The best way to get better at writing is by practising. Whether it is part of your job or just something to do in your free time, Buffer's Joel Gascoigne offers tips to make writing part of your routine.
I've written over 50 articles on my blog over the last two years, and I've successfully written an article every week for the last five months. Luckily people have noticed and seem to enjoy the articles, and as a result I get a few people asking me how I've kept up blogging as a habit. This triggered me to think about the key things that helped me.
Don't get hung up on research
I used to believe that I needed some very solid research to back up any thought I penned down in an article. I also frequently found myself thinking that my ideas or experience were not interesting or valuable enough for others.
I've since realised that by simply writing from a personal experience perspective, sharing lots of details about my startup, personal projects, or thoughts about life, I was usually creating content that was interesting for people to read.
Delaying an article to "spend longer with it" usually just means it won't get written
I used to create a draft in Tumblr every time I had an idea for a blog post. Then I'd let it sit there for a while, because I believed the idea wasn't fully formed yet, or I didn't have enough points to share about the topic. I believed that by delaying, the perfect post would eventually come to mind.
What I've realised is that there is no better time to write than when the thought first enters your mind. I should only write it at another time if I simply can't open my laptop and write it all the way through right at that moment. The content is freshest when it first appears in my mind, and in that state I write the best posts.
I've gotten much better at this over time, but I have drafts lying in Tumblr from the early days when this caught me time and time again. If you delay, the likely outcome is that it just won't get written.
We should fear not publishing articles, rather than fearing bad outcomes
Over time, the concept of "shipping" started to really fascinate me. I forced myself to, despite it being uncomfortable, "ship" everything I did earlier and earlier. Whether a product, a blog post, a speaking opportunity, I'd quit delaying and just put it out there or say "yes" to speaking.
One of my biggest learnings in the last year is that there is immense power in doing a huge volume of work. If I write a blog post every week, I learn a massive amount about what works, and it gives me much more inspiration for more articles. Also, if I write each week, I'm gradually reaching more people, growing my connections on Twitter and Facebook, and putting myself in a better position overall. I know now that if I don't publish one week, I'm missing out on these benefits. Therefore, I actually fear not shipping.
When there is a strong connection between writing and my higher level goals and purpose, it's easy to write
One of my aspirations is to eventually be a fantastic advisor and angel investor for other startups. I want to be the kind of advisor who has been through many different experiences, and has a lot of thoughts about startup challenges and solutions.
This higher-level purpose is what often helps me go through the tougher times, since I need that experience first-hand in order to help others. It's also what helps me continually write, because I know that if I write a blog post about a topic, it is always very clear in my mind from then onwards. If someone asks advice on something I've written about, it's easy to help them and add a lot of value.
Choosing a schedule for writing is a great way to ensure regularity
Finding a pattern and rhythm for writing is really helpful. If I fear that I'll fail to put something out there, but I attach my writing to a higher level purpose, then it is much easier to establish a regular writing habit. In this way, I've been able to write consistently once a week for the last five months.
In the early days of my blog, I set a rule that I would always write on Sundays, and always publish by noon. This worked very well, and it also meant that people began to notice my pattern and look forward to the content. I follow a similar pattern now — I always write on the second day of my weekend (here in Tel Aviv that's been Saturday; normally it is Sunday).
Are there any realisations you've had while working towards a regular blogging or writing schedule? I'd really love to hear what worked for you.
Joel Gascoigne is the founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share great articles with friends and followers. He Tweets at @joelgascoigne, and writes regularly on his blog about startups, life, learning, and happiness.