I follow a lot of writers online. Medium is one of the places where I find inspiring writers. I follow best-selling authors and read their blogs to find inspiration.
Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite authors. I was reading his blog this morning and stumbled upon his article on writing. He says that wanting to be a writer is the number one mistake. (Hmm. Interesting!)
Till today, I have gotten a lot of writing advice like “write every day,” “focus on editing,” “don’t use adverbs,” “write short paragraphs,” “use active voice,” and so forth.
While these tips are great for good writing, they don’t matter unless you have something to say and communicate to others.
Ryan’s writing advice is:
Go do interesting things.
When you do interesting things, you will have something to say. You will have experiences and lessons to share. Your experiences and lessons can inspire other individuals, and that is what you should aim to do. It is about providing value and having things to say.
Grammar, structure, or choice of words will have no meaning if what you are saying has no or little value. So even if your writing is grammatically correct and you have used the most amazing words, it will not matter unless you are providing value to the readers.
When you read an article written by a professional writer, you think it is perfect. No grammatical errors, perfectly structured, and good choice of words. But the story behind it is different.
Most professional writers probably sucked at writing when they first started their writing journey. They had probably written hundreds of articles before anybody even knew who they were. They learned how to write well by being consistent. But most importantly, they understood that writing is more about having something to say, inspiring others, and changing people’s lives with their stories.
So the first thing to identify before you start writing is what value you are providing to your readers. All the other stuff like grammar and word choices come later. I am not saying that they don’t matter at all. Of course, they do. But what matters most is your story.
Among the 100+ articles I have written, the most popular ones are those where people can find the most value. They have contacted me for my work and the value I have provided. But no one has ever pointed out my grammatical errors, typos, and writing mistakes. I use simple words and try to write as clearly as possible. So even if there are a few mistakes here and there, readers will understand what I am trying to say. And, that is what matters.
Writing is just like any other skill. The more you do it, the more you will learn and become good at it. You can become a better writer by reading other people’s stories too. All you have to do is put on daily practice. But that does not mean you write whatever you want.
Do interesting things, meet interesting people, travel to beautiful places, listen to successful people, read great books, work for companies, watch movies, listen to music. If you do these things, you will have experiences and lessons to share. Then, start writing about them.
If you are a beginner, just start writing. Don’t give much thought to your words, writing style, and grammar. Keep it simple so that even children in Grade 4 can understand your writing.
Everything else about writing is a learning process. Don’t chase perfectionism from the beginning. “Go do interesting things.” Have something to say that might be of value to others. That is the best writing advice I have gotten.