Looking to improve your writing skills?
Don’t worry this is something I once struggled with myself.
Writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me.
I’ve had to work at it for many years and I’m still working on improving it.
The honest truth is I’ve always hated writing, yet I’ve learned a few things about how to develop this habit despite my lack of talent in this area.
Today I want to discuss a few different techniques you can use to improve your writing skills.
First, I’m going to give five tips for improving your writing.
Next I’ll talk about how to get into the habit of creating regular content for a blog.
Finally, I’ll discuss how to achieve a long-term goal of writing a massive product like an eBook.
Most of this information talks about my experiences with an online business. With that said, I feel you can easily apply these techniques to any type of writing you wish to do. Let’s get started…
Tip #1- Do your Writing in a Designated Workspace
It’s important to use a specific workspace because it creates the proper “writing mindset.” This helps train your mind to automatically write when sitting in this location. It’s kind of like when a professional athlete first steps onto a field of competition…he (or she) knows its game time!
A dedicated workspace doesn’t have to be in your home. In fact, back home I do most of my writing in a local Starbuck’s Coffeehouse. I honestly feel the writing for this blog will improve in November simply because I’ll be doing it in a regular location instead of in trains, buses, and noisy hostel rooms.
The perfect workspace should be free of clutter and distractions. I recommend you do the following:
- Switch off your Internet access
- Turn off your phone
- Tell your family to not disturb you
- Remove any objects or images that interrupt your train of thought
I’ve learned it’s extremely important to have a workspace that allows you to concentrate only on writing. If you want to learn more about this concept, I recommend reading my post on how to clean up your workspace. (It’s surprising how you quickly you can improve your writing skills when you’re free from distractions.)
Tip #2- Use Music to Trigger a “Mindset” that will Improve your Writing Skills
Like many people, I get writer’s block. To counteract this, I use a simple trick to trigger put myself in the mood. Whenever I don’t feel like writing, I listen to one of fifteen specific albums on my iPod. The trick here is to only listen to these albums when writing. This is a basic NLP anchoring technique that triggers a specific emotional state related to a certain piece of music. It’s kind of like listening to fast-paced music when you’re working out a gym.
Play around with different types of music and see what motivates you the best. Perhaps it’s relaxing classical music. Or you might work best when listening to rap or hip-hop. As long as it helps you write then it’s a good choice!
Tip #3- Do “Stream of Consciousness Writing”
As I mentioned before, I often get writer’s block. Another way to fix this is do what I call “Stream of Consciousness Writing.” When you get stuck with what to say next, simply jot down whatever pops into your head. It could be a few notes or a general idea of what should be said. The trick is to not edit yourself. Keep typing till you run out of ideas.
If you get stuck, here are a few things you could include:
- Provide step-by-step instructions
- Tell personal stories or anecdotes
- Give a definition or explain a concept
- Provide lists or bullet points
- Show images demonstrating a concept
Again write whatever pops in your head. If you can’t think of what should be included in a particular section, skip it and come back later. The important thing is to type without interruption. This habit helps you push past those moments where you can’t think of what to say next.
You can improve your writing skills simply by not allowing “filters” to stop the process. So keep writing even if you’re coming up with gibberish.
Tip #4- An Idea Book Helps you Improve your Writing Skills
Many people wonder how to come up with content ideas on a regular basis. The trick I use is to always carry an idea book wherever I go. Whenever an idea pops into my head, I’ll immediately jot it down in the book. For example, over 100 posts on this blog have been created from random thoughts that occur when I’m out doing something non-work related.
The truth is we all get great ideas. Unfortunately, most people don’t write down these thoughts and quickly forget about them. With an idea book, you never have to worry about coming up with ideas for content. Even a few ideas a day is enough material for a successful blog.
Tip #5- Read Related Books to Emulate a Writing Style
Last week I was in Prague where I struck up a conversation with guy named Daniel who runs a financial blog called Derailed Capitalism. We got to talking about writing styles and I mentioned this post. He gave me a great idea…
Daniel explained that he’ll read up to five hours a day of books related to his market. Most of these have the sarcastic, “in your face” writing style he prefers. This has helped him write in the same tone and connect with his regular readership.
I’ve personally found that developing the reading habit is one of the best ways to improve your writing skills. This is especially true if you’re consistently going through books related to your niche. You’ll find that it’s easy to sound like an authority because you’re consistently expanding your knowledge base.
Okay, now that we’ve covered the five tips to improve your writing skills, let’s talk about how to apply them for a blog…
Blogging is an incredibly challenging online business. Many people do it, but few reach the point where they earn a full-time income. A major problem with blogging is you have to create excellent content on a regular basis. People really don’t care what your past glories. They want see you knocking it out of the park each and every day. Many bloggers start off with great content, but quickly lose steam because they can’t come up with post ideas.
