Write Like It’s Your Job

When’s the last time you read something that spoke to you? Everybody Writes by Ann Hadley, is the latest to do that for me. The book has become a hybrid bible-self-help wonder. I clutch the hardcover, revisiting dog-eared pages, using it for reference and guidance. I suspect I’ll read it, either in its entirety or in chunks, repeatedly. Obviously, I recommend it, not only for those who consider themselves writers, but wanna-be and have-to-be writers too. No matter what you write, and I’m talking from emails to web copy, you could be better at it. More effective writing will lead to less L’s.

The main lesson I took from Everybody Writes is the simplicity of consistency. No magic formula. No waiting for a touch from the Fairy of Creativity. No anointed tribe exists, and no need for your own Yoko Ono. You’re good at what you do, and you will get better with practice. Just because every word you scribe isn’t a diamond, doesn’t mean it’s a lump of coal either. I’ve often sat in front of a laptop or notebook, only to freeze with feelings of inadequacy. Why start when it isn’t worth a damn? For goodness sake, even my trusty friend Grammarly mocks me. The last stats email included this gem: “Did you know? Scottish author Muriel Spark completed her best-known work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in about four weeks.” I didn’t know that, thank you, and please excuse me while I burn my outline. I’ve scrolled through many half-done, kinda-started, and cryptic lists of ideas lost in ‘one-day’ abyss.

Applying consistency to creativity isn’t a new concept. Steven King has been frank on mastering the art of routine. He approaches every day in the same way and aims to write 6 pages by its end, no matter what. He writes like it’s his job, even before it was. Schedule, sit, write, regardless of what comes out on the other side. This practice isn’t also exclusive to writing. Malcolm Gladwell outlines the 10, 000 hours rule in his brilliant work, Outliers. Watch Rapture on Netflix, a series chronicling the journey of select up-and-coming and established hip-hop superstars. A commonality presents itself. Talent is essential, but the ones who refuse to give up are the ones who made it. They outworked everyone by showing up day after day, tremendous or bloody terrible.

Ann’s style will resonate with you. The book is an easy read and perfect for skipping to the section you need right now. Listen, it’s one thing to read about a concept and quite another to implement, right? If you can start where she coaxes you to get started, dispelling the tiny myths that keep you from jumping into the ring. Think of her as that friend who’s brutally honest but encouraging at the same time. Each following chapter is a bounty of precise advice for every writing, content, and publication scenario. Seriously, you feel like Keanu after the red pill.

Sometimes the subject isn’t sexy or is more function than fun. White papers, reviews, term papers, and press releases come to mind. Sometimes it’s the weight. A speech, a crisis communication response, a reply to a child’s teacher that doesn’t make you sound like a bitch but needs to clarify you can be. Approach each the same way, and you’ve won half the battle.

Personally, the process starts with sitting at my desk, mood-ready playlist, a timer, muted cell, and a promise to ignore the email notifications that beckon from the top right of my screen. I build in reward breaks. If I’ve been writing for 45 minutes (and sometimes less if it’s one of those days), I reward myself with a game of Solitaire or a Twitter scroll. Maybe I grab a snack or a quick walk. Morning, twilight, in the basement, or a coffee spot-the formula doesn’t matter, as long as it’s yours. You’ll become strong enough that even when the set-up isn’t ideal, or you’re on the hot seat, you still punch that card.

Here’s to the visible future where you’re a versatile and even more fantastic writer. Show up and do the damn thang.