2 Simple Ways to Write Better

From my childhood days, I remember vividly one piece of advice given by my father.

“Devour any printed material you ever get your hands on.”

There was a tiny shelf in the living room of our small cottage, brimming with books by writers from far and near. Needless to say, I was a voracious reader. You would find me with a book most of the time. Writing was my favorite form of expression.

Both in school and college, my essays would bring me top marks. I experienced much pleasure in transferring my thoughts and feelings onto the paper. I knew there was a writer inside me.

After finishing college, a marriage, job, and kids followed. The demands of family and work made me shelve my creativity. For 15 years my ‘writing’ was work-related stuff. I wanted to write about my opinions and feelings towards the world around me but just didn’t. I call these the ‘hibernation years’ of my life.

Two months back I finally started writing for myself, on Medium and Vocal Media. Initially, it was difficult to get the words to flow freely as before. I even gave up for a week. But now I have picked up the pace. Ideas are blooming, words are falling into place. So how did I keep the creativity alive?

I did two things consistently — reading and writing.

Yes, two devilishly simple things.

“Clichéd advice”, you scream!

I agree, but let us analyze.

woman on chair reading a book
Photo by Thought Catalog from Pexels

Read anything — but you needn’t read everything!

During my ‘hibernation years’, I didn’t read whatever I could — very much against my father’s advice — I managed 5 books for 15 years. I read more professional literature. I would read only work-related content — that too, fast scanning to absorb the key points.

I would skim through books and articles, searching for the crux of the story, and omit the unnecessary. This happened with all kinds of books, whether in pixel or in print. I always had this feeling in the back of my mind that this was a bad reading habit.

But later I realized that this is an accepted form of reading, called speed reading. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person in this world who would skim for information instead of taking in everything on the page.

Well, not so bad then. Thank you internet for helping me retain my self-confidence!

My wife had the shock of her life when I finished Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari in three days of after-work reading. When she questioned me about the prehistoric discovery in a Turkish town mentioned in the book, I drew a blank. But I did remember that it was a religious structure.

I agree there is no merit in such reading. One day I will definitely go back and reread all those books which I had sped through. But that helped to keep me interested in the activity of reading, at least.

So keep that ember of reading inside you glowing, waiting for the right time to turn into a flame.

Keep writing — may be the odd email, circular, or performance report!

As part of my job, I had to write several kinds of reports. Student performance reports, reports to newspapers, class activity reports, etc were common. I enjoyed these assignments. I easily churned out 10-page reports within a day. The only complaint of superiors was that my writings had “too much verbal flab” for a technical document.

So I had to cut down on the ‘flab’ — lose the flowery language that I prided in — which was kind of good for my writing. Writing regularly helps polish the writer in you.

Everybody and their uncle have said this.

Maybe that’s why this advice went under my radar. In fact, I was already doing the polishing — when I wrote emails, Facebook posts, and messages to friends!

Without me realizing it, this daily drill was keeping the light alive. Yes, you will water that sapling of words with every social media post and resume update!

Well, that’s interesting eh?

So am I a writer yet?

Well, we’re getting there, just a few more steps. Stay with me.

The sapling has grown good roots. Now it needs some nourishment to grow into a beautiful tree that will bear fruits. You need to transform your writing from a Facebook rant into a better, read-worthy article. Here is how you can do that.

  • Write every day — whatever happens around you can be the subject. Keeping a journal will do wonders.
  • Give your writing a proper structure — Outline and divide those Facebook posts into subtopics to refine it into an article that interests the reader.
  • Use simple words and sentences — people like their reading to be effortless.
  • Cut the verbal flab — don’t over-explain.
  • Make it personal — the reader should feel you’re standing in front of them, speaking the words.
  • Don’t overthink it — allow words to flow now, and leave the editing for later.
  • Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes — apps like Grammarly or Hemingway help with that and more!
  • Writing prompts could help in getting things moving if you’re stuck on the writing highway.

Remember, now is the best time to begin anything. Open up that editor and start typing. Let those emotions out. Let the world hear you!

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

This story was originally published in Illumination publication on Medium

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