10 writing tips from a f*ckin’ friendly writing coach
(5 min read.) Here’s the advice I give most often in private sessions as a writing coach. Ten little ideas, some practical and a few theoretical. Wrote ‘em up as neat as I could because sharing is caring. They’re also the ten things I tell myself most often as a writer. Even after going hard for 20+ years as a professional writer with full commitment and almost no shame, I still need these reminders. Maybe you do, too. Hope this five minute read saves you some trial and error.
1. TELL THE TRUTH. Don’t lie on purpose. You might lie by accident or by error, but do your best to tell the truth as you understand it.
2. DON’T GIVE UP. Keep going until you like your text. Writing is a process. Sometimes it sucks. Don’t give up halfway. If you keep going, eventually you’ll get closer to writing something you love. Get closer and closer until you’re honestly close enough.
3. HAVE FUN. Have small fun when you write: bribe yourself with music and snacks. Even better, have big fun: tell a story you’re actually stoked about telling. Don’t bother with the story you think you “should” tell. Write the one that’s FUN.
Feeling selfish? Here’s the kicker. If you have fun, you’ll write more often. Write more often and you’ll finish projects faster. Through the sheer quantity of the numbers game alone, by having fun you’ll end up making more things that will matter to other people.
4. LAND YOUR PUNCH. Your story, your paragraph, your sentence; everything you write ends with one word. The final word is the one people will notice most. So, make the final word important. Finish strong. Land the punch.
5. DISAPPOINT YOUR ENGLISH TEACHER. Many of us secretly write for the mythical English teacher who sits in the back of our heads with a red pen. The HOLD this has on us, even as adults!
I wish I were joking, but that icy old ghost is freezing the hands of more writers than you’d believe. So, look. Seriously. Seriously, seriously, seriously for real: it’s okay to write “wrong.” Even if your grammar gets an F, your words come out in sentence fragments, or you make freshly horrible new writing mistakes nobody has ever made before? Yes. On the page, it’s better to be alive than right.
6. JUST SAY THAT. If you’re thinking something important, JUST SAY IT. Put it right on the page. Don’t be coy! Get blunt. Risk being obvious. People don’t mind as much as you might think.
7. MAKE IT EASIER. Not writing? Find a way to make it easier. Working harder is never the answer.
8. GET’ EM TO THE BEST PART. As a writing coach, people usually come to me worried about the weak parts of their writing. That’s what they figure we’ll mostly work on. Then I coach them on making the best parts even better, and they see how the entire project lifts up!
The highlights of your writing are what will make it matter to strangers. Stay focused on that. Honestly. The rest of your work still needs to be good, but only barely good enough to hold together. Kinda like a rickety bridge that shakes in the wind but can still get ’em across to the best part.
(When you think of your favorite movie, is there a part that sucks? Does your favorite book have a part that sucks? You get to do that, too. Always try to do better but know that the same way you forgive your favorite writers, people will forgive the part of your work that sucks if the best part is really special.)
9. WRITE WHAT MATTERS. Look. If you’re going to write anyway, might as well write something that matters to you. Don’t f*ck around. Do it for real. Pursue real meaning. Real connection. Real impact. Aiming for what’s meaningful adds value, motivation, beauty, excitement… and it doesn’t cost extra.
10. USE YOUR WORDS. Don’t try to sound like “a writer.” You ARE a writer. Try to sound like yourself.
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