If you’re even a little bit interested in writing and/or blogging, I’m sure you might have come across tons of advice online on how to express yourself through words better, or how to make sure your essays link properly to other essays so your SEO tactics are successful. All of that is good advice, I agree, but here’s the best writing advice I’ve ever received.
To be a better writer, give yourself permission to create junk.
To be truly great at the craft you’re pursuing, you have to give yourself permission to create poor stuff along the way. Let’s call it junk art. In fact, let’s be brutally honest and call it junk. You’ll never get good at anything on a fine day. It takes time and practice to excel at something. And along the way, just like a toddler starting to walk, there will be failures and poor results.
Routine is the golden word here. The only way to truly get better at your art is to create a routine and stick to it. If you’re trying to write better, create a time slot every day to write and stick to it. Get away from everyone else, focus only on writing and write like your life depends on it. Sure, what you write won’t be really good. I know, most of what I write doesn’t feel worthy of being published. But then again, convince yourself that you are allowed to create junk like this.
Be brave enough to hit Publish and share it with the world. Why? Most people want to write but they don’t. You have at least written out this little essay that you deem unpublishable. You’re already ahead of the rest of the world. Just hit Publish and stop thinking about it. You wrote something and be it good or bad or downright ugly, it’s still your creation.
Creating a routine and sticking to it is the most important thing you can do as a writer or artist. Or as anyone. In fact, this advice isn’t just writing; it’s applicable to everyone. If you don’t have a routine in place, you’ll have to rely on motivation to get you all excited to work on your writing skills. But we all know how motivated we are, right? There’s always later today, or tomorrow or the day after that!
Or you could rely on creativity to guide you. But unless you’ve been strengthening your creative muscles all day long, inspiration will never find you. Going the hard way, sitting on your ass and creating something every day gives you something to improve in the future. A routine of writing every day is like a seed of creativity, you never now when something you wrote 3 months ago could give you an idea to write something new.
I’ve written a lot of poor articles along the way, and I am nowhere near good. But the part I am proud of is that I have a daily schedule where I sit down with my earphones and focus on the writing for 25 minutes straight. There are days when I write rubbish, there are days when the words that come out barely cross the accepted level of quality and then there are days when what I write is intensely satisfying yet fails to draw enough traffic. But that’s something I will talk about later.
Like the typical martial arts student in movies, you don’t get better on Day One. Sure, you see a 30 second montage of the student getting better, but that’s just because movies like to lie and take you to a fantasy world. You won’t be performing at your best on the day motivation hits you. You won’t know the common mistakes possible, you won’t know the shortcuts there are. Only practice can help you get through those and get better.
As someone who is really interested in technology and Silicon Valley startups and the Web and its culture, I find it amusing that most of what I write isn’t about that. Most of it is about being productive, general life observations and maybe even posts on different things I’ve been trying out in my life. I read lots of different posts on basically the same news in tech. Writing my own take on it feels like I’m echoing the words of whoever it is that first broke the news.
That’s why I write about productivity and like in this post, why you need a routine for writing. I have a unique voice when it comes to these topics. Even though this isn’t what I actually want to write about and the final product sometimes is just poor and feels unworthy of being published, I still post it anyway. In any case, it’s a reminder to myself that I’ve written all this and that I can still write if need be.
No matter what your topics are, you have permission, from yourself to create junk along the way. That’s the only way you can get better at what you’re doing.