A month has gone by since I asked five prolific writers about their secrets.
I’m back with a new edition, in which freelancers and content managers share their secrets about finding inspiration and writing as much as they do.
Nia Gyant: Nia is a freelance writer who has been sharing daily tweets about writing and freelancing for over seven months. She’s a rising star in the Twitter writing scene. Keep your eyes open for her content.
Sangeet Kar: Sangeet is the best flash fiction writer in the world; take my word for it. He’s written 30 short stories in a row a few weeks back, but later, he realised the importance of taking regular breaks to produce quality content. You can read his stories on www.equilibriumcafe.com.
Josh Spector: When you hear the word newsletter, Josh Spector may well be the first person that comes to mind. He has published his For The Interested newsletter every Sunday for 261 weeks in a row and counting (with the exception of the weekend he got married).
Morgan Ulrich: Morgan has always been a prolific writer. Since her 8th birthday, she’s kept a journal. And since graduating in 2020 and starting work as a marketing copywriter, she has been writing almost daily for more than a year.
Jessie van Breugel: Jessie is a freelance writer and creator who obsesses over personal branding. He regularly gets published in top publications on Medium and he leads his own cohort-based course: Build My House Club.
Their inspiration sources
Nia Gyant: “My content is heavily rooted in self-reflection. My ideas come from either lessons learned that I don’t want to forget and/or observations of and experiences with others that have taught me something.”
Sangeet Kar: “I tell stories about people. And they are my source of inspiration. That’s why I take the subway instead of a car. And I enjoy long walks along crowded streets and lively neighbourhoods. Observing life and its rough edges drives me as a writer.”
Josh Spector: “I consume a lot of ideas from others in books, newsletters, on Twitter, and when watching TV and movies – those often inspire ideas. I also get asked questions from my audience all the time and get inspired when solving problems for myself and my clients. These habits also help.”
Morgan Ulrich: “For work, I read plenty of books and blogs about marketing as well as scientific blogs and industry publications. I put these together to make sure our content is relevant and interesting to our audience. For my personal journaling and occasional Medium article, I find inspiration from what people are talking about on Twitter and the books I’m reading.”
Jessie van Breugel: “Browsing the Twitter-feed or the Medium-homepage. Also, after Zoom-calls with friends online or members of the BYHC-community, I often find myself inspired to write about things we discussed or ideas that came by.”
Prolific writing advice
- Don’t overthink your writing. Clarity for yourself or your readers doesn’t come from being overly critical of your writing, especially early on. It comes from consistent practice and external feedback.
- Enjoy the process to lessen the pressure. Consistency is important but, if you resent it, you’ll burn out. If you write with joy and allow yourself some grace on days when the quality of your thoughts just isn’t there, you’ll achieve more long-term.
- Be wary of following methodologies too closely. There may be writers whose style you admire or tried-and-true frameworks for certain types of writing. But there’s also value in exploring your own creativity so be careful not to dull your senses.
- You can’t learn to swim by reading a book. And you can’t learn writing without “writing”. The more, the better — there’s no shortcut.
- Explore as many ideas as you can as a beginning writer — until you find the sweet spot between what excites you and what resonates with your readers.
- Learn from the masters but bring your own perspective. Your readers want to know YOUR unique view of the world.
- The more you write (and publish), the better you’ll get. Writing is one of the rare things where it’s guaranteed that the 100th time you do it will be better than the first.
- Aim to provide specific value to a specific audience with everything you write. “Valuable” is better than “interesting.” And value is typically rooted in transformation: Write things that help people get from Point A to Point B.
- Quantity, quality, and consistency are equally important (and feed off each other).
- Reading makes you a better writer. My grammar, vocabulary, and style all stem from regularly reading high-quality material. Look up words you don’t know and take note of sentences that make you feel or think differently.
- Ask writers/editors you trust for feedback and listen very closely to their edits. Once they point out a mistake or bad habit in your writing, take note of it and try to never do it again.
- Career-wise, you can go anywhere as a great writer. Every industry and every company has writers – you can do amazing things and have fantastic opportunities if you keep improving.
- Decide which 3 topics you want to write about. Don’t worry, you can always change them down the road.
- Don’t try to chase trends, your audience can smell when your content isn’t authentically you.
- You can only control the work you do, and don’t have any influence on the outcome. Focus on your output, instead of the outcome.
Their ultimate writing tip:
Nia Gyant: “Let your writing sit. Do you still agree with what you wrote? Is the concept well-rounded? Could you clarify? Does the format help or hurt the message? When you step away and revisit it with fresh eyes, you can evaluate it more effectively on these and other points.”
Sangeet Kar: “Don’t worry if you don’t have enough clarity about your topic before you write. The stories I write begin to take shape once I put some words on paper.”
Josh Spector: “Writing involves three distinct phases and it helps to approach them separately. Idea generation is a different process than writing which is a different process than editing. What I’ve found is most writers who struggle try to do one or more of those things simultaneously and suffer because of it. It’s not hard to come up with ideas if all you’re trying to do is come up with ideas (and not judging them or trying to clearly communicate them at the same time. It’s not hard to write a first draft if you’re willing to write crap and not worried about making it perfect as you go. And it’s not hard to edit your work once you have a draft to work with because all you’re doing is improving it which feels good and gives you momentum to get it finished. But trying to do all those things at the same time? That’s almost impossible.”
Morgan Ulrich: “Do not skip editing. Even on Twitter I see great posts ruined by clunky syntax or spelling mistakes. Read aloud and if you’re unsure of a grammar rule, look it up.”
Jessie van Breugel: “Write the content you needed to read 6 months ago.”
What was your favourite piece of advice?