So you’ve been wanting to write—for your blog, for your company, for industry publications, or maybe just for fun. But you’re not sure where to get started. Or maybe you’ve never even considered writing (or never really liked it to begin with), but you’re quickly realizing that you’re going to have to do it (and do it well) for your career.
As with anything, writing is much less about being born with an innate “talent,” and much more about getting better with practice. So here are a few fun and simple ways to start incorporating writing into your everyday life—and get better at it in no time.
1. Look Around
Many writers cling tightly to the idea of a “muse,” a divine inspiration that hits when she fancies and provides you with the exalted insight for your most inspired piece.
Well, it doesn’t always work that way. While there’s no denying that great ideas can’t always be forced, the mood to write doesn’t always strike when it’s convenient. Instead, take advantage of the world around you for inspiration—your walk to the subway, the stories in your Facebook newsfeed, your interaction with the cashier at Starbucks in the morning (and the afternoon). As writer Henry Miller once said, “Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
If you don’t think you have anything to write about, think again. There’s inspiration everywhere—you just have to be paying attention.
2. Find Your Space
How and where do you write best? For some people, it’s peace and quiet, while others need music or the chaotic hubbub of co-workers milling about. And most find that different places work for different types of writing: When you have to write for work, you may need to put in your headphones and listen to the crooning of Lana Del Rey, but when you’re blogging, you may prefer curling up on your couch with a glass of wine.
Instead of trying to force yourself to write at a specific location, try out a variety of different spaces until you find what works for you. Then, recreate that cozy, creative environment every time you need to write.
3. Write Now, Edit Later
Many times, your own worst critic—in writing and in life—is you. So, when you’re writing, it’s really important not to judge what you write down, at least at first. Even experienced writers don’t often crank out a perfect first draft, so setting your expectations too high from the outset is unrealistic (not to mention discouraging).
A good exercise in nonjudgmental writing is to set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write down what you know, what you feel, or whatever’s on your mind. Don’t try to write too carefully or too intelligently or too accurately. In fact, stop trying, period. Writing goes much better when you don’t work so hard at it or criticize your every word.
Even if you need to do some research for what you’re writing, start by just getting some thoughts on paper. Write down what you know, build a skeleton that you can add to, and then research the rest later. Don’t let a lack of immediate knowledge stop you.
4. Read it Out Loud
This tip is twofold. First, in most cases, you should write like you talk. Even if you tend to use a casual tone, that’s OK—it will help you sound more realistic and understandable to your readers. Try recording yourself talking for two minutes, then transcribing it. You can correct obvious mistakes later (and edit out the “likes” and “ums”!), but writing that reflects the way you speak often showcases the most authentic version of yourself.
Secondly, once you’ve written something down, actually read it out loud. As silly as you may feel, it’s the best way to make sure what you’ve written makes sense. Anything that doesn’t flow, is confusing, or is missing a word or two will quickly make itself apparent.
5. Just Write
If your goal is to truly improve, the more you do it, the better. There are so many ways to get words onto paper (or onto the screen)—so take advantage of these opportunities to hone your skills. Compose well-crafted emails and clever tweets, start a personal blog, or ask for more writing projects at work.
You can even make a game of it. At the beginning of every day, pick two or three words you want to use that day. Write them on post-it’s and stick them on the wall in front of you, and find a way to use them in your writing that day.
Today as much as ever, everyone needs to write—it’s an expected and actually quite useful form of communication. But being able to write well is a skill, and one that’s sought-after no matter what you do. The good news is you can get there. The first step is just getting started.