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Tag: writing tips (Page 1 of 5)

Save Your Writing


I always encourage writers to save their writing. I have old notebooks of writings and poems that date back to my teenage years. I’ve saved word docs from over 10 years ago with stories and articles that I never polished and finalized. I keep these because I never know when I’ll be writing something and remember that I have an old anecdote, story, or paragraph from years back that will fit perfectly into what I’m writing now. Always save your writing, friends. An old piece might end up being a great launching point for a new one.

I used to run an email list called The Dailie Break. Unoriginal, right? Well, it was twenty years ago. It was before the internet took shape in its current form. There wasn’t social media yet and even blogs weren’t a thing. (Can you imagine?) While a daily email wasn’t an earth-shattering idea, there also wasn’t a lot of them going around. I ran it for nearly seven years. With no intention of doing anything more than sending it out to a few people, the list expanded exponentially from five original subscribers. It grew by word of mouth, quite to my surprise.

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The point is not to share a trip down memory lane with you, though. When I knew that The Dailie Break had run its course and I was done with it, I sent one final email to my readers. I had no intention other than to offer a heartfelt email that day. I saved it, and to this day, I’m still not sure why.


An old piece of writing can be a friend to a new piece. Hang on to everything you write.Click To Tweet


Years later, when I was writing the short story Expect Dragons, I sat down to write Mr. Smith’s 40 Tips for College and Life. Wracking my brain writing and rewriting them, I remembered the old email I sent and a few sentences in there that I enjoyed. I dug it up and went through it. I had no idea, nor any intention of using this email later on in my writing. It’s not very good. The grammar is poor and there are errors that need to be edited. But I had the wherewithal to save the darn thing and I was glad I did.

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Here is a portion of that email from over 10 years ago in all its poorly written glory (some of it will look familiar):

7 years ago, this May, The Dailie Break was born at the back-corner cubicle of a law firm in downtown Minneapolis. As a young 22-year-old, I was full of excitement and energy, interning for a law firm, waiting tables, and playing in endless Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments at Canterbury Downs. I was the quintessential adolescent male. Before you think interning for a law firm at the age of 22 is impressive, let me assure you, it was not. My job consisted of driving to an old warehouse in a mini-van, loading up boxes of old files, sorting through them to enter them into an electronic database and shredding the ones the partners signed off to be shred. Not very glamorous.

The significance of this summer in 2004 is that it was my first desk job. Like anyone sitting down at a desk for the first time, it sucked. So, I sent an email out to a few of my brothers and friends declaring that I’d send a daily email out in order to break up the monotony of the work day. I sent the first email without knowing where it may lead. I never thought it would last nearly seven years. The first few editions were sent out to make readers laugh. Then a writer I enjoy, who greatly impacted black culture in sports in America, passed away; so I provided his post-9/11 article to readers. Somehow, word spread like whatever the opposite of wild fire is and TDB grew. We saw horrible tsunamis, school shootings, floods, earthquakes, wars, deaths and murders. We saw presidential elections, championships, Nobel prizes, births and weddings.

The world moves fast and time goes quickly, so TDB was created to remind us to stop sometimes—to make us laugh, think, and sometimes, cry. Life gets in the way of living and we need to be reminded of that from time to time. That’s what TDB aimed to do. It was created to make us think outside the box. Not everyone thinks the way you do, (or I do); that’s something to be embraced, not shunned. It was created to make us realize, not everything has to have a point, (hence the baffling spelling of the name). In its development over seven years, it became exactly the thing it was intended to destroy—monotony. So, unfortunately, it is time. But I will leave you with this.

Have a routine, but avoid being routine. Life’s too short to not seize the opportunities with which we are presented. Always take the chance to do what you love when it comes along. Question authority. Question those who question authority. We are all intelligent, thoughtful individuals. Don’t let others tell you something has to be that way. It doesn’t. The world is far too complex for it to have to be that way. Share laughter. There’s far too much that’s funny out there to take yourself and others too seriously. Share tears. There’s far too much pain and hurt out there not to take others struggles seriously. Decide what you believe, know who you are and live accordingly. Don’t apologize for that. But if you realize later on that you were wrong, admit it. Ask for forgiveness. Maya Angelou has a great quote: “If I’d known better, I’d done better.” We can only do the best we know how, but there’s no excuse for not striving to attain the know-how. And there’s certainly no excuse for not doing better once we have it.

