Writing is one of my most coveted skills, so when I think about the (vast number of) improvements I want to make to my online space and indeed my general self, it always comes out on top.
One of my aims this year is to make the things I write better – to make them more, basically, not in volume (please god no Soph, enough with the reams of text) but in terms of how hard they work. In part, this includes the subject matter, of course, but it’s not just about the message. Good writing goes beyond it’s content, and as snobbish as I know it is, I do feel somewhat irked when I see people using ‘so well written!’ about something which is essentially quite shoddy, where ‘I agree with the sentiment of this’ might be more apt. My favourite writing to read sings with personality, musicality and wordplay; words are powerful things, after all, and wielding them well is a real skill.
Like many other skills, it’s something that you can work on, hone and improve – you’re not either born wonderful or born woeful at it. Some people are naturally very gifted in that area, yes, and some people perhaps are just not that way inclined, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t strive to get better, and as a (hopefully) passable writer, I’m aiming to become a good one.
With that in mind, today I thought I’d share what I’m doing to become a better writer this year. If you consider yourself a ‘serious writer’, whatever the hell that means, this won’t exactly be insightful – nothing here is revolutionary – but if you’re not from a background focused on the written word or find that it’s not your biggest strength, perhaps you will find it interesting. Alternatively, you may not, which is also fine. Come back another day to hear me wax lyrical about basket bags or drone on about personal development.
When I started writing a blog, I quite stupidly allowed it to prevent me from reading as much. There are only so many hours in a day, admittedly, but reading is so integral to writing; how can you possibly expect to write things that make someone laugh, pause for thought, or feel in any way if you haven’t experienced writing that does those things for you? This is not about getting ideas from others, because again I’m not referring to the content, it’s about – pause to do a little sick because I’m about to say something that can only be described as ‘a bit wanky’ – observing someone’s craft. For this reason as well, it’s about reading good stuff.
Yes, ‘good’ is subjective, but also; there is a lot of shit writing on the internet. This probably counts as some of it, so leave immediately and read something by someone who is genuinely good at it, because there’s also a lot of wonderful writing out there.
Potentially overused but definitely true: writing is like a muscle. I used to consider writing something that I wasn’t going to post a bit of a waste, but I’ve started scribbling or typing things I don’t necessarily intend to publish more often. It helps me to thrash out ideas or shrug things off, and it helps me to exercise that muscle so it can grow and develop. Some might become fully fledged ‘things’ one day, some will forever remain little writing seedlings, and many I’ve lost or forgotten about, but I think I’m seeing general improvement through practice.
Finding an environment that works
For a long time, I would sit in front of the tv, or in a room with other people, type some words, then struggle to shake off my disappointment at the results. It turns out I need a specific set up to get into my writing groove; I think this is probably true of a lot of people, and it will vary from person to person (in front of the tv may be perfect for you). For me the ideal environment involves solitude, no distractions, and preferably silence. Background noise can work too, but only if it’s quiet or doesn’t involve words.
Thinking about storytelling
We love stories. This is not only a highly annoying favourite line in marketing/PR/social courses and resources (sorry fellow marketers, I just can’t not roll my eyes at those things), it’s also a simple truth. Despite working in that area, when I first started writing outside of my job I would often forget that one of the most effective ways to communicate a point was by using a story as a framework. It’s actually easier to write that way anyway, so I’m trying to keep it in mind whenever I approach a post which could easily become woolly or confusing.
Summarising the message
At times I feel almost lost and intimidated when writing – which is easy to do, particularly when you’re a rambler like I am – and end up losing the essence of what I’m trying to say. When this happens, stopping to consider what the overriding message I want to communicate is and doing an exercise where I summarise what a post is about in one or two sentence/s helps me to get back on track. Sometimes I actually end up including it somewhere, and sometimes it’s just for me, but either way it helps to get to grips with my desired outcome and hey – it’s also handy for Instagram captions.
While being overly self-critical is never a positive, failing to cast a discerning eye over what you’ve written is probably going to work against you. ‘Editing’ for me used to mean correcting spelling and grammar, but for a couple of months now I’ve been spending longer doing it properly. Depending on the topic I’ll rearrange, delete chunks, attempt to bring paragraphs to life a little more, and basically try to make it stronger – it can take a little time, but it’s been worth it.
I’m also trying to get better at removing gratuitous waffle. This is pretty difficult for me, since it’s the type of thing I produce in swathes (this post was originally 2000 words). What I’m trying not to do is spend a long time desperately trying to make what I write as inoffensive as possible, which leads me nicely on to my final point.
