After writing about the art and craft of writing for the past four and a half years, and from my podcast conversations with dozens of accomplished authors of fiction and nonfiction, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to be a more productive writer.
I've also read most of the thousands of comments people have left on my LinkedIn articles, and communicated privately with hundreds more, about what motivates them to write --and what holds them back from even getting started.
Of the myriad reasons people give for not sharing their thoughts and ideas through writing, there's one barrier that few people acknowledge (or are even aware of consciously): Their self-narrative.
What's a self-narrative? It's the story you tell yourself about yourself. From my observations about the narratives that run through my own mind, I've found these usually come in very short "sentences" that play in my head. Maybe they "sound" something like this:
"People won't be interested in what I write about."
"Every possible topic has been written about already. What could I say that's new?"
"I've never received positive feedback about my writing."
"What's fun or pleasurable about writing? It just seems like work. I'm busy enough with my job, why take on another one?"
"I'm too old to start writing. Why start now?"
There are, of course, many more possible narratives that could run through your mind. It's these "audio tracks" playing in your head that stop you before you can even get started. So if you want to start writing, or start writing more, you'll need to start by rewriting your self-narrative.
And what's the best way to do this?
1. Start thinking -- and acting -- like a student again.
It may have been several years since you last sat in a classroom, and the last thing you consider yourself to be is a student. If you want to learn how to be a better writer, though, you'll need to think of yourself --and act like -- a student again.
There's an abundance of books, articles, and podcasts on the craft of writing. Start reading and start putting what you're learning into action.
2. Become an idea sponge.
Whether you're writing a series of short-form blog posts or compiling information that will go into your first book, you'll need to feed your mind with ideas and stories. Reading is the best way to do that, of course. Turn your mind into an insatiable sponge for ideas.
3. Show up consistently.
I've noticed one of the differences between writers who succeed and manage to break-out and build a following are the ones who continue to show up, do the work, and publish it. Cultivate a habit of writing and publishing content consistently --whether it's weekly, monthly, or even daily as some do.
4. Just. Get. Started.
Before I hit publish on my first blog post on LinkedIn, I spent at least a year or more just reading what other writers were publishing, trying out different blog themes, studying social media techniques, and chewing over potential topics I might write about.
While I do recommend spending time to study (see my first tip about becoming a student again), the only way you'll get on the path towards becoming a better writer is to actually write, make mistakes, learn from them, and then do it all over again.