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Donn King


10 Ways to Get Started Writing


I've made all or part of my living with writing for over 50 years. Everybody thinks, "I should write a book." Hardly anyone does. Writing is not rocket science, yet it is one of the surest ways of boosting your creativity and your influence. The American Council on Education reported that "good oral and written skills can be your most prized asset" in getting and holding a desirable position (emphasis mine—DK). But although almost everyone wants to have written, few people follow through and actually write, or else when they find out it's not so easy to do it effectively they quit. Here are some ways to get started actually writing.

    1. Take a notebook with you wherever you go.

    Ideas evaporate. Jot the ideas down. When you have a few minutes of unexpected downtime, take out the notebook and write in "rough draft" mode.

    2. Don't worry about quality at first. Save editing for later.

    Avoid striving for perfection during the writing process. Writing is more like sculpting than painting. Gather the raw material. Later, excise what doesn't belong, and polish.

    3. Just write for five minutes about anything.

    Even if you have to write, "I don't know what to write about," just follow the voice in your head for a bit. Again: for now, just write. Edit later.

    4. Post on NotePD, Medium, Substack, or LinkedIn

    If you're reading this, you're already here. I have no idea how many people come here and JUST read (i.e., never generate idea lists), and if that's what you want to do, it's fine. But you can write on this platform. It's easy and free to write on Medium, Substack, and LinkedIn as well. Start writing just to write, but as soon as you can, put it out for an audience. You will advance faster.

    5. Comment on other people's posts.

    Especially on LinkedIn. Hint: if you want to build a following on LinkedIn, you will build faster by commenting on other people's posts that writing on your own. LinkedIn functions differently than almost every other social medium in terms of reach, but that's for another list. For any social media, you can develop your writing abilities by responding to other people's posts, and they provide you with a ready-made topic.

    6. Write letters to friends.

    Recommendation: write actual, physical letters. You can type if you want (vs. handwriting), but print it and mail it to get the best benefit. If you're not going to do that, though, then send email—it's better than not writing at all. Learn to hear your own voice and commit it to print, whether digital or analog.

    7. Write a letter to the editor.

    Make a case for something. Not every letter gets published, but you will get experience in writing something that passes muster with someone else if it does get published.

    8. Write a report for your job or business.

    This will raise the stakes a bit, but it's real-world writing, and you develop a skill that is in demand that few people are willing to do, and even fewer do competently. Volunteer. Take a chance. Get some coaching—but from someone who is recognized as a decent writer. It's an opportunity to grow.

    9. Separate writing from editing.

    This is implied in some of the other ideas. Let's make it explicit. Writing and editing are two different types of thinking. When I worked at a newspaper, it killed my writing ability if an editor stood over my shoulder and watched me write. "You need a comma right there." Gaaaaa! Both writing and editing are required, but not at the same time. Ironically, it takes less total time to first just write without worrying about grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., and then later come back to it.


    10. Edit, even if you're writing just for yourself.

    Go back through your material later. Micro edit for things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Macro edit for flow and voice. In your head, does what you wrote sound like you, or like your fifth grade teacher? This is the best way to discover your "voice." But don't worry about voice at first. Just write.

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