A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
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<Hand over heart; eyes to the heavens.>
This year, you resolve to….
1. WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Get it out of your head. Get it onto the page. It’ll be lousy. It’ll be ugly. GOOD FOR YOU. You did it! Have a snack.
➡️ How to create that first draft: “Rework the horse.”
2. NEVER PUBLISH THE FIRST DRAFT. Rewriting sounds about as much fun as recovering from a Moderna booster. But please-please-please do it! Even if what you are going to publish is “just” an email. “Only” a LinkedIn post. “Merely” a marketing article.
The difference between mediocre and not-mediocre is one more round of revisions.
The difference between something you make excuses for and something you’re proud of is one more round of revisions.
Your writing is not a sloppy-drunk at a family party; you should not be embarrassed by it.
I write 4 drafts of anything I write. I want to make each paragraph, sentence, word earn its keep.
If it’s not adding anything, I cut it from the team and encourage it to try again during next week’s tryouts. (I’m not trying to crush their spirit, you know?)
➡️ Writing is rewriting: How to edit yourself.
3. SHOW DON’T TELL. Snap out of the tendency to state things only as you see them—it’s an easy trap for lazy writers.
Instead, put yourself into the mind of your audience. Step into their shoes; slip on their skin: What’s it like? Add a second sense beyond sight: What’s it sound, taste, feel like? Paint a picture. Make sure I recognize me in the frame.
Tell Me: New limited-edition face mask designs are here!
Show Me: Make Covid fight through skulls and switchblades to get to your face.
➡️ How to Show Not Tell: Tell me without telling me about your product.
4. WRITE TO ONE PERSON. There are 43K people getting this letter today. I do not think about them—I think about you. You are my #1. What other 42,999? Where?
Pro tip: Count the number of YOUs in anything you write. If you run out of fingers… you’re doing GREAT.
➡️ One person at one time: How to write to one person.
5. SPARK JOY. I get as much joy out of writing this newsletter as I hope you get reading it. Do you get joy out of your writing, too?
No good writing is created at gunpoint. If I hated writing this… you’d sense that.
➡️ Next-level joy: Make yourself laugh.
6. READ EVERYTHING OUT LOUD. Reading your final draft out loud is the best way to hear your voice, literally. Yeah, you sound like a nutloaf, talking to yourself in the middle of your office. So?
Mistakes I catch during my own Nutloaf Moment (TM):
Countless spelling/grammar errors. Awkward phrasing. Hard-to-understand sentences. Moments when I sound too prescriptive or serious or straight. When I sound like I’m reporting a five-car pileup on the freeway on your local news… not writing to you directly in my own voice.
➡️ More on how I approach writing: Steal from my writing process.
7. WRITE EVERY DAY. Even a sentence. Even a sketch. Writing practiced once a week isn’t a habit, it’s an obligation, as Jeff Goins says.
When you do (not “if,” because I’m MANIFESTING), you will be a MUCH better writer one year from now, on December 20, 2022. Or I’ll refund your money from the cost of this subscription, less 10% service fee.*
➡️ You can do it: How to build a daily writing habit.
8. GO ANALOG ONCE IN A WHILE. Paper. Pen. Pencil. Typewriter. Slowing things down can unstick what’s stuck. It can also make your writing sooooo much better, for a few reasons:
- It forces your brain to write at the speed of your hands. Your brain is so fast it would win the Boston Marathon, if your brain had legs and Nikes. Your hands are SLOW. They can’t even break a 10-minute mile.
- A computer gives us endless opportunities to cut, paste, revise, backspace, fiddle, rewrite the same godforsaken sentence 30 effin times. It’s exasperating how limitless the opportunities are for better writing when you’re The. Worst. Writer. Ever.
➡️ Try a typewriter: When your writing needs its own personal cheering section.
9. START THAT THING. That book you’ve been thinking about? This is your year.
➡️ No really. It is your year: When you should write your first book.
10. FINISH THAT THING. SHIP IT. You have one year. GO.
➡️ And it’s gonna be better than you think: Writers write the hairs.