On March 10th of 2014, I started a blog and began writing. But I had just one problem. I stink at writing! I didn’t figure anyone would ever read what I wrote.
High school language arts was the only class in which I got a D. It was embarrassing. Although my grades improved in language arts, I seemed to have problems with English teachers for the remainder of my schooling days. Fortunately, the last English professor I had in college turned everything I had been taught on it’s head and helped validate what I believed all along about writing.
The point I’ll try to make here in this blog is that if I can write… then you can too. A great writer is not someone who hits every item on a technical checklist, but someone who changes lives through their passion, excitement, and enthusiasm for what they’re writing about. It’s a person who is consistently willing to deal with scrutiny, but who also remains undeterred in their quest to bless others by the things that they have experienced in life.
Benjamin Franklin once said that “If you don’t want to be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and decayed; either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing about.”
So here are 5 ways to become a great writer even if you think you stink at writing:
1. Don’t worry about what others say about your writing
If you write from the heart, people will read what you write. There are so few genuine and authentic people out there. People can’t help to be drawn to you as you bare your soul to them. The internet is also brutal place, where people say all kinds of hurtful things… but it’s also a place where people find things in the wee hours of the night that literally save and change their lives.
Don’t worry about the haters or naysayers. Let them hate. They are drains. They sit in their miserable little worlds with nothing better to do than find fault with others, and the internet is a great and wonderful place for them to do that. These people aren’t doing anything creative with their lives. Let them dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s,” but don’t let them get you down. Over time, you will have accumulated a bunch of great content for generations to come, while your critics will have nothing but permanent frowns on their faces.
2. Don’t try and be so technical
I once had a really smart scientific guy that writes big long articles for technical journals inadvertently throw and insult my way. (I knew he didn’t mean it as an insult.) He asked me in a bewildered way, how it was that so many people will read my articles but very few will read his when his are so much more well thought out and technically perfect.
I told him simply that I write in order to have a conversation with people. That college professor I referred to earlier taught me to write to people as if you were speaking to them in person. Use conjunctions, be casual, and make it easy for someone to follow along. The majority of people that will read what you write are not going to be astrophysicists or English teachers… so write to the majority of your audience. Just be approachable and down to earth in your writing and you’ll help a lot of people.
Try your best to use good grammar but don’t stress out about it. Even if you read and re-read your articles, there is no way that you’re going to catch everything, every time. I see big time publications at the NY Times, WSJ, Inc, Forbes, CNN, Fox, and many other online outlets where editors and contributors make big time grammar mistakes…even full blown typos in their writings. What’s even more interesting is when one of your grammar critics blasts you for making a few small mistakes, and then you read something they wrote and they’ve made an even bigger mistake. Even the grammar police don’t always get it right! Keep in mind that the grammar police also rarely write themselves. Rather, they find joy in finding others mistakes.
3. Use the technology available to jot your thoughts down
All of us are constantly receiving impressions and thoughts. Most of us let these precious thoughts slip through our mind, never to be remembered again. You have a lot to say… and a lot to write, but you’ve got to store your impressions somewhere so that you can come back to them when you’re in a better position to write about them and refine them. It is easier to refine your thoughts once they’re down on paper or in a word processor than it is to come up with perfectly eloquent paragraphs in your mind and then remember them.
There are many tools that you can use to jot down your thoughts for later. I use Yalla, which is a task management system I use in my company to keep things straight. I also use the iPhone’s built in “Notes” app. There are many other apps out there that you could use such as Evernote or Google Docs to jot down ideas as well. The cool thing about the technology we have available today is that you can hit the dictate button on your device and just talk into your phone or computer. I use the dictation function all of the time when I’m unable to type, or if I’m just tired of typing.
Much of what I have written has come from notes that I’ve jotted down over the years, sometimes up to ten years ago.
4. Be Consistent
One of the major problems with people who start a blog, begin a book, or keep a journal is that they quit within a few weeks or months. It’s hard work and it takes dedication as does anything that is worth doing. It’s sort of like weight-lifting. You could go weeks without seeing any progress. You figure that no one is interested in what you have to say and then give up. But you’ve got to be consistent and give it some time if you want to get better. It takes time for people to find you, but if you’re being consistent, when they do find you, they’ll have a lot to catch up on.
5. Find something that you’re passionate about
This might be the most important item on this list. If you’re going to be a great writer, you’ve got to find something that you’re passionate about. You’ve got to live and breathe the topics you write about. There has to be some kind of underlying cause that you want to support. For some, it might simply be writing for their kids to read later. Others might be passionate about missionary work. Maybe it’s politics, degrading morals, or your profession. But the best writers know their topic, are passionate about their topic, and are dedicated to helping others by changing the world in whatever small way that they can.
I can’t begin to describe the amazing adventure I’ve had as a result of posting a few simple blogs. I literally started with no online presence, no Facebook page, no Twitter account, and fully aware that writing was not my strongest skill. But I wanted to write down what I knew to be true and so I pushed forward. Ernest Hemingway once said that “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Truth has a way of resonating with those that love truth, and irritating those that hate it. So write…and be a light to the world and a defender of truth in a wold full of confusion and darkness.