Advanced Writing Advice for the Modern Creator
For next-level writing, you need next-level tactics
Most writing advice makes the same point: keep writing and don’t stop.
Is this good advice? Sure.
But most people who bang on about it aren’t really doing so to help beginning writers become experts. They are doing so to sell products to those beginners.
Writing every day does not lead to better writing any more than lifting the same weight every day does not make you stronger. Growing stronger requires a gym schedule, a nutrition plan, and many other things this 139-pound writer is obviously not aware of.
Emerson wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” If you have been caught in the foolish consistency of writing every day but never doing anything else to improve as a writer, consider shaking up your routine.
Here are a few ways to do that.
1. Edit While You Write
If you’re painting a wall, and you notice a mistake, what should you do?
You should fix it right away.
This might be the most anti-establishment writing advice of all time. Most educators tell you to write the whole first draft without looking back, lest your fragile self-esteem keep you from completing the task.
But what if you don’t have poor self-esteem?
What if you aren’t going to quit after a bad writing day?
What if you’re an experienced writer with a habit of finishing?
There is nothing wrong with editing while you write. If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know when a clunky sentence falls off your fingers Why not fix it right away instead of letting it vanish into the second draft?
2. Don’t Have a Niche
In the height of the newspaper era, publications would have dedicated writers for every topic. This person was called a “beat writer.”
Each beat writer was a specialist. The education writer knew all the principals and teachers in the area. They delivered all the correct information for the day’s story, but also the proper context for how that story fit in historically. After all, they’d spent a whole lifetime researching the niche.
Now, you can learn everything that writer knew in one afternoon
And unlike the 1950s, you can learn it from your cozy office chair with your favorite cup of coffee in hand.
Write about relationships. Write about productivity. Write about writing. Write about culture. So long as you are well-informed and do good research, the entire scope of writing topics is yours for the taking.
Why box yourself in if you don’t have to?
3. Don’t Ritualize Your Writing Process
John Green’s younger brother Hank does not yet have the same renown in the literature world, but he is climbing fast. Hank is now a two-time NYT Bestseller, with his most recent book hitting the list as soon as it hit the shelves.
Like any good internet celebrity, Hank took to Reddit to complete an AMA (ask me anything). The whole thread is a gold mine of writing insight and advice, but one answer caught my eye immediately.
Hank is the CEO of Complexly, a company he ran while writing these books. Naturally, one reader wanted to know how he pulled it off.
Read Hank’s answer:
“I write wherever I am. If I ritualize it too much, I would never have the time. During crunch time, I would take any available 15 minutes.”
Compare this to Steven Pressfield’s advice given in “The War of Art,” which involves a special desk, special shoes, a prayer to the gods, and — somehow — a toy cannon. Does anyone really have time for that?
Unless you are a few of the lucky few who has the luxury of time to perform such ceremonies every single day, don’t ritualize your writing process. Learn the tactics to save time when you write.
Stop being precious about the process.
4. When You Have an Idea, Don’t Rush to Get It Out
There are three types of writing work:
The beginner spends all of their time in the execution stage and next to none in the other two. The expert knows there should be at least as much time spent in ideation as the other two.
Writing is like baking. An idea can be over-baked, but far more often it is under-baked.
The next time you have a great idea, don’t rush straight to the keyboard. Instead, take your time. Do some research. Prepare. Write an outline or two. Treat your good ideas like your romantic partners. Give them the time, attention, and care they deserve.
The internet is bad at teaching nuance. That’s why you have fake experts handing out tired advice at every turn.
Don’t be fooled.
Next-level writing is not just about consistency. It’s about better first drafts. It’s about pushing the niche boundaries. It’s about moving past the comfort of rituals. It’s about dwelling on an idea where others won’t.
Yancey Strickler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, recently said: “The tools are such that there has never been a better time to be an artist. For that reason, you could also argue that there has never been a worse time to be an artist.”
The writing landscape has never been more crowded. With artificial intelligence pounding at the door, it’s about to be more so. Still, as always, some writers will still rise above the rest.
It won’t be the ones who rely solely on the basics.