How to write (the simple version)

How to write

Words can be tough: strangely tough for people who call themselves writers and weigh up each and every one, but tough, too, for those who need convincing of the usefulness of words and nimbly avoid them whenever they can. So for anyone out there who occasionally has to get words lined up on the page and finds it a struggle, here are a few cobbled together bits of wisdom to get you started/keep you going/get you to the finish line.

(I gave these out recently after a whistle-stop writing workshop at HTA Design. I like to think that being sent away with something imprinted on an old-fashioned piece of paper makes people think they’ve learnt something.)

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Don’t try and write about anything that an image can explain better than words. Instead, think about the story behind what you’re doing and tell us that. Or think about the sense of purpose behind it and then write about the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’.

Let it all out on paper (or screen). That’ll get rid of the blank page, which is the hardest bit, and you’ll have some raw material to work with. So go for ‘stream of consciousness’, even if it takes you far from the point, and then use what you’ve written to get back to the point.

Change your mindset. This could just be changing the typeface you’re using, or switching from typing to writing longhand, or going to sit in a different corner of the building.

Don’t forget to let a little of your passion come out in the words you choose.

A list of words, a series of bullet points: sometimes these will do the job. And short sentences are helpful little things. Use them.

If you can’t remember what good writing should sound like, then read some bad writing.

Readers are, without exception, other humans. So write from one human to another. And write for each one of them, not for a crowd.

Simplicity and clarity are pretty reliable principles. Stick with them.

Look for a different approach: write from someone else’s point of view, or start from the end rather than the beginning, or latch onto a tiny detail and go from there.

Print out what you’ve written. You’ll see it with fresh eyes.

And, finally, remember that writing isn’t as hard as you might think. It’s just another way of speaking, but with the words staying put.

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