How to write
- Decide what your message is. "The goal of writing is to deliver a message to an audience in an effective way"1, so you better know what that message is.
- Context matters for writing, particularly longer pieces. "Prepare for a writing task, like you would for a hike. You are in for a grind."" 1 Personally I like to take my iPad, keyboard, and headphones to a bar or coffee shop to get some quality writing done.
- "Start at the top not the beginning" 1. Write an outline and make sure your section headers convey the story you're trying to tell. Many readers will skim an article to decide if they want to read it, so your headers need to be convincing.
- Outline => Content => Polish. Don't get stuck polishing things before you know where your writing is going (i.e. avoid bikeshedding).
- Provide summaries! There's a reason people know the acronym 'tl;dr'. Summaries are a great place to highlight actions that the reader can take too
- Get feedback. On outlines, on drafts, on amendments. Solicit feedback after posting too. And don't forget to acknowledge those people who do give feedback!
My English teacher in school used to say: “Writing. Only writing brings blessing.” I did not think much about this slogan, but it was catchy enough to stick with me. Now I consider it a deep truth, and keep it at the top of my blog, as a reminder. 1
Writing is Stupendously High Leverage. 2
- Some writing, such as these notes, can act as a "second brain" or Memex.
- It can help to find like-minded people (see Do things, tell people]).
"The only way to improve your writing is by writing."1 I'm a big fan of how Mike Crittenden approaches this. He posts almost daily, though quite often just a thought-provoking paragraph or two. Another approach is to create a set of personal rules for how you write, as as proposed by Matt Webb. This can help to "bump [yourself] out of certain mental traps that [you] know will otherwise stop" you.
My personal rules for writing
These are not writing tips (for those, see my note on notes/writing). Rather these are rules that I set for myself when writing (inspired by this post from Matt Webb).
- Write something every day
- Write at least one comprehensive post once a week
- "Titles should be descriptive and have the flavour of the post. And rewrite the lede once the post is done so the whole thing gets to the point faster."
- Define the topic of the piece I'm writing and stay within its bounds. Avoid tangents.
- Be honest to my personality. Don't try and write as if I'm another person.
- Don't assume the reader has the same knowledge as I do. Try to explain the more esoteric/abstract topics I'm mentioning.
- A post/note should be more than a link to some article. I should be synthesising and sharing my opinions.