Improve Your Writing by Changing How You Write and Your Perspective

Sex is best when it lasts for just long enough. Too short and someone is left disappointed. Too long and fatigue will set in before the climax. Hitting that sweet spot takes attention and experience. Foreplay helps, too.

Writing is much the same. A piece needs to be long enough to give enough detail but not so long that it tires and bores the reader. The best writers have learned from experience, which often includes a number of disappointing rejections. They also know that writing is a craft that must continually be practiced and can never be fully mastered, much like sex.

I want to be a better writer, and lover, but my approach to both is too pragmatic and efficient, especially when it comes to blogging. My process is set off by a spark of inspiration, which sets me working furiously toward the end, an end that must be met in a single session. If I’m made to wait or can’t complete a post in a single sitting, it’s unlikely to ever get done. Before too long, I’ll move on. In order to improve, I must first learn and understand that writing is improved by slowing down and enjoying the process.

Typing happens too quickly

While in university, I would marvel at the students who were able to type up the first draft of their essays. It blew my mind to learn that one of my friends edited her work on a computer, too. My first attempt at any essay was handwritten. Even after typing them up, I would print them out to do my edits. It was the only way I was able to make sense of complicated ideas.

Nowadays, I write almost exclusively on a computer. I miss my pens like my old friends. Even though we don’t talk when we’re apart, things are as comfortable as ever when we do meet. Most of the work I do doesn’t require the depth of thought that writing papers in university did. Mistakenly, I extrapolated this experience out into my life as a writer, believing it unnecessary to put in the time required to think things through properly.

Even in writing, patience is a virtue. Too often, it feels like my mind is thinking faster than I can type, that I’ve lost dozens of ideas because they got tired of waiting. These ideas are rarely well-formed and probably feel like more of a loss than they actually are because…FOMO.

Slowing down would seem to be a counter-intuitive approach to rectify a situation that is moving too fast around you. It’s not uncommon, however. Traffic engineers reduce speed limits on certain roads to encourage a better flow of traffic. Individually, sure, things may be moving slower, but the overall benefit to the collective warrants the limitations. Similarly, handwriting slows me down in terms of my WPM but lets more thoughts get through and onto the page. This seemingly subversive limitation serves a genuinely useful purpose. It may take longer to get to the end of a page but the journey is more enjoyable and rewarding.

The personal touch

Why bother to write anything out by hand if it has to be typed up anyway? The romance. Penmanship is as unique to an individual as is their fingerprint. The uniqueness of a person’s handwriting is lost in the uniformity of type. This is a tragic loss because the character of the letters and words is sanitised. Reinforcing the visual character of words keeps them in the writer’s possession for longer. We all want to hold on to the things we love most.

Writing on paper exposes all of the peculiarities of a person’s thoughts, representing the beauty and the failings from one stroke to the next. A mood is created before a word is read. Are the letters open and evenly spaced or are they tightly packed with short descenders? Does the light fall evenly across the page or does it catch on the indentations underneath the ink? We see more than we look at and this evocation informs our writing experience.

Savouring the errors

Crossing out errors leaves them intact. It’s easy enough to erase pencil or wite-out pen but we shouldn’t be afraid to show our mistakes and keep them for reference.

One rule I have for writing is to delete as little as possible. If I’m writing hand, I’ll cross out what I want to remove in the next draft. On a computer, I’ll cut it out and paste it into another document. These errors are part of the writing process and should be acknowledged for the work they do and the value that they have.

Sometimes, these errors are gems. Setting the ideas aside, instead of throwing them away, is an easy way to give them space and time to foment. Think of them as seeds falling from a tree. Some will take root and grow, others will serve as feed to foragers, and some will rot away. The tree doesn’t know what will happen to each seed but it neither holds on to them nor does it get rid of them. The tree gives each seed a chance.

Editing – the typing

The arduous step of typing up what I’ve written out is a good opportunity to edit my work. Of course, I edit my work, but my blog receives about as much attention as the emails I send. When typing up my work, I have to read it more carefully than I otherwise would. Even then, the typed version is not a faithful reproduction. While my fingers clang down on the keyboard — cursive is more finessed than is typing — things like word choice, punctuation, phrasing, and cohesion make themselves more apparent. The piece is transformed literally and figuratively.

Editing is annoying at the best of times but it does help improve a piece. With some awareness, the editing process can be educational, detailing how you write and highlighting what you can improve. It’s not a wasted effort.

Changing perspective

A lot of writing advice tells you to develop good writing habits. You should have a writing schedule, a private workspace, carry a notebook, and write every single day, rain or shine. If you want to write, you’ll do it, and your writing habits will establish themselves organically.

Western society is too prescriptive about too many things. It’s ironic that at the end of every top-ten list of things to do if you want to be a content creator is “just start”. You’re advised to not worry about what equipment or apprehensions you might have and begin despite it all. Next to all of those motivational encouragements is a list of videos and articles that outline the top three mistakes that all beginners make, the one, single most important thing to do to get subscribers, how what you’re doing is keeping people away from your content, and a detailed overview of earnings by people who are simply sharing the earning potential of any given platform. The message is clear: all you have to do is get started, because you already have everything you need, but then you should consider all of the limitations of your approach and the potential loss associated with it.

Now, I’m here to tell you that you should try something new if you want to improve as a writer. I’m saying that returning to the fundamentals — the things taught in grade school classrooms until at least the late-90s — is the best way for you to get better at writing.

Except, it’s not. What I’m suggesting is that you change your approach in order to change your perspective. Digital cameras have removed the grain found on film, and computers have taken away the charm from writing. Being able to create something magnificent with such simple tools is a fading pleasure. In a world that feels the need, the need for speed, slowing down might be the best approach. Your sex life will improve, too.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: