Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a time-honored classic, its prescriptive approach to language isn’t for everyone, including me! Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s witty approach to writing in The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century recognizes that language is fluid and that, while it’s good to know and follow the rules when it makes sense to, expressive writing often relies on bending them. So, don’t be afraid to begin a sentence with And or But when it works. And occasionally ignore the rule that every sentence needs a subject and verb. One word just might be enough. Right?
Ultimately choose opportunities to write often over fear of what, when and how to write. And if you need encouragement or guidance, reach out to me.