1) Stop waiting for permission. You don’t need a degree or certification to call yourself a writer, just start writing. English was my worst subject in high school and college, but that didn’t stop me.
2) Write by hand. While you don’t have to do this all the time, I’ve found the physical act of writing by hand often allows my thoughts to flow better. In comparison with pushing buttons on a computer, writing by hand allows for greater freedom to explore ideas and leads to better content.
3) Read. A lot.
4) Write like you talk. Don’t worry too much about grammar and use the first words that come to mind. Language doesn’t have to be so polished. Like the tools cavemen once used to make fire, your words just need to work. The object of writing is not grammatical perfection; you just need to be getting your message across.
5) Get a second pair of eyes. We’re terrible judges of our own work. Find someone who will challenge you and push you to become a better writer. This person should be someone who knows your limitations and is not afraid to call you out on it (gently, of course). Ideally, this person will also become your teammate and partner in crime who cares about your work just as much as you do.
6) Be honest. This may be a no brainer, but I find that my worst work always stems from a lack of honesty and love. I started writing as a way to express myself and explore ideas and topics I feel were relevant to the human existence. Often times, this involves letting my guard down and allowing myself to be seen, even if it’s a bit ugly at times. When you’re honest, you tell stories only you can tell and share perspectives only you can share. This makes you unique. And for your own sake, do try your best to be honest because you shouldn’t be lying to your readers, and you really shouldn’t be lying to yourself.
7) Find your sweet spot. Everybody has one. This is where you feel most comfortable to be as free and wild as you want with your words. It could be a time of day, a physical location or both, but once you find it, go back there as often as you can. This is your writing sanctuary, the one time and place in the world you know will always accept you for who you are, treat you with kindness, and allow you to be the fully-fledged writer that you are. Find your sweet spot – respect it – and let the words flow.
8) Keep a “Spark File.” This is a Google Doc with all your ideas, notes, phrases, analogies and examples you want to use, along with half ideas that have not fully formed yet. I normally had my ideas scattered all over my room in more notebooks and post-its than I can count. Needless to say, it wasn’t very efficient. Now, all my ideas are neatly organized in one place, and I can access it from anywhere in the world. That said, write your ideas down as soon as they come up, because you will forget them.
9) Find your catalyst. A catalyst is something that sets something in motion. For me, that’s music. I enjoy listening to Chopin, Shigeru Umebayashi, Debussey and the occasional deep house mix. I’m a very visual person, but somehow, whenever I listen to music I see the most vivid movies and stories all playing out in my head. Pair that with some coffee, and I’m good to go.
10) Say something. All good writing has an opinion. Say something that is true to the core of who you are and why you do what you do. The content you produce is simply the extension of your underlying story as to why you are here and what you plan to achieve with your limited time here on earth. Ideally, your opinion aims to be part of the solution that adds to our understanding of life. I write as a way to express myself, but ultimately, it is to serve the world and inspire people to live better. Try to be part of the solution. Express your opinion and say something… useful.
by Jason Lam