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

How to gather writing material

  • Keep a journal and write in it regularly. Ideally at the beginning and end of the day so you can catch all those great ideas that come when you are waking up from your dreams or winding down and relaxing.
  • Keep a notebook and pencil in your purse/pocket at all times to write down ideas that come to you throughout your day. You can use your phone, of course, but technology can be finnicky at times. Use at your own risk.
  • Keep one or more “swipe files” somewhere in your workspace (virtual or physical) where you organize ideas, quotes, thoughts, articles that resonate with you, or that you want to use.
  • When you read, take note of interesting quotes and ideas by highlighting, dog-earing, or otherwise marking your book.
  • Then, transfer those ideas into an organized physical or virtual filing system.

For an example on how to do this, you can borrow Ryan Holiday’s note card system.

Step 2. Write
It ought to go without saying, but sometimes folks need a reminder:

It doesn’t matter how much material you’ve gathered if you don’t actually sit down and WRITE.

Writers write. People who don’t write aren’t writers. It’s that simple.

Once you’ve gathered ideas to write about, you need to put in the work to turn those ideas into concrete articles, stories, etc.

But how do you write?

Well, aside from literally just sitting down and typing (or writing longhand, if you prefer), here are a few tips to help you create a system and environment that compels you to write, instead of dithering about how to get going:

  • Come up with a daily goal: Stephen King, for instance, makes himself write 2,000 words per day, every day — no ifs, ands, or buts. You may also choose a word count goal
  • Choose a start time and stick to it: Hemingway always wrote in the morning, right after first light, because he loved the peace and quiet of the early hours. He would write until 9am or 12pm, at a point where he “still ha[d his] juice and kn[ew] what w[ould] happen next.”
  • Limit yourself: Bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult once said, “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it.”
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