10 Tips for Engaging Writing
Writing is often a scary proposition, especially if we feel we’re not “good enough.” If we remember that writing is a path to mastery, it’s something we can improve over time––with the right habits and mindset. Here are some ways you can create engaging essays, chapters, or blogs to engage your audience.
- Be consistent. My practice is to write in the mornings, shortly after rising and meditating (more on that in a moment). I’m fresh. The house is quiet, and I’m not thinking about my upcoming meetings. Even a few minutes a day will create progress. I urge my clients to adopt the 15-Minute Practice. Set your timer for 15 minutes, and write––no matter what. You might even surprise yourself and repeat for a few extra sessions. Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.” Remember, if we want to run a marathon, we have to begin with running around the block. The same is for writing. Just start and keep a regular schedule, even if it’s once a week.
- Know your audience. Who are you writing for? In the beginning, many of my clients and students say, “I want to reach everyone!” The shotgun approach is a sure way to fail at touching the hearts and minds of our readers. We must know our audience intimately. One way to do that is to create a character sketch for your ideal reader––What keeps them up at night? What problem can you solve for them? How might their lives change as a result of your ideas? Hint: Our audience is very much like who we are. They face the same challenges and concerns that we have––only we might be a step or two ahead of them.
- Read. One of the best ways to improve one’s writing is by reading. While it’s important to read in the genre in which you are writing, diversify your bookshelf and explore fiction, poetry, personal essays, and more. At any given moment, I have a number of books on my coffee table or bedstead. Take a few moments each day to nourish yourself with reading. Audiobooks work as well. I often have one playing while I’m prepping dinner (on those rare nights, I am the cook in the kitchen).
- Write the “Shitty First Draft” and be okay with it. Perfection is unattainable. (I’ve edited this blog three times before posting.) Writing is a path to mastery. The more we write, the better our writing becomes. Sue Monk Kidd says, “Allow yourself to write badly in the beginning. That’s good, tried and true advice. And then let it evolve as you rewrite.” Your writing may look like garbage when you first put words on that blank page, but if you “sleep on it,” you’ll often be surprised at how good it really is in the morning.
- Meditate. I have been meditating for over 40 years, and I know that during those times when the busyness of life held the illusion that I didn’t have time to meditate, life was dry. My writing was a chore, and I felt disconnected––and grumpy. According to Emma Schootstra, Dirk Deichmann, and Evgenia Dolgova in their article, “Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative?” Mindfulness meditation has been shown to enhance creativity. They shared, “One increasingly popular solution is mindfulness meditation. Google, Goldman Sachs, and Medtronic are among the many leading firms that have introduced meditation and other mindfulness practices to their employees. Executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.”
- Take a walk. I often comment that I do more of my writing away from my computer than sitting at it. In fact, the idea for this blog came while I was walking to my car after a meeting. I frequently take breaks during my day to walk in my neighborhood. I deliberately step away while either writing or editing a client’s work to gain perspective. Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay, “Walking,” in “which he extolled the virtues of immersing oneself in nature…” Albert Einstein was frequently spotted walking around the Princeton University campus.
- Write in community. Gathering with other writers to work on our projects takes the “loneliness” out of our craft. Find a group in your community to meet at a coffee shop or join a virtual writer’s group. I hold A Writable Life Writing Circles twice a week for my clients. It’s a subtle way to build writing discipline into your schedule.
- Ask for feedback. Even after over thirty years of professional writing, I ask for at least one other reader to review my work. Often we know our subjects so well that we forget that our audience may need more explanation of our concepts. (Watch for my next blog on “You Didn’t Tell Me to Strip the Fly!”) And if you really want to make progress, hire a writing coach. I provide accountability to my clients––and the objective perspective of a seasoned publishing professional who prevents them from publishing blogs or books that are flawed in numerous ways.
- Tap into the Creative Energy of the piece you are writing. Whenever we have an idea for an article, a blog, or a book, I believe there is a mandate from the Universe asking for us to be a channel for that message. Taking a few moments to consciously sense the presence of that project allows us to be the channel rather than the “heavy-lifter.” We are essentially supported in the writing process. I do this when I’m writing my own work and when I’m editing my clients’ writings.
- Believe in yourself. If you have an idea to write, do it. Acknowledge your doubts and realize it’s your ego trying to keep you safe. You are the one being tapped to bring an idea to life. Put your inner critic in the cage and write. Just write. If not you, who? And if not now, when?