I’m going to reveal the secret to writing. Right here and now, at the beginning of the article. Most people would hold it back. Force you to read the whole piece to find out. You should stay because you enjoy the content, the whole thing. And not because I’m purposefully withoulding the very piece of information that you’re seeking for no purpose apart from keeping you hostage. I could have easily shared it upfront so you wouldn’t have to waste time if you wanted it and nothing else.
Writing works like a muscle. The more you use it the more you improve.
This is true for most things in life. If you expected a kind of shortcut I’m sorry to disappoint. Unless you are born with powers I don’t possess you will need to struggle like everybody else. The good thing to know is that if they made it, so can you.
For these past few years, I struggled to find topics to write about. I had no ideas, or so I thought. And even when I found an idea the first thought would be. Other hundreds of other people are writing about this that have way more knowledge and experience than me on the topic. Why should I write about it if I have nothing to add to the conversation?
You have always something to add though. Even if you have little experience you might notice things that people more experienced skip over. You also have a view on things that’s unique to you. Your thoughts are more valuable than you give yourself credit for.
Decide to Write
One day I had enough. Enough inactions. Enough thinking about being a writer and not doing anything. Enough writing for myself without ever publishing anything out for the world to see.
So I told myself “Write whatever comes to mind.” No matter how shallow or uninteresting you think it is. It will suck at first, but it’s still better than not writing anything.
If you don’t have any ideas these always helped me. Write about something that happened during the day that made you:
Or made you feel:
Write for yourself first and foremost
If it’s something that other people can relate, even better, but it should not be your only goal, at least at first. You need to be comfortable with putting out your writing to the world before trying to find topics that might interest people. I still think that if you’re genuine and write what interests YOU, you are bound to find someone that can be related to your writings and what you’re passionate about. You should not feel forced to write anything just because that’s what my readers expect from me. With that, I don’t mean that you should not listen from advice from people reading you, but don’t let them pull you towards a place where you lose the will to write.
On the other hand, it is paramount that you are open to criticism and don’t take attacks too personally. If you put yourself out there sooner or later someone is going to complain about you or something you do. Usually, it is nothing personal and you shouldn’t take it as such1.
Have a place to write notes (digital or physical, doesn’t matter). It is better if it is as available as possible. You don’t want to be walking around (or doing anything else) and come up with an idea just to find out that you left your Mac at home. It needs to be portable and always with you. That’s why I generally use my phone to jot down ideas most of the times.
Every time you have an idea or think about something that sounds like an interesting topic write it down.
Yes, even if you’re about to fall asleep. Or busy. This is not a must, but you will miss out on many ideas if you don’t.
At the same time, life is busy and at times you won’t be able to. Don’t get too pissed when you can’t. If it’s an important idea, it will come back. Trust me.
Here we are not looking for quality so feel free to always write down whatever comes to mind. We are going to go through them later to find out the best ones from the pack. So don’t fuss over it.
Refine Your Ideas
After you have your ideas in a safe place you can come back to them after a few days and try to pick the best ones to refine further. Your definition of best ones will change based on the day. There might be periods where you get more ideas or ideas that you feel are more interesting to develop in complete articles and there might be periods with less or shallower ideas. I call them idea abundance and draughts. It is normal. You will go through the cycle as everyone.
What’s not normal is not having any idea at all. It might happen at times, but when it does it’s usually a signal that you are not having enough meaningful experiences and/or are not growing as a person. This is not always the case and it might be a generalization but it’s what I’ve seen in my own experience.
Fortunately it is an easy problem to fix. Just going to a park sparks me with creativity while staying home strifes it. You need to find what makes it tick for you though since we’re all different and the ambient that lets you come up with ideas might be different from mine.
Pantser or Gardener
Once you have refined your ideas from a lot of unrefined thoughts to just a few unrefined thoughts you can start writing either an outline or a first draft based on it.
I’m a pantser so I like to start writing right away without doing much planning beforehand. That means that later on, I will need to go back and move sections around while doing heavy edits on the piece.
If you are a gardener instead and you prefer to first outline your stories you will have a harder time in the beginning since you can’t just get writing right away. You need to have at least a plan around what you’re going to write. On the other hand you are going to reap the rewards of all the planning later on when you edit since even though you might change the structure of the post and do your usual editing roundas you don’t have to shift sections around nearly as much as a pantster.
These are the two extremes, you might be in the middle between them or have your own way of writing. It doesn’t matter. What does is that in the end you will have the first draft.
Once you finished your first draft you will think that you’re done. You’ve finished writing. You really made it.
Oh boy. You’re funny.
It is only the beginning.
No, it’s not that bad. Since it’s only an article and not a whole book it is not as tedious. It is now time to take a few days to break. What? Yeah, you heard right. you need a break to detach from your writings just enough to be able to read it as an external person would see it. It obviously not the same as someone else reviewing it, but it is way better than editing right away.
Of course, this approach is not always possible. I only do this for a few articles a year. Since I’m writing every day most of my articles are lightly edited, especially when I’m busy working. Everything I’ve written here is what works for me and are just suggestions. You need to find what works for you. It might be the same or you might need to tweak a few things. Or a lot of things. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the final result.
Your readers will not read your first draft. Not even your second draft. So don’t fret over it too much.
I’m going to go into more details about editing in a later article.
The final step is to share your creation. You have poured hours upon hours in your work, but the work is not finished until it’s out there for people to read.
I always advise everyone to have their own place that they can call their home on the internet. One place where they publish everything they write. One place they own the keys to. For me it’s my website.
That does not mean that you can’t crosspost what you write anywhere else, but that for everything you share you should also post it on your website. It is not something you must do and you will be fine without having one if you don’t care about it, but having one place where you can link people towards to read everything that you write is invaluable. 2
At times it is and in these cases, you should just block/ignore them. Unfortunately, there are people who go to extreme lengths to harass others, not much you can do about it. ↩
If you crosspost, as I do, make sure to set canonicals url that point to the original version of the article so that Google doesn’t consider it duplicate content and downrank you for it. ↩