At the risk of sounding overly selfish, I’m writing this mostly for me because I need to exercise my writing muscle. I can sense it’s starting to atrophy a bit, so I need to write something. Anything. So why not write about writing?
TL;DR: If you want to get better at writing, you have to increase both writing frequency and content diversity. Write more AND write about more.
There is a TON of advice out there about how to write well and how to write more often. Write every day. Don’t write every day. Use a kitchen timer. Write or Die. (That last one is a bit extreme for me.)
I like a hybrid approach. I block away 30 minutes every morning for writing. Do I write every morning? No. Do I feel guilty about that? No. Mostly because I write MOST mornings and when I do, I set a timer for at least 20 minutes, get into a serious flow, and 90% of the time, I am able to write something I feel good about.
(Brief tangent: Set your expectations realistically for that 20 minutes. Sometimes all I’m able to do in 20 minutes is write two sentences. But they are two sentences I am damn happy with.)
(Another brief tangent: I write in the morning not because I’m a “morning person” but because I’ve tried other times and they don’t work as well. You won’t know what time works for you until you give it a shot.)
As I’ve developed the habit of writing more, I’ve realized that it’s a lot like exercise. More obviously, they are both habits and there is a basic process for forming any habit. But also, just like when I miss a few yoga sessions and my muscles start to miss it, if I miss a few writing sessions, my brain starts to miss it. And, the longer you stay away, the harder and harder it becomes to get back.
I don’t feel like it. I have so much other stuff to do. Isn’t there a new Game of Thrones to watch?
That’s where variety comes in. Write about different stuff. Increase the diversity of your writing content. As much as I am passionate about my research, there are only so many times that I can type the word incivility before my eyes start to fog over. So I write about other stuff to change it up. Just like you need to change up your exercise routine or you’ll get bored with it.
So how do you exercise the writing muscle? Write more and write about more. It’s that simple. And that hard. But the rewards are priceless.
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