1) Research later. I’ve noticed in my attempts to write well, I would sometimes let my research get in the way of my actual writing. For example, I would come to a point where I don’t know enough about an example or analogy I want to use and stop everything to research for way too long. This often leads me to a point where I don’t even remember what I was even writing about. When writing, don’t worry too much about factual accuracy, just get it out there and keep moving. Focus on fixing the little bumps and grooves later, otherwise, you risk never even finishing your first draft.
2) Good writing is rewriting. This is not to say you need to overhaul your initial draft. I’ve noticed a complete overhaul often eliminates the original raw integrity most 1st drafts have to start with. Think of rewriting as a trimming your garden. Take out the fluff. Leave the essentials.
3) Show up. Keep on writing. Even though it may feel as if you’re writing complete garbage, it’s probably not as bad as you think. If anything, getting through the garbage is what’s required to get to the goodies in the first place. But you won’t know if you don’t show up.
4) Write for just one person. In my attempts to be as helpful as possible, I’ve tried to turn my writing into something that everybody can identify with, which not only weakens my work, it’s impossible. Sorry. Some people will just have to be left out. You’re not any worse of a writer or a person. It’s a simple understanding that watering everything down to the lowest common denominator leads to ineffective and mediocre work.
5) Don’t be afraid to abandon bad work. Sometimes your stuff really is crap. You may spend days and days on a piece and still can’t get it right. In fact, you might have rewritten it so many times to the point where it’s lost any element that appealed to why you wanted to write it in the first place. Sometimes success is knowing when to quit.
6) Creating and critiquing are two totally separate activities. Creating is letting your heart spill onto the page. And yes. It’s supposed to be messy. Critiquing is the slow process of combing the sand. Picking out little things and deciding if you want to either keep, improve, or throw it out completely. They both serve a very important function, but they work best when done separately. Don’t mix the two.
7) Take a break. Go out and enjoy the sunshine every once in while. As writers, we can easily turn into hermits and not go out for days on end, but eventually you’ll run out of things to write about! It’s essential that you set time aside to live your life. Consider it a chance for you to recharge your batteries and gain inspiration. In fact, most of my ideas come when I’m out for a run or folding laundry.
8) Done is better than perfect. As a writer, your goal is to make sure you’re putting out content that is beneficial to your readers. Don’t let the fact that your grammar, syntax, or diction is less than perfect prevent you from spreading good ideas. Remember, you’re not writing for your teachers anymore.
9) Finish your pieces as soon as possible. Don’t let anything sit for too long because they will grow stale and at worst, become neglected and unfinished. I admit I have many pieces that will never see the light of day because I left them alone for way too long. The moment you start a piece is when you should try your best to finish it, even if it’s an ugly first draft.
10) Be part of the solution. We’re all a little incomplete and broken in our own way. Try your best to benefit your readers with every word you write. Whether it’s an inspiring story that calls them to action or simply poking fun at the absurdities of life, strive to add to the human experience. Language is powerful. Your words make a difference.
by Jason Lam