Resolve to write better and smarter
3 strategies to help you meet your writing goals with confidence
Published: December 21, 2011
As you reflect on the upcoming new year, what is the one thing you want more than anything? Perhaps you create a list of writing resolutions every year and seldom commit to it. If so, don’t worry. With the right tools and advice, 2012 could be the year you begin a gradual transformation from the writer you are now to the writer you want to be. You have another 365 days. How will you spend them? Like the pebble in the stream, one small shift can change everything.
No matter what your specific writing goals are, these three strategies will help you meet them with a confident spirit:
Let go of your ego. If I had written this article in college, I might have titled it “Write longer and harder.” I had an unhealthy attachment to my writing. As a beginning writer, I felt exposed. Getting any feedback that was less than positive felt like a personal hit to my ego. As a result, my writing suffered. The most common complaint from my English professors was that my essays were too wordy.
Photo by Kat Kuhl
Over time, I learned that when you hold on to unnecessary details, you risk losing your readers. Think carefully about the words you choose. Keep them because they are important to your article or story, not because it will hurt your ego to delete them.
“Learn to be merciless with your own work,” advises I.J. Schecter, a freelance writer in Toronto. “Editing yourself is hard, but the sooner you become willing to do it, the faster you’ll improve. … Not everything you write is going to see the light of day, but the stuff that doesn’t get read by others isn’t wasted writing—it represents practice and evolution. Every word you write improves the next one.”
Listen to your inner critic. As a writer with more than a dozen versions of a single essay, I know firsthand what can go wrong when you stop listening to yourself and start trying to please others. You lose your way, and your narrative veers off course. “Ultimately, the best judge of the quality of your work is that little voice in your head that sometimes whispers, ‘It isn’t there yet.’ Listen to that voice,” Schecter says.
Go with the flow. If you lack confidence, you may follow someone else’s system of writing—one that doesn’t feel right to you. “Sometimes we can get too attached to writing in a straight line, chronologically, the very next scene,” says Jordan Rosenfeld, a San Francisco-area fiction writer and freelancer. “I learned that by freeing myself up to write any scene at any place in my fiction that was calling me, I’d finish drafts sooner and enjoy my writing practice more.”
In Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less, Marc Lesser uses the analogy of river rafting to demonstrate the importance of going with the flow. He says that oftentimes it is tempting to work harder instead of stopping to change directions. “Though it’s counterintuitive, the most productive and safest action to take ... is to relax and let the current take you,” he suggests.
When I was just starting out, for example, I was excited about my first assignment for a magazine, but I felt insecure and lacked editorial direction. To remedy the situation, I imitated the style of other writers. The extra time and energy I spent writing in a way that didn’t feel natural to me ended up costing me a published assignment.Writing better and smarter isn’t about working harder or following a rigid set of rules for how you should write. Follow your own natural course, listen to your voice, and go with what feels best. Then you will exceed your writing expectations in 2012.
Brandi-Ann Uyemura is an associate editor for Psych Central and a freelance copywriter, blogger and features writer.