Technology Manager, Poet, History Maniac. Also, a prolific writer on varied topics
I have a strong opinion when it comes to writing.
Success in writing is not about how many hours you put it, but the quality of those hours.
And Stephen Covey explains the process beautifully in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when he talks about the “sharpening the saw. “Yes, most writers just go on writing and writing throughout their days as a dull saw but getting very little back from the time invested.
This is the very reason that out of millions of blog posts written every day online,99.9% of these blogs are read, only by a handful of people and only 0.1% of the posts rule the roost every time. So it is not really about how much effort you put into writing. It is all about the quality and precision of your work.
And the most successful writers agree that writing works like a muscle. The more you work at it, the more it develops. But there is a catch; you need to work in such a way that you actually get better at it every day.
As Steven Pressfield kills it beautifully in his book, Turning Pro.
“Addictions embody repetition without progress. They produce incapacity as a payoff.”
What Steve means here is that, if you are just doing the same again and again without improvement, you are just embodying repetition without making any progress. The key is to make sure that your daily progress moves the needle (however little) for the better.
And here are some routines that can make you a good writer if practiced regularly.
Perhaps the best example of constrained writing was displayed by noted author Ernest Hemingway when he was once asked to write a story in just six words. He wrote.
For Sale, Baby shoes, never worn.
Psychologists have found that we actually begin to see the world differently when we impose constraints on ourselves. Constraints actually help us to find out newer ways of doing things, thus expanding our creativity.
Another way to impose constraints can be to select a topic and explain it within the framework of a haiku or any other structured syllable-based poetic form. Haiku, for example, is a poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five. The poems do not have to rhyme, but they force you to make every word count. So if you are writing an article describing a sexy woman at the swimming pool, you can write something like this.
In the Swimming pool,
water drops play hide’ n’ seek
over her body
Devote 10 minutes and just write one 6-word-story or even a haiku every day. Your creative writing skills will drastically improve.
Edit someone else’s writing
Whenever you are not getting any thoughts to write, try editing. But edit someone else’s writing not your own so that you are unbiased and brutal.
Find a blog post online and copy the text into your text editor. Then look for as many ways to improve it as you can. You can some of the following.
· Spelling and grammatical errors.
· Unnecessary words that can be removed
· Anywhere you can add formatting to improve clarity (e.g. bold, italics)
· Anywhere an image could convey things better
· Anywhere an example could add information.
Remember the aim is not to find faults with the writer. Your aim to take the positive aspects of writing and incorporate those elements in your own style.
Use the rule of 3
The number 3 is a magic number. It is everywhere.
Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Musketeers, the Three Wise Men, and the Three Stooges all have number 3 in common.
Why? Because it is, the bare minimum number required to establish connection and harmony with nature and human beings. In terms of writing, 3 pieces of information can be remembered by the reader more often than bombarding the reader with more. Just see these examples.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen”
“Blood, sweat, and tears”
“Mind, body, spirit”
“Sex, Lies, and Videotape”
“I came, I saw, I conquered”
Select any topic to write about. Divide it into 3 subheadings and start writing in the free flow mode for 10 minutes. Let your imagination lead your writing wherever it likes. You can free-write about any topic that interests you or about a specific topic of your subject matter.
Use the combine technique
The idea behind the technique is to find new ways to connect old things.
For example, take a piece of paper and write some suggestions in some categories.
- People (e.g. grandmother, teacher, baby, mother)
- Programming (e.g. senior programmer, junior programmer, polyglot programmer)
- Relationships (e.g. casual, long-time, long-distance)
- Themes (e.g. grief, laughter, inequality, sexuality, the meaning of life)
Now pick up any two items and write a story for 10 minutes. For example, you can write a story about two senior programmers in a long-distance relationship or you can write about the grief caused in casual relationships and so on….
You might be surprised by how many ideas you get just by doing this exercise.
Research confirms the brain is most active and readily creative immediately following a good night’s sleep.
That is the reason that Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, first thing after waking up, goes to a quiet place, does some meditation, and grabs his journal. In his journal, he thought-dumps for several minutes. Thus, rather than focusing on searching for inputs, Waitzkin's focus is on output. This is how he taps into his higher realms of clarity, learning, and creativity -- what he calls "crystallized intelligence."
Thought-dumping is a skill anybody can develop. You just go to sleep with lots of questions and thoughts in your mind which is fodder for your subconscious mind. And the first thing in the morning, you just start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.
It will take some time to attune to your subconscious creativity but soon you will master it with regular practice.
Finally, in the end, a good writer is not known by the topic he chooses to write, as topics (creativity, work, leadership, productivity, relationships, etc.) remain the same since time immemorial.
A good writer is known for how he can bring a freshly-minted, different perspective to that topic. Creative writing is all about creating new perspectives of old existing ideas. Creative writing is rarely original so don’t fret and lost sleep to find original ideas.
As Whitney Herd has rightly said.
“Life is about perspective and how you look at something… ultimately, you have to zoom out.”
Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on January 25, 2021:
Thanks, I found each of these routines very useful.
Joy56 on January 25, 2021:
I enjoyed this because, I have not written for a long time, and found several of your comments to be useful, personally. I agree about the brain drain, each morning, I am trying to write morning pages, at the moment but work gets in the way..... Thanks for an interesting and informative article