14 habits to keep you writing

Woman writer by Jerry Bunkers

When the words don’t flow, get away from the laptop. Starting at the screen is self-destructive.

It seems everyone is expected to be a writer nowadays.

Marketers, teachers, employees-turned-company-bloggers, social media users, nonprofits needing grants, plumbers promoting their services.

For some of us it’s painful to write a blog post, special offer copy, or even a tweet. Let alone an update from the CEO for the corporate website.

Here’s the good news: there are some habits that will speed you up.

Does that sound like a promise you’ve heard elsewhere? 

My habits are distilled from decades of writing and editing. I don’t have any quick fixes, only habits that have kept me cranking it out over the years.

1. Collect ideas. When you have a lot of ideas up your sleeve, writing gets easier.

Whether you’re shopping, having a coffee, reading a paper, look out for ideas you can use. I get most of mine when I’m hiking in the mountains.

2. Capture them instantly. I tap mine into my phone. You can also record them (if you’re phone allows).

3. Write a working headline as soon as you get to your computer. That’s another article or post started. The worst bit is over.

4. What if you’re under pressure to write and you have no ideas?

Do you sit at the computer and try even when you don’t know what you want to say? Avoid that at all costs.

Draw a mind map – with a pen, away from the screen.

5. Tell a true story. Relating an experience is often easier than making generalisations. In a story, the information already exists. You only have to tell it. When making generalisations, you have to think about what to say, and then write it.

6. If that fails, write a list. There’s no shame in it – thousands of bloggers do it every day.

7. Steal great first sentences. As you’re reading other people’s writing, make a list of ways to start. It can be a question, a quote, a confession, a wish, an anecdote, a news snippet, or even something that happened in your day.

Keep and adapt.

8. Structure first. It’s difficult to structure your writing as you go. Make a plan first. Brainstorm everything you can think of to include, then connect the points.

9. Find your kind of writing. What do you find easier? Reporting facts is often easier than stating opinion. Writing up an interview as a Q and A is usually quicker than as a narrative. Writing small chunks and stringing them together later is less exhausting than doing a long chapter at once.

10. Get on top of grammar.  Or let the spellchecker look after it. It will catch most errors. If you’re unsure whether to write their, there or they’re, change the sentence. Stick to conversational language. Finish up and ask a colleague to read through.

11. Keep to the point.  Cut words that don’t add anything – words like that, personally, however, alternatively, hence, unfortunately, happily, indeed, that said, unbelievably.

12. Don’t add padding. If you’ve said everything you wanted to say – stop.

13. Write several pieces at once. This may sound like a recipe for chaos but it isn’t.

Have as many documents on the go as  you can. Start with only a headline, a few bullet points, or a clipping from a web page.

Add small or large chunks any time. When you have enough chunks to call a draft, sit down and revise.

14. Stop polishing. Read it once for structure, once for language and then … start on your next piece .

What are your writing blocks? What do you find the worst part of writing in your job? Add a comment below – I’d love to know where your writing pain comes from and I’ll try to help.

Photo credit: Jerry Bunkers on flickr

About Liz Wilson

Liz Wilson is Content Manager at Orange in Switzerland. This is her personal blog where she likes talking about content, copywriting and social media.

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