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Write Better Words: A Step by Step Guide

Turn up at the page (and avoid cliches like that one). How to be a better writer.

write better

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]T[/dropcap]rebuchet gets a lot of enquiries from those who would like to see their writing in both the print and online editions.

It’s a good way to break into a writing career, and many have gone on to do just that. Sometimes the submitted work is perfect, more often it needs a polish. There’s no magic formula to writing great prose, any more that there’s a magic formula for making great music or creating great art. Nevertheless, there are ways to tempt success in your direction. None of the following advice is particularly revolutionary or new, but it’s all worth following.

Write every day.  Not just once or twice a week, but every day. Constant practice smooths out the rough edges, and makes the difficult obstacles a lot less scary.

Learn to overcome the resistance. Every writer faces the resistance that keeps them from writing, the procrastination urge that pushes them toward distraction and busywork. Face the resistance instead of running from it. Just get started without thinking too much about it. If resistance is stopping you from writing every day, face it down and don’t back away.

See writing as a mindfulness practice. See writing as a form of meditation, where you can let everything else fall away for a few moments and just stay with this one activity. Get your mind into the writing space, notice when the urge for distraction comes up, and don’t just automatically follow the urge. Let feelings flow out through the written word, or see the truths within and try to channel those onto the page.

Do timed writing sessions. Just as you might set a timer for meditation, it’s beautifully helpful to set a timer for writing sessions. For example, you might do a 10-minute session, just letting the words flow and trying to stay mindful during that 10 minutes. Knowing it’s a limited time allows you to let go of some of your fears and just be present with the writing.write better

Learn to deal with the fears. All writers grapple with fears — fears of failure and not being good enough, fear of discomfort and uncertainty and going into places that scare us. Some let the fears stop them from starting, or keep them away from the writing, or running to distraction. Stay with the fears, and write anyway. Yes, you can be very uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty, and still write. You can sit with the fear for a minute, and then start writing. These fears are scary, but they’re not so bad when you allow yourself to face them.

Care about the craft. A writer crafts words, and so should care about them. That means trying to get good at spelling and grammar, the basics of writing. That doesn’t mean you’ll never have typos, but it does mean you’ll constantly try to get better at the basics. You wouldn’t be a carpenter without learning how to hammer and saw, would you? When you’re done writing, run it through a spell check and try to learn the words you missed. Look up words often in a dictionary. Let a friend proofread your work and try not to make the same mistakes over and over again. Pick up a style manual and learn some of the more common styles, and try to be consistent.

But get over perfectionism. That said, don’t let your lack of knowledge of the basics of writing stop you. Just write. You’ll learn as you go, with constant practice and care. In the meantime, you want to let go of any ideals you might be holding for yourself, ideals that might be holding you back. Dive in, and just do it. Typos aren’t such a big deal.


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