So, you want to be a writer. Or maybe you just want to learn to write better.
Whoever you are and whatever your writing goals, enjoy these easy-to-apply writing tips from someone who knows the struggle to get started and keep going all too well!
1. Get pen to paper first; leave the keyboard for later.
It’s tempting to turn on the screen and get typing, deleting all ‘rubbish’ as you go. But it’s likely you won’t get very far that way. Writing on a computer is a detached and cerebral experience. It lacks the physical feeling of writing with a pen. If you want to write what you really believe, you need to get physical with it.
Your words are unique because they come from you: your flesh and guts as much as your brain. To release them is a physical act. That means holding the pen and seeing your messy scrawl fill a blank page.
Use computers for what they’re great for: editing. But start with a pen to discover what you want to say.
2. The right pen for the right words…
…is not necessarily the most expensive or ‘best’ one. Nor do you need the best paper, computer, desk or pot plant mascot to start writing better. The beauty of writing is that you need very little. Something to mark on and something to make those marks.
You know the cliche that great ideas begin on the backs of napkins? Well your great work may well start life on a scrap of notepaper, or the back of a receipt. Forget expensive nonsense, it’ll just be something to create a pressure to live up to.
Just get a biro, a pencil and an unlined exercise book and get started. You don’t need anything more.
3. Choose the ideal environment (hint: this is allowed to change!)
Some days I write with classical music in my headphones in a plain room. Other days I prefer writing outside a busy cafe next to a noisy main road (like today). The point is, writing is not bound to a certain environment, and not all tasks require the same kinds of stimuli.
Be flexible and follow your instincts. If you feel cabin-fever then take your notepad for a walk. If you start getting angry at passers-by for disturbing your zen state, then head for a solitary, quiet space. If you feel like you have way too much energy for this tiny room, go settle into a busy cafe to write for the day.
There is no right environment to write in, so take your pen on tour and experiment to discover what works for you. I love writing in a busy cafe to help clear any difficult periods, maybe you will too.
4. Go get fascinated by words.
Being a writer is about more than using words. I believe you have to love words. After all, if you’re going to spend your days with them, earn through them and/or express your deepest self in them, it’s probably better that you make good friends with them early.
Channel it however you wish: sign up for a word of the day and use it before sundown; read a poem to motivate the start of your week or write your own to start each day; curate beautifully written content for your social media followers.
I channel my fascination through a passion project called Word Salt. If you have five minutes, go and check it out. You’re welcome.
5. Read Natalie Goldberg.
To release your writing, get some wise guidance. And there are few writing coaches wiser than author of Writing Down The Bones, Natalie Goldberg.
Goldberg gives you the no-nonsense advice, reassurance and encouragement you need to keep your pen in hand and your hand moving. Her gift is to write her books as if she’s sat next to you. I often find my hand stretching for her books when I hit a spell of writer’s block, or I just want a bit of a kickstart to my writing day.
So make a small investment for your library. It may well help your writing appear in other peoples’ libraries before too long.
6. Now is the time to continue, not quit.
Tantus labor non sit cassus – let not this great work be in vain (roughly translated).
This is what you risk when you decide to quit. Writing is your great work. I requires huge effort and perseverance as well as reward and clarity. But it’s hard. If you quit, it risks being effort wasted in vain, and you rob the world of your great work as well as yourself.
If you need to take a break, great. Go take a walk, clean the kitchen or take a day trip. Then get back to your desk tomorrow morning and face yourself on the page.
Whether you’ve chosen to be a writer, to write for fun or to write to earn, there is a base motivation as to why you have chosen this over any other form of expression. Discover what that is, and use it as your roots on top of which you can nurture your great work.