If you have ever taken a writing class or scoured the Internet for writing advice, then I’m sure you’re familiar with the advice to “just write.” The essence of the suggestion to just write is that you need to practice to improve on writing (which is true), and that to develop a habit you must write daily.
While I agree with this advice because practicing is the only way to improve, and I’m a firm believer that creating a habit of writing will help conquer writing fears, the advice is far too vague to be useful.
Don’t Just Write. Write with Purpose
Will sitting down and writing whatever comes into your head improve your writing skills? Maybe. There is something to be said for having some words on a page to help keep you from the paralysis that comes with staring at a blank page.
However, I think it’s much better to write with intention.
The best way to practice writing engaging content for your audience is to know what problems your audience needs solved and write posts that solve them. There are plenty of good posts out there that detail how to figure out your audience’s needs, such as this one on audience research and this one on content planning. Another way to come up with content is to ask yourself what questions you have or have had in your niche and to write posts that answer those questions.
You might be wondering why you should be doing all of this preliminary work before you sit down to the task of writing. After all, writing is the skill you’re trying to improve, so doesn’t it make sense just to start writing?
The short answer is no. Writing without the intent to publish your work will perhaps increase your skill and will undoubtedly reduce your fear of writing. However, if you’re sitting down to write about whatever for thirty minutes every day, you’re essentially wasting time. And that’s most likely how you will feel about it. After a few days or weeks, you’ll feel discouraged that all of this practicing you’ve been doing is getting you nowhere closer to launching your site or increasing your traffic, and there’s still so much other business to be done, and the house needs cleaning . . .
You see my point. You’ll find that you would rather scrub the toilet than to sit down to another pointless writing session where you’re accomplishing nothing for your business.
On the other hand, if you have plenty of free time, or you enjoy practicing writing, then go for it! But if you’re a busy person with a full-time job and trying to hustle a blog on the side, “just write” is terrible advice.
You need to write content that will help you attain your goals.
Writing is a Process
Practicing the craft of writing is more than just sitting down and writing for a specified amount of time each day. It’s a process that requires writing prompts, writing, and editing. The process starts by ensuring you have a prompt every day. Knowing what questions your audience needs to have answered is essential for your writing prompts. Once you’ve discovered what your audience needs to know, you can brainstorm a list of questions for you to answer. I find that I do this best in a word document, but the medium doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Choose a method and get to brainstorming. Don’t bother editing or censoring your ideas, just let them flow. Editing is the next step.
Once you have pulled out everything you can think of, the next step is to go through the list and get rid of ideas that aren’t really in your niche, or that you don’t want to write a post about. What’s left are questions that you know you can answer.
One of my favorite methods is to capture ideas throughout the day as they come to me. I use Awesome Note for this, but you can use any notetaking app you want for this. Whenever I have an idea, or I read something that interests me, I make a note of it. I keep a tab labeled “blog ideas,” and when I’m ready to sit down and write each day, I choose one of the ideas and go for it.
Now you have what you need to practice writing with a purpose.
Each of those questions you have on your list or the idea that you’ve written down will be the focus of one of your posts. As I mentioned in this post, you answer the question as your thesis statement for your post. You have plenty of topics to write about for your daily writing practice, a practice that will give you content for your business.
When you are practicing your craft with the intent to publish your work, you will write better, and you will have a much easier time getting yourself into the routine of writing. You will know you are working toward a goal rather than just writing for the sake of practice.