Writing strategies for the beginner

A compendium of the advice that I can impart to aspiring writers. None of this is rocket science! Take what is useful to you, whatever makes you write – go for it!

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Have a why that is inwards focussed

Channeling my inner Simon Sinek, the “why you want to write” is the most important thing to get right. Are you writing because you like writing? because you want to build a brand? because you want to learn something? My #1 tip is to focus on the inward reasons rather than the outward reasons. Most folks I talk to approach it as a brand-building exercise. A conversation that goes like – “Look that guy writes about stuff that I know about as well, he has 50K followers, looks easy, I also want some of that brand action”. While this is a valid reason to write, in my experience this causes you to approach your writing as a job, a chore. You will give it up halfway. I will not judge your motivations, I can only tell you what worked for me. I picked up writing as a mechanism to figure out how to learn new things. I wanted to make sure I actually understood what I thought I knew. When you put words to paper it forces you to organize your thoughts. It forces you to think through things and that’s where the learning happens. Find your inward focussed reason – If you were the only writer in this world, would you still write? Why?

Forget about the audience

Once you have found your inner reason, forget about the audience. You are writing for yourself. You have your personal goals that you want to achieve. This is an incredibly freeing feeling. You don’t need to worry about what people are going to think. It’s all about you. This also frees you from making a perfect thing. You can make spelling mistakes, you can make grammatical mistakes and have your writing look like a jumbled mess. It’s all ok, Write as if nobody is reading.

Commit to a schedule and write no matter what

The first words you will write will suck. Just keep writing – Do it MVP style. The goal is to keep producing and learn via doing. Having a schedule will force you to keep writing. As you write more, you will get better, its an iterative process. Stick to it.

Some common questions.

Does writing regularly imply that I have too much time on my hands? What sort of signal does it send to my current employer?

I get this question a lot. Writing regularly on your own time is, in fact, helping your employer. Getting good at writing leads to getting better at communication. You are getting better at forming and organizing ideas → core skills that help employers immensely! Why would this be a bad signal?

What if I have nothing interesting to say?

It doesn’t matter. You are writing for your self. Writing is a method to work out your thoughts. If it is interesting to you, it is interesting, full stop.

I don’t have any new ideas and isn’t writing about obvious stuff a waste of time?

You’d be amazed to find out that what you think is obvious is not obvious to some segment of the population and vice versa. If you are stuck, a great first step is to be a summarizer. Start summarizing the things you read about a topic that deeply interests you. It will make you remember more of what you read. As you start down this path you will start finding unique connection points which will lead to new ideas. Great ideas come from connecting obvious strands into non-obvious outcomes. Start summarizing, start writing!

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