Advertising legend David Ogilvy said that he preferred people with “well-furnished minds.” That’s what this post is about. There are lots of technical details to writing and you should master them. But there are also things that give you a well-furnished mind. That will improve your writing, deepen your knowledge, and enhance your creativity. Here are five.
Vary Your Inputs
It’s simple. The more you know, and the more different things you know, the more connections you can make. That means you can write better and have better ideas. Expanding your range will increase your knowledge, writing skill, and creativity.
The easiest way to expand your range is by reading. There are millions of books available. Novels will help you gain insight into human beings and the way we act. There are also books on every subject imaginable.
Do Some Writing Exercises
Find writing exercises that challenge you. Books on writing overflow with them. There are also writing exercises on the web. Sometimes they’re called “writing prompts” or “writing provocations.”
Don’t do just any exercise. Look for something that challenges you and that helps you grow. I recommend exercises that scare you a little.
Read a Book About the Craft of Writing
There are plenty of books out there about the craft of writing. Here are three of my favorites:
If you are thinking about writing books, fiction or nonfiction, get a copy of Stephen King’s great book, On Writing. You’ll learn a lot of things. One of them is how one of the most popular writers of our age goes about writing books.
If you want to improve your writing for articles or blog posts, I suggest The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William Blundell. This has been a classic on feature writing for years and it will help you craft better blog posts, too.
If you just want to investigate the tools for making your writing memorable, there’s a recent classic for that. It’s Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. You’ll learn how to make your writing memorable.
Walking Is A Writer’s Best Friend
Need some ideas? Go for a walk. Frederick Nietzsche said that “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Many other writers feel the same way about walking. So do many painters and composers.
One reason walking is so good for getting ideas is that your body is on autopilot, especially if you’re walking in nature. That leaves your mind free to roam and come up with ideas and connections. Your challenge is to be sure you have a way to capture those ideas when they pop into your head.
There’s another thing about walking. It’s one form of a classic process. Anytime you can put your body on autopilot, your mind can roam free and scavenge up ideas. That’s why so many people get great ideas in the shower.
Interview Someone You Don’t Know
A great way to learn new things is to interview someone you don’t know. That person might be a legendary schoolteacher in your town or a government official. It could be a young Mormon man just back from his two-year mission or that old man in the coffee shop who’s lived in the neighborhood for fifty years.
You can interview them about anything. Interview them about their life story or how they won an award. Contact them and set up an interview. If possible, set it for an hour. You’ll get a better interview if you get past the obligatory 15 minutes of small talk and spend some real time digging into the subject.
Sometimes there’s a bonus from this exercise. Sometimes you make a friend.
Vary your inputs.
Do some writing exercises.
Read a book on the craft of writing.
Walking is a writer’s best friend.
You’re most creative when your body is on autopilot so your mind can roam.
Interview people you don’t know.