For the last however-many years, I’ve been writing regularly. I’ve even been reading, too. Not as often as I self-admittedly would like, but my body of completed books isn’t limited to young-adult novels and the magazines in the grocery store checkout aisle. That is to say, I’ve taken on some literary challenges, and not because I prefer James Joyce to Suzanne Collins. It takes effort. The same can be said about my writing. I’ve pushed myself creatively and technically to — hopefully — improve myself as a writer.
Along that trail, I’ve compromised, procrastinated, wallowed and faltered in other ways that are just irksome enough that only I could appreciate them. Admittedly, I have no plans to ever stop writing, so the following advice isn’t for the uncommitted.
If I had to pin my professional development on one prospect, I’d choose what I’ve deemed to be the surest bet among a slew of less certain options. I’d invest all of the time I could spare in the practice of writing. For content marketers, copywriters and others, it’s fundamental to mastering your craft. For managers, it’s a can’t-miss investment.
I don’t believe that I have to convince anyone who I have the capacity to reach on the merits of practice when it comes to writing. It’s understood. And yet, that’s the inherent danger of something so simple; it’s too easy to overlook. I’ve been guilty of it and, more than likely, so have you. That’s why I’m going to share some of my musings, in hopes that I can motivate you. Or, if that’s too ambitious, I’ll settle for inspiring a moment of self-reflection. In the end, I believe that your content marketing will ultimately reap the benefits of your growth as a writer. Without further ado, here are 10 tips that I am confident will strengthen your writing.
Practice makes perfect
- If only writing as part of your daily routine at work was sufficient, you’d already be a better writer by now. In truth, you need to challenge yourself in unfamiliar ways. Cleverness and creativity are achieved by breaking from predictable patterns.
- Creative outlets are everywhere. Micro fiction, blogging, poetry (it’s not just for bleeding-heart artists, I promise) and other options can all help your writing.
- Hold a creative writing competition. It’s the easiest way to get inspired writing and honest feedback out of everyone.
Developing the skills
- You run the risk of regressing if you don’t challenge yourself. You can lose what you’ve learned. You can develop bad habits. You can forget some of the tricks of the trade. None of these outcomes are attractive to someone who’s genuinely looking to improve as a writer.
- Write with a passion. To see what you’re truly capable of, write about a subject that you feel strongly about and are particularly informed on. Most people will need this perfect confluence of factors in place before they can expect to write their best.
- Read more. When you can’t write, this is the next best alternative.
- If you want to improve technically, chase down every advanced grammar concept you’re unclear on until you eliminate all of the gaps in your knowledge. Make a list of all the edits that you tend to miss or you could be more vigilant about. Then, start editing with those points at the forefront of your mind (it’s the easiest way to incorporate them into your process).
- This one may sound odd, but get into trivia (Jeopardy, pub trivia, etc.). Who knows what may pique your curiosity. Trivia has helped fuel my interest in subjects that I never thought I’d take a liking to, which in turn, has added depth to the offbeat topics I enjoy referencing so very much. And, categorically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with gaining some “general knowledge.”
Change your thinking
- Be more critical. When you fall in love with a piece from the outset, you’re not going to take an impartial approach to your editing. You’ll be hesitant to make important edits, as you’re generally biased toward leaving copy untouched. It may cost you that warm love-at-first sight feeling while you’re editing, but the finished piece will have a greater chance of actually being error-free when compared to an identical version that you edited without a sufficiently critical eye. It shouldn’t be interpreted as a slight to the writer or a critique of the editor. The inverse is true, actually. Red ink is the precursor to progress.
- I spend every day looking at words, trying to catch the ones that don’t belong. A keen eye isn’t the handiwork of endless editing. It’s also the result of a having a thorough understanding of the writing process. Editors that don’t, at the very least, have an appreciation for creative writing, may be prone to keeping copy too reeled-in, thereby limiting its creative impact.
This has given me an opportunity to take a long, introspective look at my writing. And I think I’ve arrived at a conclusion that a lot of other content marketers and copywriters will reach: I need to write more.