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8 Tips To Help You Get Started Writing

Don't erase your writing

by Jennifer on July 6, 2011

This is a guest post by Alex B. Broadway

Obviously I can’t tell you how to write. Nobody can do that. It’s like trying to tell someone how to breathe or blink their eyes.

What I can tell you is how to make writing easier for you.

If you think it takes talent to write, you’re half right. Talent has to be there, but talent is only half the battle.

Talent is something everyone has in them. Heck, talent is something you can buy at the local corner shop for a few cents. It’s hard work that separates those who want to write from those who can.

Here are 8 tips to help you get started:

  • Write something. Every day. Status messages on Facebook, Tweets and angry letters to the electrical company don’t count. Even if it’s just a few hundred words on a random topic or a sentence that describes something you saw today. Nothing written is ever a waste.
  • Don’t erase what you’ve written, no matter how awful you think it is. Like I just said, nothing written is a waste. You could always rewrite it once you’re done or if it’s that awful just shove it in the bottom of a drawer and forget about it, but never get rid of it.
  • Never write for money. People who make a living with their work will argue with me on this, but I stand by it. If I write for the sake of writing, I write at an extreme pace and my work is always better than the last, but the moment I start writing with the sole purpose of trying to make a quick buck I experience a block that lasts for weeks. Write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of money. It only deadens your creative spirit and sucks the life out of your work.
  • Eliminate distractions when you write. This is a pretty old tip, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. No matter how many times the neighbor calls today or how badly you want to watch that show on television, once you’re sitting down to write, do it. Giving in to constant distractions will later lead to an endless cycle of procrastination.
  • Write anything down immediately. If I get the urge to write I have to do it the moment the idea pops into my head. If I don’t the idea will fade in a while and I’ll never get around to putting it onto paper. You could keep a notebook with you and jot down the basics or just the opening paragraph. Keep a Dictaphone and record it. Save it on your phone. Just don’t let an idea wait until later because it’s hard to recapture that initial flair.
  • Get your environment right, but don’t push it. I can’t write when my desk is a mess. I have to clean it up before I start, and most writers have some sort of ritual before they start writing (and I’m sure something popped into your head right now).  Do your pre-writing ritual if it makes you comfortable, but don’t let it turn into a three hour session of “I have to do this before I can write because…” that keeps you from doing it.
  • Don’t show your work to anyone until it’s done. This might not work for everyone, but it works for me. Showing an unfinished piece of work to someone creates an expectation that I suddenly realize I can’t meet. As soon as it’s finished I’ll usually send a copy to a close friend so that I can get an opinion, but until then only I get to see it.
  • Ignore the critics. Even if you achieve success as a writer there will always be someone who says, “I hate this piece of writing.” Some people are tactful about it and others are just plain blunt. It doesn’t matter. Take creative criticism, anything else you can take with a pinch of salt.

This isn’t a failsafe way towards knowing how to write, but it’ll keep you focused and motivated to continue. Don’t stop writing.

What tips do you have to get started–and stick with–writing?

About The Author: Alex B Broadway is a South African author. His contributions have been published in numerous magazines, including Lyne and the Afrikaans literary e-zine LitNet. Visit his blog at http://alexbbroadway.blogspot.com.

Note: I’m on a blogging break until September. Each week throughout the summer I’ll be sharing guest posts from a different writers. If you’d like to guest post for this blog, send your idea to: jennifer@procrastinatingwriters.com.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily Suess July 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

As a freelance writer, I have to respectfully disagree with your third point. For me life is about creating a balance, and I can set aside time to both pay the bills and fulfill personal ambitions through my writing. On the flip side, your final point is like the ultimate writer’s truth. I love the way you put it: “Take creative criticism, anything else you can take with a pinch of salt.”

2 jennifer blanchard July 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

@Emily I agree. That was definitely one point Alex made that I also don’t agree with (but I wanted to give him the opportunity to speak his mind since it’s his guest post). For me it’s about balance too. Also, I am using my writing skills to fuel my dream of financial independence and location freedom. Both of which I couldn’t make happen without getting paid for my writing 🙂

3 Pat Washington July 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I agree with the Emily and Jennifer’s disagreements. As the great Samuel Johnson said, to put it bluntly, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Now, I’m not calling anyone a blockhead, but he makes the point emphatically. I write for both money and pleasure. However, when the two are combined? Heaven. There is nothing I enjoy better than to create compelling, concise communication from a client’s swirl of ideas.

4 Liz July 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

If you’re lacking inspiration, try a writing prompt! (shameless promotion of my blog).

About point 3, when you’re stuck, removing the money motive can help. I don’t think she’s saying never to write for money, even though she used the word never. I think she really means just don’t put that pressure on yourself when you’re stuck.

5 Alex B Broadway July 7, 2011 at 3:50 am

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

@Emily: To be a bit more specific on the third point, I meant that there has to be a balance, as you said. Freelance writers are obviously going to write for money, since it’s the way they make a living, as long as they don’t lose focus of the reason they got into writing: Because it’s what they love doing. Liz nailed it and I probably should have been a little bit clearer on that in the post.

6 Jennifer July 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Also I think it’s really important for beginning or new writers to focus on writing and learning and not worry about making money. It’s a big distinction that needs to be made; I think that is what Alex was getting at with point 3.

7 Lauren @ Pure Text July 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I liked the advice “Don’t erase what you’ve written, no matter how awful you think it is.” I love being able to look back at something I wrote years ago and see my progress. I also love looking back at something terrible I wrote a minute ago, and thinking, I wrote that? Wow! I have no idea why I get pleasure out of that. Lol. I guess I like seeing my range.

8 Mike July 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Love your site!

9 Jennifer July 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

@Mike Thank you! Appreciate you saying so

10 Vincent July 13, 2011 at 12:43 am

Alex nailed it! As he said accept creative criticism 🙂

11 Tara Hendrickson August 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I don’t think that Alex specifically meant to not make money off of your work. I think he meant to not write with the sole intention of making money from it. Obviously if you can sell your pieces and make money off of them then you probably should, but you should write for the joy of it and for the creative release.

I thought it was very well written Alex. Thank you for the tips. I know they will help me immensely.

12 Antoinette Keyser August 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Thank you for some excellent advice, Alex! After three decades of doubting my abilities, I have finally taken a step further than just writing something and then leaving it to collect dust: I have written and entered a drama in the RSG Radi drama competition. I still can’t believe that I actually pulled it off! I am now working on a novel, and your tips will really come in handy. Thanks again! Antoinette 🙂

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