12 Hard Truths about Writing

Jan 18, 2016 | Better Writing

Writing seems like it ought to be easy, until you try it. Then you realize that writing is often harder than it seems to the casual observer. Here are a dozen hard truths and suggestions about producing good writing.

There are no short cuts. Forget those promises about writing your book in a week. Great books take great knowledge, good writing and good editing. Brief blog posts take time to research, write, and edit.

There is no right way there is only your right way. It takes time to learn, but if you work at it you will develop the unique system that produces great work for you.

The only way to get your way right is to get it wrong. If you never get anything wrong, it’s because you aren’t trying. Be sensibly fearless about trying new things.

Try new methods. Do things that work for others. Keep them if they work for you. Modify them to fit your situation. If they still don’t work, ditch them and move on.

Keep records of how you write and what works for you. Written records keep you honest and help you spot patterns.

Look around for ideas. Ideas for what to write are everywhere. Ideas for how to work can come from anywhere.

Accidents may give you ideas. Sometimes when something goes wrong you have to adapt and then you think, “Hmmm. That worked pretty well. Maybe I’ll do it that way all the time.”

Your memory is not good. Five minutes from now you won’t remember that great idea. So take notes and capture ideas.

Clear goals help you get better. Be clear about what you want to accomplish this week, this month, this quarter and this year. Keep your eyes on the prize and work hard.

If it’s in your head you haven’t written it. Only writing is writing. Get it out of your head and into a file so you can start the real work.

Great writing really is rewriting. I don’t care how good you think your first draft is. If you want to do great work you will need to revise it more than once. I’m on my sixth revision of this post.

Writing is a craft and it takes time and attention to master a craft. Take the time. Pay attention.