How to start writing? 5 steps to make you a better writer

Starting your writing Journey

How do you start writing regularly? Easy. Follow Nike’s advice – just do it!

A few weeks ago, I decided to become a better writer. The more you write, the better you get. So I committed to 90 days of daily posts. I am at the halfway mark now, and it feels good. Especially when people go, “Wow, I’d like to do that!”

If you’d like to make writing a habit, this post is for you. It will, at the least, develop your habit muscle. Your bosses, peers, and teams will appreciate you more. Corona will disappear from the world – OK, maybe that’s too much of a promise!

Our emails, social media, and blog posts show the world who we are. Learning to write is, therefore, your Autobahn to success.

Are you ready to start your writing journey? Super! Let’s get started already!

How to start writing – Step 1: You’ve got to Commit!

Commitment precedes success. Let’s pledge to write every day for twenty-one days ( 3 weeks). As Goldilocks would say, “it’s not too long; it’s not too short; it’s just perfect.”

Writing - Goldilocks Strategy

Are you are the type that goes looking for AI truths in fairy tales? Yes? Then this Wikipedia post is for you. 

How to start writing – Step 2: Make the commitment public!

We all make promises we don’t keep. Remember last year’s resolution? 

Go public with your commitment. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues. Make sure you enlist people who will hold you accountable. It’s a life-saver when you hit a lazy day and want to slack off.

Ramjee, Senthil, and Vijay ensured I stayed on track. Hundreds of others stopped by and shared their views. Many thanks, everybody. It’s time for you to find your version of this tribe.

Three strikes and out

Our mind is a slacker when it comes to building habits. If you miss three days in a row, it will give you 300 reasons to quit. Only Cialdini can then persuade it to fall back in line. But he’s got other fish to fry, so we need a plan B. Plan B is not to miss three consecutive days!

How to start writing – Step 3: Choose a channel

Don’t do a “But, I write every day in my notebook.” The mind invents excuses when you don’t put things out publicly. It will go, “there’s always time.” Soon, you would have missed two days of writing. Public platforms take excuses away. Any platform will do the job. Just make sure to commit to it for the duration of your writing experiment.

Choosing your platform

LinkedIn would be my first choice. You probably already have a LinkedIn account, and publishing is easy. It limits posts to 1300 characters and keeps you focused. You can also choose to write articles if you find post counts restrictive. 

WordPress is an excellent option if you prefer long posts. It’s a breeze to set up and has a fully-functional free version. You also have access to free, open-source pictures, and is intuitive to use. Upgrade as you evolve; there’s no rush.

I’m sure you are on Facebook already. Getting started should be easy as pie for you. A word of caution – you’ll get tons of notifications. If you are monk-like and un-distractable, go ahead and choose Facebook. Otherwise, it may be better to go with LinkedIn or WordPress.

Twitter is great – if you can write in 280 characters or less. Twitter threads help, but there’s a learning curve. Like Facebook, Twitter is a distraction magnet. Go for Twitter only if you enjoy precis writing. 

In summary, choose the platform you are already on. You can switch later if you want. What you don’t want is to grapple with technology while building a writing habit!

How to start writing – Step 4: What do I write?

If you have a hobby, that’s the best place to start. Your writing will flow.

If you cant think of an engaging topic, that’s OK. I have created a seven-day plan for you. Make sure to visualize the prompts and engage all your senses. Writing will then be more fun and involving.

Writing Prompts

In the second week, I suggest you pick business scenarios. But make sure you choose stuff that has a lot of drama. If you’d like help with the second-week prompts, let me know in the comments or mail me at subra@nsubra.com.

Welcome your inner child

You’ll notice, the prompts evoke childhood memories. Writing is mainly about releasing your inner child. Once free, it will do everything else for you.

Things to avoid writing about

It’s best to leave politics to the media, WhatsApp, and Twitter. It’s hard to bring genuine emotions to bear on such topics. Focus on the little, personal things which evoke natural emotion in you. It’s easier to write about your kid learning to ride a bike than about the World War.

I would also encourage you to stay away from Satire. Satire requires mastery; else, it comes out looking like a complaint. And no one likes a wimp who cribs all the time!

How to start writing – Step 5: How long should the posts be?

This is what happens as a rule. We start enthusiastically and whip up a 600-word post. We follow this with a 700-word post the next day. The third day is a struggle, but we hang on. On the fourth day, we are ready to give up – it seems too hard. Doing too much early on is a curse best avoided. 

Let’s make it easy on ourselves. While we don’t need a word limit, two to four paragraphs are a good bet (about 150 to 350 words). The posts will be short, and you’ll have enough time for a thorough review.  

ToDo Note to self: Bung in the “Best practices” word somewhere in the post, more managers will try the exercise. 

How to start writing – “best practices.”

