I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing, so there are a plethora of ‘how to’ writing books, containing tips, tricks, techniques, and the wisdom of published authors gracing my bookshelves. Something that most writers agree on, is that writing is like a muscle: if you want it to get stronger you need to use it often. I’ve seen this in practice, and I know that I’m a better writer now than I was a few years ago.
But I’d like to take the muscle analogy a step further. Because in my experience, using your writing muscle for anything strenuous before you’ve warmed it up, can lead to all sorts of problems. Usually of the writer’s block or ‘this is rubbish’ kind.
Sometimes all it takes is jotting down the objective of your email, blog post, or whatever it is you’re writing, and then drafting some ideas and notes around it before taking to the keyboard. But I find some random writing at the beginning of the day helps to get my writing muscles warmed up for the day ahead. This is also a good way of strengthening your writing muscle if you don’t have occasion to write every day.
I used to start my day with ‘750 Words’, a website that gives you a blank screen at the start of every day for you to write 750 words on. I was always at a bit of a loss what to write about, so it became a bit of a naval-gazing exercise. This was fun for a while, and even helpful, but there’s such a thing as over-analysing… These days I’m back to writing at the start of each day, but I’m not scrabbling around for random things to write about.
These days I’m using writing prompts. My favourite writing prompts at the moment come from a book I bought at The Watermill in Aberfeldy. If you ever go to Aberfeldy you must go to The Watermill. Forget the fact that their soups have some kind of restorative quality that can cure the worst hangover, and focus instead on their amazing collection of books for sale. They have some real gems. My latest purchase, among a few others, is a book by Cynthia L Copeland, and is entitled ‘Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me’. It’s essentially a book filled with photos of dogs, and life lessons printed on each photograph.
I choose one at random each morning and write whatever is sparked off by that. Sometimes it’s an observation, other times it sparks off something more profound, like a belief I didn’t realise I had. It’s a great way to lead into the more important things I have to write; like blog posts, or client projects. It doesn’t matter what I write, just that I write. But it helps to have something to write about, rather than having to find an idea.
So here’s my challenge for you. Start your day with five or ten minutes of writing. You can use my method and find a book on a subject you’re interested in to use as inspiration. Or you can use the prompts I’m going to post as an experiment on my Facebook Page. Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below or over on Facebook.