Writing Guide Part 2: Focus
It’s been a longer time than I wanted since I posted the first part of the writing guide, but here we are again! The focus of Part 1 was reading, reading, and reading some more. Learning from the best is crucial, but I wanted to be sure that I hammered home the point of learning from the best writers from every ‘field’ of writing.
Since Part 1 was so important though, it’s good that you got more than enough time to truly absorb each step and put it into practice. Because you did do that, right? If you didn’t do that, no worries. Just got back to that post to refresh your memory and do those preliminary steps before you continue here. If you did do your ‘homework’ though, wonderful: let’s continue!
What’s your one thing?
Put your notes from Part 1 together and try to gauge which writing source you had the most and ‘strongest’ insights about. Did you just absolutely fire away with thoughts about analytical news pieces? Or did you have some particularly interesting notes about academic papers? Whatever it may be, it’s important to take stock of this early on because it’s a decent indicator of the type of writing that you’ll want to focus on in the future.
I gave that particular assignment in Part 1 because, in my opinion, the essence of becoming a good writer is to focus on one area/style. To be able to do this though, you have to be deeply familiar with the options (or styles) of writing that are available to you.
So think about it: based on the research you’ve done from reading all these different sources of writing, what type of writing really speaks to you? Do you want to be a masterful author of academic papers? Perhaps being the best sports’ journalist in the world lights you up? Or do you want to be a fantastic tech writer? Whatever it may be, you absolutely must focus on one area first before you start dreaming of becoming the ultimate writer. Once you do that, you can start thinking of supplementing your current style with other ones; for example, you can add that deft touch of novel-style writing to your academic papers. Then you really become the ‘Perfect Cell’ of writing.
It’s time now to look at you, dear reader. More specifically, it’s time to look at your personal characteristics that are relevant to your writing endeavors. There’s a great opportunity here to really understand these unique characteristics and how they might allow your writing to shine if applied to the relevant area of writing. Two questions to explain this point:
Are you very matter-of-fact or a more creative thinker? If you’re the former, writing analytical pieces is probably your sweet spot. On the other hand, if you’re a more creative, dreamy thinker, you’re better off ditching all the scientific jargon and writing ‘from the soul’ instead.
Are you very impassioned or the more level-headed type? Having an impassioned mind is nice for writing about more emotional topics like love or finding meaning and purpose in life. However, a greater degree of level-headedness is especially useful for writing objective analytical pieces because you know how to cut through the crap to see both sides of the equation.
I know, these are pretty broad generalizations and you can surely think of more and better examples that are more suited to you, but the point was to get you thinking about fully capitalizing on your personal characteristics in order to enhance the focus of your writing. Particularly, it’s about looking at how your strengths could magnify your success in the relevant area of writing.
Let’s do a quick recap. We’ve broadly identified the “one thing” that you want to be as a writer based on the research you did in Part 1. We’ve discussed some (personality?) traits that may indicate which style of writing could really maximize your strong points.
Based on all of this, it’s time to start doing the work. Every week, write one piece of content (article, blog post, whatever you wanna call it) for the one area of writing that you’ve chosen. I don’t care if it’s 2000 words or 500 words: just write. If you chose sports blogging, then write one article per week about your favorite sports team. If it’s an analytical piece, write a piece where you dissect an interesting current event that’s close to your heart. You have to practice, practice, practice, based on the things you learned from reading all that content a while ago.
This is where your notes from Part 1 come in handy because they give you a foundation and help you understand what specific areas you need to focus on when you’re writing. Seriously, you need to use these notes, they’re super, super important; I cannot stress this enough. Also, I don’t care if you think you’re not good enough to write and then decide to procrastinate on this until the end of time. Stop thinking and just do the frikkin work, week after week. Show up and do it. Just write and, for the love of God, stop questioning yourself.
If you’re really confident, you can make a Medium account and publish your content there as a way of “proving” your commitment to this project. Don’t worry and/or don’t get your hopes up: you’ll probably not get a single view on your articles for at least a year or so, hence there’s no risk of public shame there. Nevertheless, I genuinely think that it’s admirable if you have the confidence to put yourself in the public spotlight so early on.
Now go out there, truly commit yourself to this project, and give it your best shot. Good luck!
See you, Space Cowboy