You’re a writer, a content creator. People expect you to churn out really good, really engaging, and really awesome content.
What they don’t realize is that it takes some serious effort to create great stuff. That article that is so easy for them to read is actually really difficult for you to write.
Thankfully, through the sheer power of habits, you can get to the point where creating awesome content comes naturally. Habits have the uncanny ability to stick with you. They’re a pain to implement, but they flow effortlessly after that. In the interest of making your tough job a little bit easier, here are a few daily habits that will make your content much better.
Remember, these are daily habits. Skip the weekend if you want, but be sure to put these into practice during the days that you’re expected to produce content.
1) Read something really well written.
The next few tips have to do with reading. One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read what others have written. You’re not going to become a solid professional writer if you spend all day reading low-quality content. But if you spend more of your day reading professional-grade content, then you will improve.
The tough thing is, you have to be discerning to find the really good stuff online. To start, here’s a list of places where the content quality stays high:
Don’t be afraid to pay for top-tier content. There’s a reason it costs money, and it’s often well worth it.
2) Read something funny.
Reading humor can help shake up your brain in ways that loosen up the creative portions and help you produce better content. If you need to get your fix of Buzzfeed or The Oatmeal, go ahead. Don’t feel guilty about it.
Sometimes, the best few minutes of your day are spent laughing. You’ll enjoy a lot of benefits besides just the kick you got out of the hilarious content. You’ll enjoy the benefit of writing better content yourself. Your content may not be funny, but it will be good.
3) Read something outside of your niche.
If you want to get better, read broader.
Reading other stuff -- really different stuff -- has a way of cross-pollinating your own writing specialty. For example, maybe you write about conversion rate optimization all day. If that’s the case, then take a few minutes to read a blog about yoga.
Yoga?! Why? Because the style, approach, and nature of content that is outside your niche can help you within your niche.
Good writing, regardless of what it’s about, will help you become a better writer.
4) Read something you wrote in the past.
Great orators spend hours watching their speeches. Professional athletes analyze videos of their moves. Politicians watch themselves on TV.
You’re a writer, so you should read content that you wrote in the past. The goal of reading past content is not to edit it. It’s too late for that. Instead, you want to learn from it.
What was good about it?
What things do you write best about?
What wasn’t so good?
What sounds awkward?
Ask yourself those questions and spend a few minutes getting a better understanding of how you’re doing as a writer.
5) Write for at least 30 minutes.
The most powerful tip in this whole list is right here: Write for at least 30 minutes every workday. (Skip the weekends; you deserve the break.)
When you get into the habit of writing on a daily basis, your brain begins to anticipate it and prepare for it. This is especially true if you write at the same time each day. Way before you put hands to the keyboard, the brain’s juices are flowing, allowing you to be more creative, more precise, and more skillful during your writing time.
Every 30 minutes that you spend writing is 30 minutes that you’re getting better. Progress may not be huge, but at least it’s progress.
6) Force yourself to talk to someone.
Talking is different from writing. But talking can help you become a better writer, too.
If you want to write better, then talk better. You can’t improve your talking skills by staying silent all day.
If you work by yourself, call up a friend. If you work in an office, shoot the breeze over lunch or coffee. Just pick someone, and be conversational. Using your writing skills to some verbal interchange will actually help your writing become better.
Let’s face it. Writing is a mental challenge. You must be in keen mental shape to be able to produce the kind of stuff that you’re producing.
So, if you want to sharpen your mind, then get out of your chair, head for the door, and don’t come back for at least 10 minutes. This isn't a brainstorming walk. You don’t have to think about anything, let alone your subject matter. Instead, you just move your body, and your mind will take care of the rest.
8) Write fast.
It may sound strange, but some of my best content is stuff that I wrote really fast.
Obviously, it had tons of typos and grammar errors, but overall, the content itself was pretty darn good.
I’ve recently discovered the reason for this. The mind can generate thoughts way faster than the hands can type them. If, however, you’re able to type faster, you're able to transcribe more of those thoughts, along with extra nuance and clarity.
Your fingers will never be able to match the speed at which you think, but when you do produce content rapidly, it has a much better chance of aligning with what you’re thinking.
I’ve met people who say “Oh I can’t write. It just comes so slow!” Actually, I bet they could write, if only they type it out faster.
You don’t have to turn on your supersonic speed all the time, but it’s helpful to get in the habit of writing fast.
Write fast. Edit slow.
9) Google any grammar questions.
An important part of writing is the mechanical stuff -- making sure you’re not breaking any grammar laws or violating any rules.
(A few well-intentioned rule breaking is okay, but if you’re being sloppy, that’s just bad form.)
If you come up against a grammar issue while you’re writing, do a quick Google search on it. It will only take a few minutes, but you’ll definitely learn something and possibly avoid an embarrassing mistake. Get into the habit of double-checking your grammar, even if you’re only slightly suspicious of your potential mistake.
Stay positive. Nobody becomes a better writer automatically. It takes months, even years, to form habits. But once those habits are in place, things can flow without any thought and hardly any effort. Before you know it, your writing is improving exponentially.
What things do you do to become a better writer?
Originally published Feb 10, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated August 27 2017