How to Come up with Blog Topics
One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact I haven’t missed a day of posting since February…even while traveling through Europe. I can’t say it’s been easy. What’s helped is I use a number of different techniques for coming up with ideas. They include:
- Use ideas from your notebook (we’ve already discussed this)
- Answer questions and comments you get from readers
- Write riff posts about something you’ve read on another blog
- Break down a massive topic into a weekly series
- Talk about how a current event relates to your niche
- Take a major keyword and write “how to” article that solves this problem
- Make a video ranting/discussing a hot topic
- Outsource a weekly post to another writer
- Hold a contest, run a poll, or ask a basic question
- Write a blueprint post (2,000+ words) that solves a problem lots of readers experience
- Set aside one day a week for guest posts
As you can see, it’s not very hard to come up with ideas for blogging. When you put all these techniques into action you’ll never run out of ideas! Now, the question is – “How do you turn these ideas into regular, consistent content?” To do this, I use a simple tool…
Adopt a Publishing Schedule to Improve your Writing Skills
My favorite tool for blogging is an Excel spreadsheet that’s always open on my desktop – My publishing schedule. I use this file in a number of ways.
First it’s great for jotting down ideas when I think of them while writing another article. Next it’s useful for planning out posts for the upcoming two weeks. Thirdly, I use it to set reminders for any actions I need to take before an article is ready to be published. Finally, it’s great for finding previous posts I want to link to while creating a new article.
I highly recommend using a publishing schedule with your blog. You’ll find it’s a great way to plan out the content regularly posted to your site. Plus, it solves the “what do I write about today?” problem many bloggers experience on a regular basis.
Use the Word Press Scheduling Feature
Another great tool for consistent blogging is the “scheduling” feature you find on Word Press. I’ll sometimes write a post up to a week before it’s published. With the scheduling feature, I can load articles to my site and have them be published on an exact date/time that I designate.
This one feature allows me to travel with a bit of piece of mind. I can go offline for a day or two without having to worry about publishing articles on a daily basis.
Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Publisher
From the day I started this site, I considered myself a publisher, not a blogger. What’s the difference? A publisher is like being the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. Sure you’ll be responsible for most of the writing. But your ultimate goal is to have enough money coming in to outsource some of the content creation.
Every week I post at least two articles written by somebody else. This helps me concentrate on giving quality content for the articles created by myself. Some of the most popular blogs follow the publisher model. Most were started by a single person, but now have a staff of writers that churn out content.
Now that we’ve covered how to write a blog let’s go over how to complete a massive writing project like an information product…
Writing an information product (or eBook) is different from a blog for one simple reason – It’s an important, but not urgent project. With a blog, you have the regular deadline for publishing content. But with an eBook, it’s easy to procrastinate because nobody is reminding you to work on it. As a result, it’s very easy to never “have the time” to get it done.
While I’ve only created one information product, I feel like there’s a lot to be learned from the principles I used to create it. Let’s talk about a few…
Use Basic Project Management
It’s important to create an outline (or mind map) of what you’ll write. This means sketching out the topics you’ll cover plus the tools you’ll use to sell this product. Nothing is written in stone, but it’s important to map out everything that you want to do.
After creating the outline, you want to set individual timelines for each major hurdle. Again, it’s not important to be exact here. The benefit here is to know how much you’ll have to do in order to complete this eBook.
What you’re basically doing here is following the principles of basic project management. You’re setting a major goal and using mini-steps to accomplish it. Most of the work will be done by you but there will be small projects outsourced to somebody else…like writing a salespage or creating images.
Project management is about integrating long-term goals into your daily activities. A great way to do this is to…
Set Daily Goals for Writing
As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Unfortunately a lot of people forget this and give up when faced with the daunting task of writing an information product.
The best way to complete a massive piece of work is to set a goal for each day. It might be a set amount of time or a minimum word length. The important thing is to dedicate a period each day when you do your writing.
What I recommend is this – Pick a specific time for writing. This could be early in the morning or at night or during your lunch-break at your ‘real job.’ This is another way to train your brain to quickly get into “work mode” while writing.
Furthermore, you should try challenging yourself. Instead of simply setting a time or word goal, I recommend combining the two. So if you can write 1,000 words in an hour, try to increase this to 1,500 words. I’ve found this turns the process of writing into a fun game.
Track and Adjust Your Progress
The final step in this process is to track the results you’re getting. Most projects don’t follow the original blueprint. There will be times when you can’t write or perhaps you’ll work quicker than you planned. That’s why it’s important to make adjustments along the way.
I suggest maintaining an Excel spreadsheet while writing your eBook. Every week mark down the results from the week, which can include information like:
- The total words you’ve written during the week
- The tasks that must be outsourced to another person
- Other related projects needed to be completed in addition to the eBook
- How you’re progressing in relation to your original blueprint
- Etc, etc.
You don’t have to go crazy here. Simply keep track of the minor goals and see how you’re coming along with this project.
Final Thoughts on How to Improve your Writing Skills
Well, I hope this post has taught you a little bit about what it takes to develop the writing habit. Like I said at the beginning, writing is isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’ve had to work at it for many years to get this point…and I’m sure I’ll be working at for years to come.
If you want to learn how to improve your writing skills online, I encourage you to implement the stuff I’ve just mentioned. All of these techniques have really helped me with my writing. Hopefully you’ll find that it works for you as well!Take Action. Get Results.