How do you write better?

I like to write. This is the main reason why I started this blog.

I’d like to write even more because it helps me grow. My brain is a glutton for information. It eats and eats and eats until I can’t pack anything else in. Writing forces me to synthesize and organize my thoughts so that my audience can follow along and, as a result, my brain can happily gorge itself on more information.

Although I find writing extremely rewarding, I must admit that I could use some help on my process. I recently wrote an opinion piece for Oncology Times (link coming soon!) on the many ways, besides patient-provider interactions, that healthcare providers, researchers, and patients can all benefit from using social media. I feel strongly about the subject and had the background knowledge and research at hand to support my arguments, but I certainly went through too much (self-sabotaging) stress in getting it written.

I realize that my writing skills are a bit rusty since graduating 4 years ago and my process will improve with practice. But I also realize that forming good habits now will relieve some of the stress I go through when I write my next piece. So, a question to all you writers out there: how do you write better? What habits have you found helpful? Leave me a comment!

5 responses to “How do you write better?”

  1. Read more! You’ll start to internalize things like structure, syntax and language very easily.

  2. Perhaps cliche and obvious, but keep a note book by your bed to jot down anything you think of just before falling asleep. Or better yet, grab a sharpie and just write on Mike.

  3. Another cliche, but it’s true: practice. Writing is craft, not art. As the carpenter gets better at making cabinets with experience, so the writer improves by practicing her trade.

    Also, consider other people’s feedback on your writing very carefully. They (we) don’t know what they’re talking about.

  4. Thanks Darren. It wouldn’t be a cliche if there wasn’t some truth behind it!

    I think I’m following you about other people’s feedback and them not knowing what they’re talking about, but could you elaborate a little more?

    I feel that people’s critiques tend to be about style, and imposing their own style (or the style they believe is “correct”) onto others. For example, an academic presentation needs to have big, complicated words I would never use in real life. When I’m asking for your feedback what I really want to know is:
    1. do the words, sentences, and paragraphs make sense?
    2. is the sequence logical?

  5. It’s tragic, isn’t it, that academia requires obfuscation (speaking of big words). As if professors and post-docs are too good for clarity and brevity.

    What I meant is that most people don’t know much about writing. All aspects of it really: style, structure, diction, syntax and so forth. Yet, it’s a topic (like, say, acting) where everybody’s got an opinion. Writing can, of course, be quite a personal endeavour, and so we tend to take other people’s opinions to heart. We shouldn’t mostly.

    The trick, I think, is identifying those few people who do know what they’re talking about, and listening carefully to them.

    I am aware of the irony of giving you advice about being choosy about listening to advice. Your mileage, as the kids say, may vary.

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