Three Steps to Write Better
Not everything you put down on paper is gold. You might feel like that, especially when you’re in a passionate flurry of keystrokes, storming toward meaning. But feeling strong doesn’t equate to writing strong.
I felt strong for my first year of writing and I sucked more than anyone. Ever. (Everyone told me I should probably quit.) It wasn’t until I focused myself before and during the writing process that I improved.
I learned to think on purpose; to plan on purpose; to execute on purpose. Then, I was able to channel my strong feelings into substantial messages that resonated with people. Then I stopped getting rejected (so frequently), and I started making good money.
But even if you don’t plan on making money as a writer, or even getting published, you still need a firm grasp of the written word. It’s how you’ll land pitches and get interviews, and it’s often how you’ll exercise leadership.
Here are 3 tips to write on purpose:
1-Pick a mission statement
Success without a mission is impossible, especially in writing. Some veteran writers intuitively make a mission statement before writing. But for most of us, we’ve got to focus on our purpose before we pick up the pen.
Who are you writing for? What do you want to make them feel? How will you connect with them? (Anecdotes, evidence, personal story, humor, sarcasm, etc.)
What main message will the reader will walk away with? And what will they do after reading your article—what do you want them to do? Are you writing short or long?
What questions are you going to answer for the audience? How will you tap universal drives like hope and passion?
Reflect on these questions. Then, condense the answers into a simple mission statement.
Here’s mine for this article:
I’m writing for every entrepreneur who needs to write better. I want them to feel empowered to excel in the craft, and to lead through their writing. I’ll connect with them through inspiring personal anecdotes and the universal desire to communicate well.
The readers will come away knowing that good writing is intentional, and that anyone can write well if they find their focus before and during the writing process. This article is 800+words, and it answers these questions: how can I write better? How can I connect with more people? How can I write inspired?
The last article I wrote with this technique was a paid article. (They give me over a buck a word, so I’m pressured to perform.) I focused on audience members who were starting a fitness routine after several failures. (Very specific.) I decided I would connect with them emotionally, because I had experienced fitness failure countless times before I succeeded. (Very specific, and personal.)
So I wrote as one of my audience members, to give them hope, encouragement and action steps to stick with a new routine. I wanted to make them feel I was telling their story and predicting their future. I connected through the universal desire for health, and the universal want for hope.
With this intense purpose, I wrote one of the best articles of my life.
Every word came out with clarity and precision and meaning, and each one flowed perfectly into the next; just as each sentence did; just as each paragraph did. I was so charged by my mission that my focus didn’t stray for a second. I wrote the 760-word article in 30 minutes. I spent ten minutes editing. And I was paid 800 bucks for less than an hour of work—if you can call it work.
Just as a firm mission prevents you from shoveling time and money down entrepreneurial rabbit holes, the mission keeps your writing tight and purposeful. Draft it before you put pen to paper. Write it down or keep it in your head, and you’ll save yourself mountains of edits and rewrites.
2-Keep tabs on your focus as you write
After each paragraph, keep in mind this question:
“Did that contribute to my mission?”
If yes, full steam ahead! If not, just backtrack to where you left your focus.
Keeping track of your focus is conscious writing. And conscious writers are the only ones who get to choose whether their words mean anything. So be a conscious writer—stay focused on your mission.
Eventually you won’t have to ask the question, “Was that part of my mission?” The habit of staying focused will become so ingrained that you will sense when you’ve lost the idea—you’ll automatically scroll back to where you left off and resume the flow. You’ll be conscious of perfecting your craft and it will make you feel confident. You’ll write better than if you hadn’t stopped at all.
So, when in doubt, ask, “Is this part of my mission?” If not, go back to the last mission-focused paragraph. This habit saves you entire articles and emails. It’ll save your audience the frustration of reading things that don’t make sense—which is the main roadblock to building an audience.
This step locks you in for peak performance. Spend 5-10 minutes imagining what it feels like to flow through a perfectly structured article. See how beautiful the writing looks on the screen. Hear the positive feedback coming from your audience.
Visualization (or any meditation) puts your mind in a state of “relaxed focus”, as scientists call it, which is also the state of flow, or peak performance. Visualizing gives you the ability to write the exact feelings and thoughts of your mission without the ordinary mental hangups, like self-doubt and worry. So always do it before you write.
Roger bannister used visualization to run the first sub-four-minute mile. Countless Olympians use it for their gold medals, like Shawn White. Tesla even used it to construct the hydroelectric power generator at Niagara falls.
Visualization will work for you, for your writing, and for your business. Use it. The more specific you get, the better the outcome.
These steps helped me achieve in 2 years what some professionals never do in a lifetime: getting paid a buck and up a word. Practice these techniques every day. Internalize them. Make them your own. You will become the most inspiring, useful, clear, concise, driven, purposeful, and powerful writer you can be—I guarantee it. You’ll touch more lives. And you’ll make more money.
For more tips on writing inspired, purchase ‘Writing Tools’, by Roy Peter Clark. To get better at the fundamentals, purchase ‘Sin and Syntax’, by Constance Hale. For fast results, a strategy for landing publications, and professional edits, hire me as your coach.