While many people assume good writers have an innate way with words, this is rarely the case. Instead, good writing takes loads of practice. Here are six daily exercises that can help you become a more effective writer.
1) Get Organized
This exercise is three-fold: organize your day, your mind, and your workspace.
Make time to practice your writing. Check your calendar at the beginning of each week and carve out time to do a bit of writing during the day. If possible, try to do so at the same time each day. Maybe write during your lunch break. Or if you always get to the office at 8:45 every day but your day doesn’t start until 9, use that extra 15 minutes to write.
Pro-tip: Don’t allow yourself to skip your daily writing time. Create a calendar event or a reminder on your phone. Don’t erase the event or reminder until you have finished it for the day.
Create an outline to manage your thoughts. Collecting your thoughts and ideas can help you write a better, more organized piece. And it can help you do it quicker. Your outline can be as detailed as you’d like. Some people need a point-by-point outline while others jot down a few notes.
Pro-tip: Practice both types of outlines to see which one works best for you.
Organize your workspace. Studies and articles have argued for the benefits of both an organized workspace and a cluttered one. While clutter affects every person differently, you cannot work if your space is not organized the way you need it to be.
If you like stacks of paper on your desk, that’s fine. Just make sure you know where everything is, so you can grab it quickly. If you spend 20 minutes looking for notes before you start writing, you cut considerably into your writing time.
Pro-tip: Try different desk arrangements. You might find that your desk setup wasn’t all that efficient to begin with.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Take Stephen King’s words to heart. Read every day. Reading makes you a better writer. It exposes you to different writing styles, broadens your knowledge, and expands your vocabulary.
Pro-tip: Read different genres and styles of writing. You aren’t going to learn much if you only read a specific author or type of writing.
3) Time Yourself
Giving yourself a time limit can be stressful, but it can discourage you from agonizing over every word. If you’re really serious about the time limit, consider using The Most Dangerous Writing App. And yes, this app really is dangerous. If you go beyond the time you have allotted yourself or if you stop typing for too long (only about three seconds!), your work will disappear.
By using a stream of consciousness-esque writing style, you can get all your ideas down and worry about editing later.
Pro-tip: Give yourself a specific goal to accomplish by the end of the time limit. If you just say, “I’m going to write for 15 minutes,” you might only write for five of those 15 minutes. If you say, “I’m going to write a full page or 500 words in 15 minutes,” you have a goal to strive for, which makes your writing time more meaningful and productive.
4) Edit Heavily
Once you’ve written your content for the day, wait a few hours and then come back to edit it. And don’t be afraid to cut words, phrases, sentences, or even entire paragraphs from your content if it makes the message clearer or your writing more concise. As the father in “A River Runs Through It” said, make your writing “half as long.”
Pro-tip: Read your content aloud when you edit it. It will give you a feel for how your writing flows, as well as allow you to catch mistakes and awkward sentences. By identifying common mistakes in your writing, you can address and get rid of them as you work on improving your writing each day.
5) Write, Write, Write
This one is obvious, but remember practice makes perfect. If you never practice something, how could you possibly get better at it?
Pro-tip: Try different writing styles such as:
- Stream of consciousness
- Web content
- News articles
- Legal briefs
6) Practice a Specific Section of Your Content Each Day
If you’re the best in the world at writing a conclusion or a catchy call to action, that won’t matter if your readers can’t get through your meandering introductory paragraphs or if your writing veers off into side tangents unrelated to your original topic.
Practice the parts of your writing that need improvement. You might dedicate Mondays to introductions, Tuesdays to calls to action, and so on.
Pro-tip: You might find that the stronger parts of your writing suffer if you only focus on bettering the parts that need work. Continue to hone all aspects of your writing but pay particular attention to weak spots.
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