Each one of us has our own goals and ideas as to what “Writing better” means. And you are the best judge of that. Being completely aware of this fact, take a minute and just visualise and think what would be the perfect piece of writing you would love to write.
Once you’re done with it let’s come back to the harsh reality. There is a stark difference in our current level of writing and how we envisioned it to be right?
What is Writing?
Before I try to put in my point of view, it is important to check the definition of writing.
This is the definition which allowed me to make the title click-worthy. Don’t roll your eyes already! You are reading this post, this line, right here and This Word! Haha!
When we speak of writing, it can either be the finished product or the act of writing.
For the sake of clarity in this article, I’ll use the word Writing to refer to the finished product that could be an article, story or a novel. And I will call the act of writing as penning things down.
The Main Problem
Try to recall how many ideas you got to write something. And how many you considered to write and how many you began to write and how many you actually finished?
You do see a pattern right? At each stage, you filtered out ideas. This reduces the amount of content you eventually produce.
Now comes the crux of the issue. While we pen down something we do so keeping in mind the perfect outcome and we hinder our pace of writing. We get stuck at a part trying to figure out the best possible way to frame the sentence or are paralysed by that one word which you think you know but dammit you just can’t recollect it.
After a while of brain storming we shelf it to write it later or give up on it. A lot of times.
The problem here is the mindset and the expectations we have while penning down stuff. We expect to write an article the best way possible (even in every iteration even though we know we are going to revisit it.)
In short, we expect to write the perfect article at the first go! And the fear of not meeting those expectations holds us back.
Three Steps of Writing an Article
The way I see it, writing a piece consists of three main parts.
- Visualising or ideating: This is the part where the bulb in our brains turns on and we get super excited about the idea and begin raving about it in our minds.
- Actually Writing or penning the idea down.: This is the part where we struggle with grammar, vocabulary and all the other stuff. This is grunt work.
- Editing: This is polishing your piece to make it look like a masterpiece.
How does Writing Bad help you write better?
Now that we have divided the entire process into three parts let me explain them further.
To walk you through this process I’d love to use an analogy of how a sculptor works. I will be dropping the video at the bottom of the post just so you can relate to better. And trust me, that video sure is worth watching!
Ideating (Building the Skeleton)
In this section, we work on our idea, research about the topic if needed (seriously recommended). It is a really good practice to take notes of what you want to write, the flow of the article or story and jot down all the ideas which you would want to write about.
I would call it, “Building the skeleton”. This is the part where a sculptor would provide the basic structure of the entire sculpture else the clay would just not hold its shape and plop down! You would hate a horse that looked like an obese walrus because the sculpture fell under its own weight right?
Writing/Penning Down (Adding the muscles)
This is the laborious job where most of us get stuck. What helped me improve my writing is to write bad, to be clear- pen down bad. “Bad” here doesn’t mean substandard. “Bad” is relative to your expectations of how it must turn out to be!
We force ourselves to stop frequently to figure out the best sentence to write. We might want to use the word we think we know but somehow you just cannot recollect it when you need it and Google just doesn’t seem to help either! When typing articles you would relate to the fact that you would use the backspace more than you type.
You get an idea, compare it to your extravagant expectation of Perfection, and delete it if it doesn’t match it. The solution is to chuck your expectations when you actually pen down your ideas and form the article.
When you would make a sculpture you just wouldn’t take the clay and begin carving out intricate shapes and patterns from the beginning, would you? You would take a blob of clay in a shape close to what you wish and wrap it around the skeleton you just built and then make the piece look the way you wish it to look! This is the part I call “Adding the Muscle”
It is the same with the process of penning things down. Suspend your idea of perfection temporarily, and just write.
The Backspace button is not your friend. Try to minimise its use as much as possible when you pen things down. Just write with the flow. If you get a better idea, just write it in the next sentence, but try not to delete what you wrote unless absolutely necessary. The main idea is to finish writing the piece instead of casting it aside coz it isn’t perfect.
You learn more from finishing a failure than you do from writing a success and you definitely learn more from finishing a failure than you ever do from beginning something that is fantastic but stop.Neil Gaiman
Naturally, the more you learn, the more you improve and you get better! And that is exactly why writing bad helps you write better. (See the wordplay there? write=penning things down; write=The finished piece) Over time, as you finish more articles, the standard of your penning-down phase improves drastically. That sort of organic growth is super healthy for writing. This article of mine may still not be the best, but sure is an improvement from one of my first articles. Read this to check the difference!
An added bonus would be to invest some time to learn to type faster. On average, our brains can think up a word, apply all grammatical rules, polish it and speak out in 600 milliseconds. In short, we can think up a word in 600 milliseconds. Basic math would mean you can think easily on average about 100 words in a minute. An average person types around 40 words in a minute (40 wpm). There is a huge difference between the pace at which we think and the pace we can type. This causes friction while typing. You may get an idea but forget it by the time you finished what you were typing and probably you’re smiling as you relate to this happening to you.
Learning to type faster would help you write better in the first go itself. This is an added benefit!
Editing (Carving and detailing)
Editing is the part where you keep your writing aside for a while and then return to it with a fresh mind. Why should we do it?
Scroll down to your first piece of writing, or even what you wrote yesterday. Read it aloud. You would realise that there are a few things that seem amiss to you. You may find a few typos or a few grammatical errors! Or sometimes, nothing makes sense logically! Arghhh, these issues further push you away from the perfect piece!
What happened? You felt it was perfect when you wrote it! But you feel it could be better today. That is because your mind gets to see it anew and recognise things from a reader’s perspective.
Give it a day or two or whatever is comfortable for you and then go back to the article. This is the time you aggressively work towards making the piece perfect! Go into the details. Polish your writing to finesse.
Editing is similar to carving and making those intricate detailing on the sculpture that makes it what it is!
This is possible just because you just happened to finish penning down the entire thing! The more you write the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you can edit.
You’ve got a million bad drawings inside you and the sooner you get them out, the better.Chuck Jones
When you think about it, it applies to writing as well.
It is great to first work out the skeleton of the idea while visualising how it looks, and how you feel it should be. Then pen it down by casting away your feelings and expectations. Then edit it aggressively to make it look and feel like you wish to.
In short, Ideate with your mind (thoughtful), write with your heart (free and going with the flow) and edit with a confluence of your mind and heart. Think about it, you cannot solve a Rubik’s cube by not disturbing the top face which you perfectly solved!
Here is the video that I absolutely adore that embedded the idea for this post and helped me with the analogy! Do watch it and look at the process that happens in there!
He first builds the frame/skeleton; then puts clay in a way that looks like a horse; and then adorns it with details!
I hope this might have helped you in some way or the other. I also do know that this is not the only way to write but just one of the ways that would help one write better. This may not be the best method as well. But this definitely does work for me and quite a few people I’ve known around.
I would love to know how you work on writing your articles or stories! Please do drop in your idea in the comments! It could prove valuable to me, or to anyone else who might be looking at the comments!