How to become a better writer

better writer

When I began writing for a living,  I had an issue that hampered my progress.  Time and time again, my mindset held me back. So, what was this mindset that was so destructive? My own self-doubt.  I felt that I was not a good enough writer to be paid for my services.

Now, this is a great question to ask yourself because it means you are always seeking for ways to improve. However, you have to begin somewhere, and that means banishing your self-doubt. I had to begin trusting that I had a contribution to make, especially because I wanted to learn how to make money as a writer online.  You aren’t able to ‘sell’ your services if you don’t believe in what you have to offer.

Why I had difficulty ‘selling’ my services

I  spent a couple of years working for content mills and freelance writing websites. I worked long hours for little compensation and competed against others who were prepared to work for a bare minimum. I realized I needed to move beyond this   –  but at the same time, I felt conflicted.  What did I have to offer that was so different to anyone else?  Could I really call myself a writer? I hadn’t published a book and I couldn’t even take credit for all the articles I had written for others.

It took me some time to realize that even the best writers have to start somewhere. I had a story to share about my personal struggles and triumphs that could be of benefit to others.  Perhaps I wasn’t at the top of the heap as a writer but I wasn’t at the bottom either.

I used to have a problem deciding what to charge for my services and tended to undervalue myself a great deal when I first began writing.  I didn’t want to lose clients because I was charging too much, so I inevitably charged too little. I avoid pushy people and I didn’t want to be one of them myself. However, I realized that if I was going to become successful I had to get rid of these contradictory feelings.  So, how did I go about doing this?Sylvia Plath quote

A mindset shift

I had to change what I felt about selling my services and if you want to succeed, you need to do this too. I had to start valuing my contribution and realize that I had something to offer. I realized, too, that I did not have to be manipulative or pushy if I truly believed that I was helping someone out. I began to imagine people responding to what I had written. People don’t always see what can truly benefit them or know what’s best for their situation.  They often rely on others to tell them and to lead the way. If you have achieved a certain goal, you can bet there will be others who want to achieve the same goal but don’t know how to go about it. You can help them to go through the process because you have been through it yourself.

As writers, we have the opportunity to teach people, enlighten them, and help them to make decisions that will improve their lives. If this is the way we can view what we do, then we would be remiss not to do it – and If we are improving the lives of others, we will reap the benefits of doing so.

Reading and researching

I have always been a prolific reader – I read fiction, non-fiction, and inspirational books. I try to read the type of material I would like to write.  I often find that I am inspired by what I read and I use this as a starting point for writing an article.  A tip that I learned when helping my daughter to write essays was to read what you have written out loud. Read your content out loud and you will soon realize whether it flows or not and where it is flawed.

I have realized the importance of research in the writing process. You may think you know your topic but you will always be able to find a few facts that set your content apart from all the others. You have to set aside time to research a topic properly.  Sometimes you have to dig down deep to find gold.  Don’t just rely on what you know already about a topic or cobble together an article from what others are writing about it. I have seen so many posts that just repeat what someone else has said in their own words. That is not good enough if you want to stand out. You have to go the extra mile and come up with an uncommon angle.

Write consistently and edit ruthlessly

Writing is like a muscle and you need to write every day to build up your skill levels.  A river may start as a trickle and end up as a gushing stream. Think about your writing gathering force as the words start to gush out of you.   If you write 1,000 words a day, you will have written enough for a book before you know it. Writing 1000 words a day may not be easy at first but it becomes easier over time.  When I first began blogging my posts were 500 words long but before long I found I could not cover what I wanted to say in 500 words. Blogging is not a bad idea because it makes you write consistently – and you can build up an audience around your blog. When you write every day, you transfer the ideas in your head onto paper, expressing them physically. Turning thoughts into words becomes easier the more you do it.

Once you have stimulated the flow and you are producing quantities of words, this is the time to start editing ruthlessly.  Discard any bland, rambling offerings. Sometimes you may only end up with a sentence or two that make the cut. Brevity and clarity are important components. Make sure you have stuck to your intention.

Never settle for your first draft

Great writers revise their work multiple times. I find it helps to take a break, come back and cast a fresh eye over my work. You may find that you are quite happy with your first draft but you will usually find you can make many improvements. Think about your work like a piece of art. Does the sentence flow better if I remove this word? Can I add a word here that clarifies my argument?

However, this does not mean you need to pour over it endlessly either. You can spend too much time making changes that do not really improve the piece and time equals money. You can end up in analysis-paralysis and with the production rate of a tortoise.

People are looking for inspiration

As writers, we should not limit our vision.  Do we have the ability to inspire people and enable them to live more fulfilling lives? I believe we do. Do we all have a story to share and lessons we have learned that can benefit other people and make the road less bumpy for them? I believe we do.

Your writing should not come from the place of wanting to make money. It should come from a place of feeling compelled to share and doing what makes you happy. Write for fun, write without fear, write without the need to write, write without judging yourself, write to set yourself free. Just begin and keep doing it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you write, the more likely you are to be a successful writer.

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