  1. Choose your topic the night before. Your subconscious mind will begin ticking in the background. When you start to write the next day, it will flow. Not having a topic is the biggest reason people lose their writing streak.
  2. Block an hour a day on your calendar for writing. Pick an early hour. You’ll bask in the sense of achievement all-day-long.
  3. Use a tool for grammar and spell checks. Grammarly is an excellent choice (the free version will do). The inbuilt checks on your word processor (Word/ Pages/ Google docs) work too. It’s a good idea to review your readability scores. You rock if you write at the level of a 7th-grade student.
  4. Photos and videos are not necessary. You can put them in, but not at the cost of writing! Please ensure copyright compliance.
  5. Make sure your writing is original. The last thing you need is someone screaming Plagiarism!
  6. Spend an hour every week re-reading all your posts. You’ll start seeing your unique style emerge. 
  7. You will find yourself short of inspiration once in a while. Have courage – even legendary writers go through the grind.

Get Benefits you never dreamed of

Writing in the open can yield beautiful results. Let me introduce you to Raj D, an exceptional People leader. Raj had conceptualized a robust WFH framework but was not finding the time to publish it. My daily triggers motivated him to publish his series. I can hear his inner voice, “Heck, even Subra is now doing a daily post, no reason for me to delay further.”

Please add this link to your reading list; it’s brilliant. 

Note to self: I should remember to ask him for a royalty cut when he cashes out his celebrity status.

Your writing will earn you many friends. People will reach out for help. Sometimes, a post will rejig a memory. Soon, you’ll be talking with an old friend – someone you last met when Maradona was world champ. You’ll find a reader with similar tastes, and the stranger will turn into a best friend. You’ll stumble onto great mentors and teachers. Believe me, writing will change your life. 

Can you explain again what daily writing success means?

Every post is a mini-success, so pat yourself on the back every single day. Celebrate a week of daily writing with a bowl of ice cream. You are building a life-transforming habit. You deserve the applause.

Writing FAQs – obstacles on the path

I missed a few days, and I feel guilty!

As we saw earlier, if you miss three days in a row, you will likely give up. So, it’s best not to miss. Plan a day in advance. It will take a lot of the anxiety away. 

But let’s say there’s a reason you cannot write for a day. That’s OK. The writing Gods are forgiving. Just don’t make it a habit! And remember the “three strikes and you are out” rule!

Here’s a whacky idea. Think up the most outrageous excuse for wriggling out of a day’s writing. Go truly crazy (an Alien stopped me from writing is a good starting point). And when you have an idea that is absurd enough, turn that into your daily post. You’ll end up with a smile on your face. 

My readers consist only of my family and me! When will I get more readers?

Thank God for little mercies – you at least have your family! It’s best to forget the readers for now. Write for yourself and write a lot. The readers will come. I promise.

I wrote my masterpiece. Why is no one reading it!

Welcome to the real world. Sometimes the readers won’t turn up for a masterpiece. At other times, you’ll write a little piece and be surprised when they turn up in hordes. My most popular post took me 15 minutes to write and has no profound thoughts! 

As more people drop by, you’ll get more insight into your writing. You’ll develop a unique voice and learn what topics connect best. Give it time, and your stories will evolve into something special. But for now, let’s focus on building the habit!

I received a comment that makes me think my reader hasn’t read my post entirely. What should I do?

You should be happy someone is taking the time to read and comment. It shows people value your thoughts. 

We are still not experts at conveying what we think. What we write may not have accurately depicted our thoughts. 

Your reader may have been multi-tasking while commenting. Perhaps he was eating a burger, typing a leave letter to his boss, and commenting on your post simultaneously.

 You: “What do I do if he mistakenly sends his leave letter request to me?”. 

 Me: “Approve the request. The guy has earned it.”

Finally, take the time to re-read the comment again; you may well end up with a unique insight. 

Should I be worried about Privacy?

In today’s world, the answer is always yes. But posts have very low risks. Don’t put in any privileged or personal information. Also, avoid controversial subjects, and you’ll be fine.

I keep checking every minute for comments. Am I an addict? Do I need help?

Welcome to the club! For the first few weeks, the thrill of seeing someone read, react, or comment on our posts is overwhelming. Remember what the sage said, “This, too, shall pass.” It’s just a passing disease – enjoy it while it lasts!

Reminder: Celebrate milestones

We said this before; we’ll repeat it. It’s that important. Celebrate milestones. If you make it through the three weeks, you would have learned a life-transformative skill. That deserves all the applause in the world.

We are done with our whirlwind tour and hopefully have you started on your writing journey. Have more questions? Please drop me a note at subra@nsubra.com, and I’ll be happy to respond.

Do check out my other essays – I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and feedback.

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After twenty years of playing IT leadership roles, I am taking some time off to read, reflect, and share thoughts on Leadership and Technology. I am specifically interested in how we can use these to further our success. You can find my work at https://nsubra.com and 2-minute daily posts at https://angulam.in

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Good one Subra. Seems you may even tempt me to start writing :-). I liked the approach of allowing your sub-conscious mind to work, by deciding the topic ahead of time. I can identify with that to a great extent – be it drafting an important mail or closing a difficult feedback – once it runs in the back of your mind for a while, the flow comes in automatically.

    • Welcome to the club Senthil – would love to read your posts. Yep, that working in the background is a carry-over from our daily decision process only 🙂

  2. Compelling stuff, Subra!!
    If I may add one more tip to your already impressive list, it would be to start reading and commenting on others’ blogs (genuine/original comments) ! Will help rev up the writing part of the brain !!

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