Words on a Page Writings about writing

You should always have a reason when writing

A woman sitting at her desk, writing

When I’m coaching or advising new writers, I tell them that they should write every day. Without fail. While I think it’s good advice, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s also incomplete advice.

Simply sitting in front of a keyboard and typing what’s at the top of your head isn’t what I call writing. At least, not in the strictest sense of the word.

When you do that, you’re moving words and ideas out of your head. You’re breaking a mental log jam. Often, though, you’re just going through the motions. You’re not writing with intent or with focus. You might even be building and reinforcing some bad habits.

If you want to learn and improve as a writer, you can’t just write blindly or reflexively. You need to have a reason when writing.

Writing with intent

This is what many people mean when they talk about writing with intent. For anyone wanting to improve as a writer, that intent, that reason is to improve. To learn. To smooth out the rough patches in your writing.

Here are a few examples:

  • Working on improving your introductions and conclusions
  • Writing better, more realistic dialogue
  • Improving the flow of your writing
  • Learning how to write shorter, more concise sentences and paragraphs

Hook your practice into an article or blog post or essay or book chapter that you have planned or are working on. So, instead of writing a bunch of random introductions, work on the introduction to the blog post you want to write.

Doing that takes what you want to do from theory into practice with something you’re interested in working on. That move from theory into practice is what will help you improve.

How do you know what to focus on?

You probably know your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer better than anyone. If you don’t, you should think about finding a writing buddy or a coach. They can help you pinpoint your weak points.

Make a list of the aspects of your writing that you need to improve. Then, work through the list. As you work through your list try to get feedback (if you can). Give a fellow writer before and after examples of what you’ve been working on. That will, I hope, demonstrate your progress.

Having a reason when writing helps you focus not only on what you need to do, but also on where you need to improve. Taking that mindset will get you more deeply involved in your writing. It will get you to your destination faster than merely going through the motions of writing.

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