Every week, I tell myself: “Today, I will make my life easier and write about something I know well."
It never works.
Because, to me, writing is a process of figuring out what I actually think about the topic. So I don’t know what I’m going to say until I start writing.
My 5-step article writing process
I both love and hate this unpredictability. It makes writing an adventure. It’s full of exploration and learning, which is fun until it’s 10 minutes to midnight on the day of the deadline.
I hold myself accountable to a schedule because otherwise, I wouldn’t finish anything. So I share one article every Tuesday and Thursday. And I confess: It gets sweaty sometimes.
Me every other publishing day…
Use writing to improve at anything
But you don’t need to be a writer or have a schedule to benefit from writing. You can use writing to improve at any skill you care about.
Everyone should have a digital garage where they can bounce ideas around. And writing is the easiest tool to use for that.
- Coding: Don’t just write code with comments. Write about why you chose the framework and architecture you’re using. It will make you a better programmer.
- Drawing: Don’t just draw pictures. Write about why you chose this color palette and how it works with the shapes. It will make you a better illustrator.
- Running: Don’t just run. Write about your running technique and training regime. It will make you a better runner.
Writing is a remarkable learning tool because it has a fast feedback loop. You put your ideas into words and see them immediately on the page. Then, you watch whether what you said is working or not: Is it clear? Is it true?
You’d think that writing true things goes without saying. Not really. I often catch myself not believing what I put down on my first or second try. So I delete and start again until I believe what I say.
Me unsatisfied with my own logic
Write as if you were teaching
Write as you were teaching a friend, even if you write only for yourself. It will help you learn better because you will need to explain things as if you saw them the first time.
It’s hard. And it’s also the fastest way to realize you know less than you thought about everything.
When writing makes me realize I understand nothing
But that is what makes the process so effective: Writing helps you find gaps in your understanding and patch them up.
People don’t have to read your writing for you to learn from the process. You can pretend there are readers and get all the benefits.
The writing process alone helps you improve because it improves your ability to think clearly .
How to start writing today
I will leave you today with five writing practices you can try right now. They work well for different purposes. Choose what fits your needs and go with that:
- Create coherent notes from what you learn, which you could send to a friend, and she would understand them. Try not to just copy&paste highlights from books and articles. Practice expressing new ideas in your own words.
- Share public reflections to deconstruct your thinking, experiences, and decisions. Not to defend them, but to practice critical thinking and self-awareness.
- Keep a work journal to record the progress on your projects and document your creative process. Public work journals are the actual no-BS portfolios because they show your work how it really happened.
- Tweet your thoughts to practice sharing ideas in one or two sentences among people who care about what you have to say. Use other platform if Twitter is not your cup of tea.
- Write articles to share your unique know-how and perspective with the world and speed up your learning in the process. (Tip: Write articles like you were emailing a friend to explain something. And write fast.)