Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ‘Nuff said.
Last week, Aaron Armstrong (at BloggingTheologically.com) published a series of tips on improving your writing—something I am always working on. Even the best writers bleed at the typewriter. It takes practice and practice takes work.
Here is a summary of Aaron’s tips to writing more better (in my words):
- Be simple with your words—avoid Brobdingnagian jargon.
- Be coachable with your skills—don’t hate criticism.
- Be diligent with your reading—pour over books.
- Be creative with your writing—try different genres.
- Be comfortable with your voice—write for you.
In addition to that, I thought of some more practical ways to help you cultivate your skill. And, by no means do I consider myself an excellent writer, but the following things really helped me develop. (Yes, if I’m this bad now, imagine how bad I was before I developed!)
Be consistent with your practice.
Some of us—the more fit of us—have an unbreakable schedule for exercise. Few things can interrupt it. And because of that, we have energetic and disciplined days. Apply this same thinking to your writing. Book yourself on your iCal so that every day (if possible) and every week, you are sitting alone with your favorite writing tool and going to town.
The consistency will train your brain to get into the “mode” of thinking and ease transition. Besides, you’ll develop your writing muscle. Did you know you have a writing muscle?
Be useful with your tools.
Speaking of tools, don’t ignore some of the great tools at your disposal. Since I coordinate with my editor, I write all my drafts in Google Docs—a free suite of office apps available online. I’m a Mac kind of guy (I know, one of those guys), so I have my handy dictionary app up for definitions and thesaurus use. There is, however, a free online dictionary/thesaurus that works the same way.
Since I write on Christian subjects, I also like to have my ESV Bible up so I can easily search, copy, and paste. When I’m really feeling dangerous, I team it up with the Bible Web App—also free. For some, Logos stays wide open all day. The point is, find tools you’re comfortable with, but don’t go crazy with money. Be useful, but be efficient so you don’t anger your spouse.
Be resourceful with your surroundings.
When I read, I read contextually (Here’s how). I do a similar thing when writing. Not only do I plan my writing schedule (mentioned above), but I also plan my writing mood. Yea, I get all romantic with it—the lights, the sounds, the room. Lest you think of me as soft, let me explain.
I’ve learned that I think clearer and write better when I’m in my home office with a hot coffee, dim lights, brown desk, tobacco-scented candle, and Hilary Hahn playing softly. Sometimes, I’ll put some old damaged books on the side just to remind me of what I’m doing. The smell, the taste, the sight all contribute to a serious, thought-provoking, writing environment for me. Be resourceful with your surroundings—whatever they are. It’ll help you.
This will end my addendum to Aaron Armstrong’s tips for better writing. Read his, then read mine. Then read his and read mine. Now that’s exercise. Yea, you got it!
Why are you still here? Go write!