Written communication isn’t easy. If it was, there would be no misunderstandings on social media, and we would never have to go back and clarify something we’d written after the fact. But that’s not the world we live in.
The need to improve one’s writing skills isn’t reserved only for those who want to be published novelists or award-winning journalists—there are endless benefits to being able to communicate through the written word.
If you want to become a better writer, here are nine things you absolutely need to give up today in order to succeed. We’ve divided them into parts designed to help you do two things—write with precision and write with artistry. Precise writing is technically correct and easy to understand. Artistic writing conveys a message or story in a way that resonates with the reader. Improving both precision and artistry will make you a better communicator no matter what your writing goals are.
Writing With Precision
1 Give up your time.
Good writing takes time. The less time you invest in dashing off a quick message, the more likely that message is to be misinterpreted. Slow your roll, wordsmith! Does that text you composed accurately convey your thoughts? Good written communication requires attention to detail. You can’t pay attention to details if you’re rushing.
2 Give up filler words.
We sometimes write like we talk. Conversational writing can be good, but writing that’s cluttered with filler words and phrases that we often use in conversation is not. Here are thirty-one to eliminate. And here are more tips for cleaning up your dirty, wordy writing.
3 Give up your disdain for outlining
Unless you’re drafting something short and sweet, an outline can be a lifesaver. A builder wouldn’t dream of constructing something as complex as a house without a plan. Constructing any sort of long-form writing is easier with a plan, too. Even the simplest of outlines can save you a lot of time organizing and revising later.
Of course, some writers follow the “pantser” (as in flying by the seat of your pants) method, and that’s okay. Just be warned that if you don’t take time up front to organize your thoughts, you may have to commit to a more grueling revision process after you finish your draft.
4 Give up the belief that you don’t need to proofread.
Even seasoned writers need to review their work before they publish that article, post that tweet, or send that email. It’s essential to not only look for spelling and grammar mistakes but also make sure your writing is clear.
Pro tip: Read your writing out loud. Does it read smoothly? If you find yourself stumbling as you read, revise for clarity. Shorter sentences are easier to read and understand than long complex ones. Keep it simple . . . unless you’re striving to be the next Tolstoy.
Writing With Artistry
5 Give up the impossible dream of a perfect first draft.
It’s important to write clearly and correctly. That’s a worthwhile goal. But you’ve got to get the words out first. Turn off the oppressive voice of perfectionism while you work on your first draft and focus on flow, instead. Try to write without stopping to make corrections—you’ll do that later. Instead, let the thoughts in your head spill onto the page. You’ll only get at those interesting and artistic thoughts if you stop interrupting them long enough to let them speak.
Perfect first drafts are like mythical unicorns—they exist only in our imaginations. Write first, edit later.
6 Give up the belief that good writing depends on talent.
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Innate talent won’t save a lazy writer, but hard work will help even a struggling writer succeed. If you don’t have a gift for writing, but you’re willing to put in the time to develop your skills, you can’t help but improve.
7 Give up the need to talk about writing more than actually writing.
Aspiring creative writers and bloggers are often guilty of this writing sin. We love to talk about the writing we’re going to do and share the ideas we have, but when it comes to actually putting our butts in our chairs and our fingers to our keyboards . . . not so much. If you talk about writing more than you actually write, it’ll be difficult to succeed. See tip number one!
8 Give up needless distractions.
Hey! You there! Step away from the smartphone.
If you’re going to write, just write. Silence your phone. Close those unnecessary tabs. Maybe go into full-screen mode to keep your writing space clutter free. You’ll be surprised how clearing mental space for writing allows the words to flow.
9 Give up your excuses.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Writers write.” What does it really mean?
It means that if you want to call yourself a writer, you need to actually be one. If you find yourself making excuses instead of writing, it’s time to take a look at your priorities. Writers prioritize writing time—it’s as simple as that.