3 ways to become a strong, confident, and consistent writer.
Earlier today, a client told me:
“I want to feel more confident about my writing. I want to write powerful, honest stories that really move people, not just fluffy blog posts with no substance. Also, I want to write more consistently. I’m sick of always putting it off and never getting around to it.”
She asked me if I could recommend a few “homework exercises” to help her out.
I said, “Absolutely.”
I emailed her a few suggestions. Then I thought to myself, “Hmm, I should post those suggestions on my website, because I’m sure she’s not the only person who wants to become a strong, confident, and consistent writer. Other folks might want to see these recommendations, too.”
So… here you go. Enjoy!
I hope these tips make your day — and your writing — a little better than it was before.
If you want to write something really strong and powerful, something that makes an emotional impact on your reader, but you’re not sure what to write about, here’s my recommendation:
1. Start collecting “irritation stories.”
The next time something happens that makes you feel irritated, angry, or frustrated… write down a few notes.
What just happened? What are you feeling? What’s the “lesson” or “moral” of the story? Jot it down so that you don’t forget. Or record a voice-memo on your phone.
This doesn’t have to be anything “major.” It could be something very ordinary, like, “A guy cut me off in traffic and then flipped me off. I’m upset, because this feels like a tiny example of a bigger problem in our culture… which is that people can be so careless and rude. We all need to treat each other better.”
Start collecting “irritation stories” — as many as you can — and compile a big list. Most likely, at least of couple of these “irritation stories” will be great topics for future blog posts, essays, articles, podcasts, and so on.
Often, our strongest writing is born from a place of genuine frustration. When you identify something frustrating that’s happening in your own life, in your industry, in your country, or in the world, and then you write about it… that’s powerful stuff.
If you want to figure out a couple of “major themes” for your writing, so that your writing doesn’t feel scattered and random and all over the place, here’s my recommendation:
2. Figure out your “repeat messages.”
There are certain phrases, reminders, and messages that you probably find yourself saying again and again. (Possibly without even realizing that you’re doing it.)
My friend Nicole used to help people train for 5K and 10K races, and she would always tell her clients, “You can do hard things!”
When I’m talking to artists and writers who are terrified of being criticized (like terrified of getting rejected by a literary agent), I always tell them, “You’re going to survive.”
My client Ellen is a career coach, and when her clients feel frustrated because they’re job-hunting and it’s not going as quickly as they’d like, she tells them, “Go back in.” (Meaning: “Get back into the ring, keep fighting, and be tenacious. Don’t give up yet.”)
Those are all examples of “repeat messages.”
What about you? What are the phrases, reminders, or messages that you continually say to yourself, or to your clients, colleagues, and friends, over and over again?
See if you can write down a list of your own “repeat messages.” Then, try to narrow it down to 3-5 messages that feel especially “important” to you right now. Like, “More than anything else, right now, these are the 3-5 messages that I want to write about, talk about, and share with my audience. These are the messages that I feel called to share with the world.”
Don’t worry if your repeat messages sound “boring” or “cliche.” That’s totally OK. Often, repeat messages aren’t particularly “original,” but it’s HOW you share each message (the specific story you tell, and the style of your writing) that makes it feel fresh and exciting, even if it’s a message that’s been said a thousand-million times before by other people.
For example, Oprah and Jillian Michaels and Tony Robbins all tell their audiences: “You are more powerful than you realize. You are capable of transforming your life.” Three people. Same message. But all three of those people share that message in different ways — with different personal stories plucked from their own lives. That’s why it feels “unique” even though they’re all basically saying the same thing.
If you want to write more consistently, instead of procrastinating and neglecting your writing projects forever, here’s my recommendation:
3. Schedule your writing sessions in advance.
Musicians need to rehearse. They attend scheduled rehearsal sessions. Athletes need to train. They attend scheduled training sessions. Writers (and aspiring writers) need to write. So, schedule your writing sessions in advance. Put these dates / times on your calendar, just like any other high-priority appointment.
If you’re committing to doing 30 minutes of writing every morning, schedule it. If it’s 45 minutes every week, schedule it. If it’s a 10-day writing-bonanza-vacation at your favorite resort in Bali once a year, schedule it. (Also, can I come?)
Whatever amount of time feels realistic for you, schedule it.
Personally, I know that if something isn’t on my calendar, it’s never going to happen. Scheduling is essential. Often, one little line of text on my Google Calendar makes the difference between “neglected dream” and “reality.”
And by the way, if something on my site inspired you to start a blog, produce a podcast, share a personal story onstage, create a family cookbook, or anything like that, feel free to email me and tell me about it. Because that’s AMAZING. And you’re amazing, too.