On Writing In 2021

At the beginning of 2021, I set a goal to improve my writing. I had started this blog at the very end of 2019 but did limited posting. One barrier was insecurities about my writing abilities.

I decided that the only way I was going to improve my writing was to learn about good writing and to write. There were two books that influenced this decision–On Writing Well by William Zinsser and The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin.

As the calendar year comes to a close I’d like to share some things I learned during this process.

Write Everyday

I set up a system in which I would write for 30 minutes every morning the moment I woke up. I used an online journal program called Penzu. I would make a cup of coffee, open up my page, set a timer for 30 minutes, and just write.

You might have your own time of the day that works best for you. You might have a preferred mode to write in–google docs, pen and paper, legal pad, whatever. The delivery method or time doesnʻt matter. What is important is that you have a scheduled block of time in which you allow yourself to just write.

I tried different opening prompts as I was developing this habit. I have used a gratitude statement, or what can I change for today. Most recently I have settled on starting with “Today I feel…”. And from there I would just write. No thinking, no editing, no judging, just letting my ideas flow.

It is important that you find your own delivery. This book is frequently recommended on this topic. I personally haven’t read it, but there are many podcasts and interviews where people share the general idea behind it. There is also an actual journal that was developed from the book. This blog post by Tim Ferriss is a good resource too.

I learned three main things from implementing this daily writing practice:

  • Allowing your mind to go free uncovers new ideas
  • Daily repetition builds upon new ideas that emerge
  • Capturing interesting ideas is good for later use

Read Good Writing

I have always loved to read. I am constantly consuming books, blogs, and academic journals. By committing to improving my own writing I have become more cognizant of how other people write. This meant moving beyond what they were writing to how they were writing.

Here are three observations I made that I have used for my own writing:

  • Keep it clear–remove the clutter
  • Keep it simple–be direct and to the point
  • Keep it short–don’t overwrite

I still struggle with all of these. My writing can be convoluted. I complicate my ideas. I also tend to write long sentences and paragraphs. Consistently reading other writers has helped me see my own shortcomings and make improvements.

I have learned not to dwell on this. Writing is a process. The quality improves the more that we are aware of what good writing is. This is the same approach I took as a musician. My own playing improved the more I paid attention to the elements of good music.

Post In Public and Share

An authentic audience keeps us accountable. When I post to my blog it can be read by anyone. I have to make sure that I produce the best writing possible at that moment.

I also make sure that I share links to blog posts on my social media accounts. I use different strategies on each social media platform to ensure the widest reach possible. I don’t do this for likes. I want to hold myself accountable by making sure as many people as possible can read it.

Each platform has unique ways to increase visibility. For Instagram I create a custom graphic along with a link to the post in my bio. I also add hashtags to the post that are related to my topic. For Twitter I tag other educators I know and respect. I like their retweets and respond to comments.

All of these actions help me put my full self behind what I am writing. I don’t try to hide my writing in some corner of the internet. By getting my work out to as many people as possible it makes me more mindful about what I am posting.

Write What You Would Read

When I first started the blog I struggled to decide on blog topics. I would never start because I was so caught up in my head. I made the decision to write about topics that I want to read about.

My interests tend to center on education, community, and mindsets, so that’s what I wrote about. This gave me a specific voice to write from. Through this process, an internal editor emerges with me as the audience. As a result, my writing became more direct and to the point.

This approach gave me endless ideas to blog about. I am often reading books about mindsets, whether they are creative, design, or entrepreneurial mindsets. Same for education or community building. I’d make notes of different topics or ideas that I’d come across while reading and turn those into blog posts.

This also goes back to the first point to “write every day.” By getting my ideas out of my head, patterns would emerge that would become topics for posts. This is all grounded in the central idea of writing about things that I would want to read.

Looking to 2022

For the upcoming year my goal is to continue to write. I have a lot more growth to experience and I would like to get better. I will continue to apply the strategies I used in 2021. They have been effective at increasing my production.

I will also challenge myself with new goals. Being a guitar player and singer has taught me that disciplined practice of one’s craft leads to progress.

Here are some things I am looking to for 2022:

  • Read more books about the technique of writing
  • Write about topics that I am less familiar with
  • Post on new platforms–maybe Substack or Medium
  • Seek out opportunities to be published on other blogs

We will see how far I am able to progress on these goals. The point is to continue to challenge myself. I am confident that by setting my intention to write each day it will bring positive results.

Writing has been an exceptionally fulfilling way to express myself and learn new things. As you look to 2022 I hope that you can join me in your new challenge. I have one piece of advice–show yourself some grace, but to also hold yourself accountable.

I think it is possible to hold these two things at one time. In doing so you can allow yourself to thrive in whatever you pursue.