Quantity over quality
James Clear tells the story of a teacher that divided students in his ceramic class into two groups.
The students on the left hand side of the class were told they would be graded on the amount of pots they made. They had to focus on the quantity of pots to get a good grade.
The other half of the students on the right hand side of the class would have to focus on the quality of a single pot. They had to produce only one pot but had to ensure it was perfect to get a good grade.
At the end of the class, the highest quality of pots came from the groups that produced the most volume and not from the quality group.
The lesson here is that while students in the ‘quality’ group were debating about what perfection was, the ‘quantity’ group was learning from their mistakes and developing their skills.
They ended up producing better quality pots.
You have to create the quantity for your writing to get better – to get to the next level of writing quicker, you have to write consistently.
1. Write everyday
Here’s a useful way of thinking of it.
Let’s say that there is a fixed amount of sub-par writing/blog content that you will have to produce first in order to get to the next level of writing quality.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say this fixed amount is 20 pieces of writing.
You can either choose to produce this writing once a week (i.e. taking you 20 weeks to reach the next level of writing quality) or you can write everyday (i.e. taking you just under 3 weeks to get to the next level at writing).
Which approach do you choose? You might not have the time to write everyday.
But try to make time to save time.
2. Write like you talk
“People often tell me how much my essays sound like me talking.
The fact that this seems worthy of comment shows how rarely people manage to write in spoken language.
Otherwise everyone’s writing would sound like them talking. If you simply manage to write in spoken language, you’ll be ahead of 95% of writers.
And it’s so easy to do: just don’t let a sentence through unless it’s the way you’d say it to a friend.”
– Paul Graham
Read Paul Graham’s fantastic article about writing how you talk.
3. Focus on simple writing
The day you become a better writer is the day you write simple sentences.
This is what author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Scott Adams attests to. In his eye-opening article, Scott says that 80% of the rules to good writing lie in the following:
- Your first sentence needs to grab the reader
- Simple writing is persuasive. Keep it simple.
- Write short sentences.
- Get rid of extra words.
- Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence.
4. Start a blog
It will be a step in the right direction to starting a new writing habit. There are many benefits to having a blog – check out the 10 reasons why I think you should blog.
Jeff Goins swears by the rule ‘all good writing is rewriting’.
Whatever you write, take a break and leave it for a while. Allow yourself to fully dissociate from the hopes and dreams that you’ve been dangling upon your piece of writing.
Later, look at it critically and put yourself in the shoes of the reader.
Imagine a reader who stumbled upon your blog (and quite frankly didn’t care about you much) – would he read your writing?
Give your reader a chance to care about you. Rewrite your writing.
Aside from actively perfecting your writing, read books on how to do it.
At his first ever seminar hosted in London, Mike Cernovich from ‘Danger and Play’ suggested during his Q&A that you read the following books to improve your writing:
- “On writing” by Stephen King.
- “On writing well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser.
- “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss.
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