A year ago today, I was sitting in the back of a university lecture hall wondering what to do with my life. I’d considered becoming an auctioneer, toyed with the idea of doing a Master’s Degree, and thought about going into law… However, no plan ever seemed to stick all that long!
Instead, I invested plenty of my spare time into this little website. At the time, it was my creative escape from intensively studying book-heavy subjects (Latin, Ancient Greek, History, etc.) Fast-forward twelve months and I somehow manage to make a living from my writing. And every time I say that out loud, it feels like some kind of ‘pinch-me moment‘.
Now, the goal of this post is to improve your writing. So although I’ll never be a particularly good writer, I like to think I’ve improved my writing since first starting this website. After all, one glimpse through some of my older blog posts is enough to make me want to throw my laptop out the window! Here are six easy ways to drastically and dramatically improve your writing, as told by a travel writer!
Read anything and everything you possibly can!
The first step in improving your writing, it to read anything and everything you possibly can. Look at how sentence structures are put together. Then take them apart. Dissect what works well. And also what doesn’t. You shouldn’t just spend your afternoons perusing the shelves of your local bookshop either. Instead, glance at the back of cereal boxes, check out local tourist brochures. Devour everything and anything you possibly can. That way, you’ll learn what works. And also what doesn’t…
Write as much as possible
Repetition is key! If my awful writing was able to get (slightly) better, then so can yours. I put a large part of my improvement down to writing here, on this blog, every day. So, carry a notebook with you at all times and jot down a small reminder whenever an idea hits you. Although you could rely on your phone, technology seems to have this annoying habit of dying on us when we actually want to use it! If you need more of a motivator to get yourself writing more, then I highly recommend starting a blog!
Have a plan before you write
You wouldn’t create a gourmet dinner without making use of a recipe, so why would it be any different for writing? This is especially the case when you’re trying to finish an essay within a short time frame or want to start blogging on a regular basis.
Create a clutter-free space in which to write, sit down, and lay down the bare bones of your article. Then, fill in the gaps. Go and do something else for a few hours. The return so that you can edit, and then edit some more! If you’re short on time, then your few hours break can easily be changed into just a short coffee break (just don’t skip the editing part!)
Use new technology to your advantage
When we were little, we used to use Tipp-Ex (that white liquid correction stuff) when we made mistakes on the paper. Now, with a computer, you can easily just hit that backspace button and the grammar/ spelling mistake is gone forever! So when you’re looking to improve your writing with the help of technology, there have never been more options on offer:
Use apps and technology to your advantage. Grammarly is a good tool to check through your work for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and bad phrasing. If you prefer to work online, on the internet, then the Hemingway App (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/), is a powerful editor which will help you improve the phrasing and readability of your copy, among other things.
If distraction is your barrier (hello Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!), then I highly recommend the Stay Focusd extension for chrome. This little add-on will block websites during certain times of the day (which you personally select) and will allow you to work through the day, distraction-free.
Edit your work thoroughly
If there’s one thing I wish I’d started doing earlier when I started my blog, it would have been to check for mistakes in my writing more frequently. While spell checks, plugins and applications are good, they can still miss things! There’s nothing quite like returning to your finished piece a few hours later and giving it one final glance over before hitting ‘publish’ or sending it off to your employer!
The power of daily practice
Last but not least, like everything in life, I strongly believe in the power of daily practice. Experts say that it takes upwards of 10,000 hours to become proficient in any skill and because they’re experts, they’re probably right… Whether it be learning a new language, fine-tuning your piano skills, or simply to improve your writing style, they often say ‘practice is perfect.’ And in the case of the written word, it most certainly is true!