Want to be a Great Writer? Then Don’t Focus on Writing. (Do This Instead)

The Three Parts of a Writing System
What does a good writing system consist of? Three things:

  • Gathering material
  • Writing
  • Honing your craft

These three are interlinked, but they are also separate, like the three legs of a three-legged stool. You need all three to create a solid system that will propel you to writerly stardom.

Step 1. Gather material
You can’t write if you have nothing to write about. All writers need material. And lucky for us, writing material is virtually limitless!

You just need to know where and how to gather it.

Where to gather writing material

  • Mine your life history for ideas — look through your journal, search your memory banks, etc. (if you don’t have a journal, start one now!)
  • Mine other people’s life histories for ideas — talk to your relatives and friends and ask them lots of interesting questions. Then listen. Really listen. Not only will this help you come up with ideas to write about, it can improve your relationship with the person (everyone likes to talk about themselves, and there are definitely not enough listeners around to hear all the stories).
  • Read books and articles. A lot of them.
  • Keep an eye out for interesting day-to-day happenings. (Ex: I was blessed to have hilarious teachers back in high school, and I wrote all of their jokes in my notebook. Several of those incidents inspired me to write semi-true stories like this and this)
  • Follow other writers and see what they are writing about (don’t copy their work verbatim, just let their ideas trigger your own).
  • Hang out with your “ideal audience,” ie, the people you want to write to and/or about. You can do this in person, or by checking out forums/threads/online spaces where these people naturally congregate.
  • Read the comments people leave on your and other writers’ works. They will tell you what readers are interested in and what questions they have.
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