I’ve been writing almost every day for over seven years to become a better writer. That’s thousands of times staring at a blank screen and convincing myself that I can create something worth reading.
With enough practice to become a better writer, I’ve built a considerable audience that follows my work, including an email list of over 23,000 people and a Quora following of over 39,000 people.
There have been many times I thought about quitting. Times when I didn’t think writing would be a career I could make money from. Times when no one cared about what I wrote. The worst? Times when I didn’t care about what I was writing.
But I’ve learned that no matter what you want to do in life whether to become a better writer or an aerospace engineer, you’ll find obstacles. It’s your job to overcome them. To do so, you need the right mindset.
To get into that mindset, here are nine steps to become a better writer:
Write What Your Passionate About
The best writers are often experts in fields other than writing. There are famous writers who write about neuroscience, psychology, health, and social media. There’s a famous writer for thousands of different subjects. However, many of us pay attention to celebrity writers like J.K. Rowling. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean writing teen novels about magic will make you happy.
It’s important to understand where you enjoy learning because that’s where you’ll enjoy writing. See, writing is a way to clarify your thoughts to help you understand what you’re learning. Neuroscientist, Dr. Daniel Levitin notes that writing enables you to categorize and label your thoughts so you can resurface them faster the next time you’re thinking. It also helps free your mind of thought giving you room for more creativity.
Write to Overcome Writer’s Block
To know what type of writer’s block you have, you need to write more. For example, there’s the writer’s block where you’re not feeling passionate about the subject matter. The only way to know this is often to write a couple of paragraphs in the wrong direction.
Then there’s the writer’s block where you don’t have any good ideas. You have a feeling that if you share your work or keep writing, it won’t matter because you don’t care enough to write well about the topic. This hunch is often true. Many times it will cascade into deeper thoughts that question your self-worth and life experiences.
I recommend this is where you take a step back to experience life and ask yourself what you’re passionate about. When you have too few limited experiences, it’s hard to write. That’s why many of the best writers live their life to the fullest – they can always pull more creative inspiration from first-hand experiences.
Exercise and Stretch
The reason people know me as a writer is that during my fifth year of writing, it caught peoples’ attention. It was my stubbornness to be consistent that got me to that fifth year. In part, because I knew the value of it from being an athlete who had to show up at the gym and practice field every day for years.
When I’m not healthy, my writing turns negative, it’s slower to produce, and I don’t feel inspired. To write as much as I do, I work out four times a week and add five yoga sessions on top of that. That’s my regimen to keep happy, it doesn’t have to be yours. The idea here is to stay stick to habits that keep you healthy.
After all, it takes a lot of work to keep sane. Just remember sanity will keep you consistent – and that’s where most writers drop-off because they lose it.
By practicing consistency in the many elements of your life – not only writing -, it will help you refine it. And the most common-sense place to practice it? Your health. That’s why exercise and stretching are more than just making you happy, it teaches you how to show up every day to write.
The times when I made significant progress in becoming a better writer is when I was working on bigger writing projects. For me, I was either focused on writing a book for myself or ghostwriting a book for a client. These projects required the utmost focus on becoming a better writer fast.
When you’re writing a book, you need to keep in mind the entire ecosystem around writing that book. This ecosystem may include interviews for case studies, detailing every character and setting, and knowing the purpose to why you’re writing the book. There needs to be a strong enough purpose to keep you motivated to write for many months and sometimes years.
Read Books that Make You Better
If you want to become a better writer, you should read books that improve your knowledge and understanding of the world. I’ve read many books about biology, psychology, and neuroscience. I don’t write about any of these topics, but they help inform my writing for other areas.
Here’s an example: I write software tutorials about user journeys. I can better write about a user’s experience because I understand how peoples’ minds work from a biological perspective.
Don’t limit yourself to non-fiction, though. Books that improve your way of thinking come in different genres. For example, I’ve read all of Patrick Rothfuss’s fantasy fiction books. These books have enabled me to think in terms of ecosystems and even encourage me to write my own fantasy fiction.
By thinking in ecosystems, it’s helped me build several companies. Because it’s critical as a founder to see everything from a birds-eye view while simultaneously solving problems that require deep knowledge in different department verticals.
With that said, many people believe if you read more you’ll magically get better at grammar and find your voice in your own writing. I don’t believe that’s true. If you want those benefits, you need to write rather than read.
Inspiration is everywhere. We often don’t realize how many “wow” or “aha” moments we have every day. The best writers write them down. All of them.
For example, I was walking in my backyard and noticed a couple of lizards and rabbits. I didn’t remember seeing any animals before we’d planted a few trees and plants across the yard six months prior. I thought “Wow. A little investment in creating a living ecosystem will attract all sorts of life.” Right away, I wrote this thought down.
I take the most notes when I’m in conversation with people whom I respect and are experts in their field. Anytime they say something I don’t want to forget, it’s in my phone notebook or an actual one moments later. This way, I have an endless source of creative inspiration. Moreover, people enjoy that I’m actively listening to them.
Rework, Edit, and Edit Some More
I’ve never liked the first version of anything I’ve written. It takes a lot of patience, reworking, and editing to get it right. To make it easier, you should always outline what you’ll write about whether a novel or a simple blog post. Many tools like Google Docs allow you to do this relatively fast.
By outlining first, it will increase the chances you’ll have less work after your first draft is done. I highly recommend it for people who don’t enjoy the editing process.
Editing is painful. One reason, in particular, is because it’s never officially over. The truth is it’s over when you don’t have any more will or time left to do it. It’s a game of stamina. You have to be the writer who wants to get better if you’ll make all the edits you need to ensure both you and your reader enjoy the writing.
If you take these nine steps, you’ll become a better writer. It’s not about trying to do them all at once. Gradually take on each new step as a habit. In other words, you have to learn to swim before you jump off the diving board. With enough practice, you’ll get there.