Finding my voice
Friends who read my blog have said that it sounds just like me, or that they read it in my voice. I think this has to be a good thing, except if you hate me and the way I express myself (and if you do, I assure you I have every sympathy with that). For me as a reader it’s a writer’s narrative voice which draws me to them, sometimes regardless of subject matter, and while I do think I’ve always written with my own, I’m working on allowing it to come through more strongly this year. I’ve been experimenting a bit with what I’m writing and how, playing with words and tones and structures, learning what feels most natural and making sure to put my personality into everything. In a digital world where there will always be someone to take exception with what you’ve written, it can be hard to resist the temptation to go through your work and make it more vanilla; but unless you’re being an utter tosspot, be more of yourself. Voices are important, so let’s not dilute them.
13 thoughts on “Here are the things I’m doing to become a better writer”
I love your point about finding your own voice. It’s far too easy for everyone to end up sounding the same online and so letting your unique voice show is a skill in itself – and one you’ve definitely mastered Sophie!
Have a lovely week ahead!
You’re already such a brilliant writer Soph! I can’t wait to see how these steps turn out and what masterpieces you’ll create next!xx
A brilliant post Soph, it was so interesting to hear how you are going to focus more on writing and definitely made me think about my own writing too. I sometimes struggle with finding a ‘point’ to the end of a post and maybe like I haven’t said what I truly wanted to express, so I do like to spend more time editing it and seeing how it can improve.
I have never resonated with a post so much recently as this!! It’s something that has been really playing on mind recently. Your points are perfect, storytelling and summarizing the story is something I really want to get better at as I feel like I waffle on for days without getting to the point of my blog post haha! When I write up my posts I like to think of my uni days when my lecturers would tell me how to structure the essays haha – I need to carry this over to blogging I think! Wonderful post lovely lady, I really enjoyed reading it and tbh I think your writing has always been perfect! xx
Tash | natashatodd.co.uk
I have to agree with every part of this. Although as much as I agree spelling and grammar is important to a good writer (let’s face it, it has to be coherent), finding your voice when it comes to writing is so important. Knowing who you are within your blog stand out a mile and its one thing I love about your posts. Nothing over the top, yet honest. You are a great writer already, I can’t wait to see how you improve in the future.
I love this post! writing has been one of my passions for so long and after starting my blog, I was able to continue doing it, but continuously learning to be better is so important!
I love this! It’s fascinating to me to see how other people try to improve their writing. I have the opposite issue in terms of waffle – I’m really good at being concise so sometimes I have to remind myself to actually add in detail… y’know, put some meat on that skeleton. But it’s all a process and it’s (hopefully) enjoyable! 🙂 xx
For what it’s worth Sophie, I think you write beautifully and you definitely have a voice. If there’s one thing I want to improve about my blog it’s my writing (and my photography, posing, content but whatever haha) – I struggle to summarise SO MUCH, I think I go off on tangents a lot and then lose thread of what I’m trying to say. I probably really need to edit more, I tend to just get in a flow and write and write then just tweak typos and grammar rather than actually think about the words. You’ve definitely got me thinking about it a bit more!
Such a good read love! I’ve always loved your posts and think you write beautifully; I’m always so engaged in your posts! I need to work on finding somewhere where I can sit and just write and not focus on anything else; that’s so important!
I loved reading this blog post, it is so beautifully written.
You’re so right in that you need to find the perfect environment for writing. Mine is in bed during the evenings with a huge cup of tea alongside some snacks. I usually need complete silence as well, and it has to be dark outside. That’s a must.
Sharni | http://www.agirlandgrey.com
I loooveed this post, Soph! Mastering the art of writing has always been one of my dreams (then I decided to launch a blog in EN, instead of my mother tongue but let’s skip that fact). I find that reading other well written pieces inspires me the most. Also telling stories, although I would like to start telling more than just my story and my point of view, but hey, you gotta start somewhere! And definitely finding your own voice that will come through powerful and shiny amid a sea of blogging voices. I love love your writing and how raw and relatable it feels, yet I often think you should stop putting yourself down (personal opinion, you can tell me to f*** off), I think you have achieved pretty impressive things over the last year and you should be proud of yourself!. Sending big hugs, my lovely friend! Xx
Saida | She talks Glam
Finding an environment in which to write is really important. I find it really difficult sometimes to focus and being authentic in your writing is key. Good luck on your writing journey. Lucy