Whether your writing a blog post about Fashion Week, a speech for the president, a tweet, or a novel, writing is an art form.
Writing isn't easy, and writing well is even harder. Unfortunately, there's no algorithm to achieving writing greatness — but since it's fundamentally based in expression, communication, and creativity, there are ways to approach the written word that can make it less daunting.
Personally, whenever I find myself struggling with my writing process, I turn to an article by McSweeney's writer Colin Nissan, called “The Ultimate Guide To Writing Better Than You Normally Do.” While Nissan takes a satirical approach to actual problems writers face, I decided to use his guide as an outline to provide more a tangible and structured guide.
As bloggers, writing is a huge part of how your content is perceived and digested by your audience. Try these tips out for size:
1. Write every day
The first point the McSweeney article touches upon is that writing is a muscle, and like any other muscle it needs to be exercised to get stronger. In author's words, “Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.” Graphic, but true.
As a professional writer, I write seven days a week, sometimes four articles a day — and while it's understandable that other obligations may not allow this much attention to your writing (especially if it's only a side gig), conditioning your practice to your schedule is key. Even if it's only a paragraph a night, keeping your writing gears in motion prevents rusty parts.
2. Don't procrastinate
Every writer is guilty of procrastination at one point or another. Sure, it may seem like you are doing productive things to replace your writing: It starts with,”Let me just do the laundry and then I'll start my post.” And snowballs into, “I should probably go grocery shopping before it gets too late. Oh, and I definitely need to bake a batch of cookies… just because.”
STOP! Procrastination can be an evil sucker of all brain juice. It festers and grows, until eventually it's 2 AM and not a single word has been added to the page. While procrastination is not something anyone can solve with the snap of a finger, if you admit you're doing it, you can at least try to take constructive steps to stopping it.
3. Fight through writer's block
Writer's block, the bane of a blogger's existence — hence the name. While everyone has a different way of dealing with a lack of inspiration, this is personally my go-to way of dealing:
First, focus on the topic at hand, let's just say I'm writing a post on the topic of the latest New York Fashion Week spring/summer collections. Then, I'll write down the first word that I associate with the topic, let's say “blue.” Then another word I associate with the topic: “summer.” While these words may not have much to do with the final article or topic, the act of brainstorming and writing down words usually is enough to kick start a jolt of creativity.
4. Pick up on the details
Details revealed in your writing can elevate your piece from subpar to most excellent. In fashion blogging especially, the details count. Why are you choosing that outfit? How does it make you feel? Why is it special? Tapping into emotion through detail can enhance your reader's experience, making it more relatable and genuine.
5. Always be reading
You may not realize it, but reading the work of others can actually help your writing immensely. For example, you may be really into reading Joan Didion novels; now perhaps your blog isn't about death or family, but the way in which Didion forms thoughts into words is extremely useful. By reading other mediums, new ways of writing will eventually permeate into your own work — and though it may not be a clear cut distinction, it will certainly add more variety and style to your written voice.
6. Know your audience
There’s a difference between writing for Interview Magazine and IFB, and there’s a difference between being a ghostwriter and writing about restaurants in Montauk on your personal blog. The key, however, is to remember who you are speaking to. The audience dictates you how you write, not the other way around.
I recently wrote a piece where I asked six random New Yorkers what they thought about fashion blogging. Most of them didn’t read fashion blogs, except one who was a designer who listed only Susie Bubble. My point is, not everyone will always understand what you're writing, and sometimes (especially if you want to reach a broader audience) you will need to explain it. You want to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations, so always be asking yourself, “should I elaborate more?”
7. Find what inspires you
It may sound cliche, but inspiration is essential to writing. The good thing is that inspiration can come in any form and from anywhere. While designers and creative types often like to cite elaborate visions as inspiration, it doesn't necessarily need to be so grandiose. Personally, I find a lot of my inspiration comes from casual conversations with acquaintances and friends. When we discuss something that I find interesting or funny or odd or beautiful, I write it down either in my notebook or in my phone and keep a running list of ideas I can refer to later on.
8. Edit yourself
Self-editing is essentially honing in on one's own craft, and for many writers it's the harder than actually putting the pen to paper. Being an independent blogger may mean you are the first, last, and only eyes reading your post before you hit ‘publish.' So when self-revising your own work, here are some things to keep in mind:
– Did you answer the basic questions: who, what, where, when, why, how?
– Read the post aloud, does it flow off the tongue? Is it too wordy? Is it not enough words?
– Ask yourself: Would you ever read this post if you saw it somewhere else?
– Are you saying what you need to say in the least amount of words possible?
9. Ask for feedback
Dishonest criticism is more detrimental to a writer than no criticism at all. If your mother is reading your blog and calling you everyday telling you it's wonderful and that's the only feedback you receive, there's a problem. Find someone you can trust, whether it be a co-worker, a friend, or a family member, who will deliver honest and thoughtful feedback about your writing. Criticism may sting, but it's only growing pains — it will only help your future writing endeavors.
10. Study the rules, then break them
Knowing the rules of correct grammar, spelling, and simple paragraph formation is of the utmost importance before one begins their writing journey. However, what can be most fun (and what can set you apart from the pack) is how you manipulate those rules to your vision.
What are some other things you struggle with when writing?