Finally, be kind. Kindness can change things far beyond our wildest dreams. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it’s kindness that makes the heart grow softer.

Thank you and farewell.

That’s the email I sent out the day that list ended. Some of it might look familiar, no?

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These are partially the same edited tips from 40 Tips On Creative Writing. I may have never finished them had I not kept that email from years ago.

Save your writing! This is only one example of many where I’ve dug up an old piece and used it in the perfect spot later. You never know when you might need that scene, quote, essay, or character description again. Save it.


Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.


Adjust Your Mindset

There are times when the thoughts and ideas that we want to write are right there in our mind’s eye, but when we sit down, the words don’t come. We’re not at a loss of what to write, instead we find it painstakingly difficult to get the brilliant concepts in our heads onto the paper. We sit down with great ideas and then nothing comes out, or what does come out pales in comparison to what we wanted to write, so we delete it immediately.

If you’re anything like me, you may be inclined to beat yourself up about poor writing or feel guilty about being unable to execute your ideas. If you’re like me, you’ll think it’s a failure that you can’t find the right words. Don’t be like me though. Let’s be better.

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Instead of thinking in terms of failures and successes, think in terms of results. Why did I produce this result? How can I produce a different one?  This will allow you to remove your emotion, stress and disappointment of the situation, and be able to think more clearly.


“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” -Tony Robbins. Click To Tweet


When I adjust my mindset, and think in terms of results instead of failure, I think more clearly and make more rational decisions.

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Once you’re in an adjusted mindset of focusing on results, take a different approach. If the right words aren’t flowing from your brain onto the paper, one tried and true method to try is writing-prompts. You can find plenty of prompts online, or maybe just randomly pull a book off your shelf and write about the first sentence you read. How about taking a line from a song you like or a conversation you overheard? Or maybe just use the writing the prompt “I have nothing to write about” and write that line over and over until eventually, something will stream out of you. The idea is to keep the pen moving no matter what. And don’t worry if nonsense comes out. Sometimes we need to empty the crammed thoughts that are pent up in our heads to make way for something else to pour out.

Let’s try it:

I have nothing to write about.

I have nothing to write about.

I have nothing to write about.

I have nothing to write about

And neither do you,

But if we sit here long enough

The words will come through

That was unplanned and just using the writing prompt “I have nothing to write about.” Words started to come through my head and find their way onto the paper. Try it on for size the next time the right words aren’t flowing.

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Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.


Sharpening Your Tools! Making The Writing Process Easier On You


Sharpening Your Tools!

Making The Writing Process Easier On You

by Jay Donnelly


Hate writing papers? Most of us do. It’s such a time-consuming practice that you can very much end up hating the writing process even before you have sat down to type a single letter, even if you find learning the information a sheer joy. When it comes to the act of writing papers, it’s certainly fine art. It’s not just about that period of time sat at the desk, it’s all about what happened before, as well as what happens after. Let’s give you some tips to write papers quickly throughout the entire process.


Tools Of The Trade

If you have terrible spelling, don’t have a knack for grammar, or just hate the idea of going back over what you have just written, the best thing you can do is have the right tools at your disposal. If you have a Mac, there are plenty of text editor software packages, gives you a list to choose from.

In addition to this, if you struggle to stay productive, there’s a lot to be said about working under pressure. There are tools like the Pomodoro Technique that can help you to keep focused. Sometimes, all you need is just a stopwatch. And having that right sense of pressure helps you to retain some sense of focus.


Making Paper Writing Go By Quickly

If you hate typing (and who doesn’t?) you might want to think about making it easier for you. You don’t need to sit at your table anymore, agonizing over every single letter because there are plenty of dictation tools out there now. If you look on, you can see the best dictation software that turns your speech into text. If you are an incredibly slow typer, having the right software that can keep up with your speech, means you will be able to write an essay as fast as you can speak.

In one respect you might think this doesn’t help proceedings because you aren’t yourself as you go. But remember, it’s far better to go back over your text afterwards and clean it up. Writing is rewriting!


Keeping You In That Flow State

The flow state is the unsung hero of any long-form practice. Getting into it is a way to make writing papers go by quickly. In fact, it can even be enjoyable. Getting into that flow state depends on you as a person. If you hate the task, then finding ways to almost hypnotize yourself can make life a lot easier to get the paper done quickly. Think about things like binaural beats or focus exercises or the right piece of music, because these things will help to trigger something in your brain that can keep you going. 


If you hate writing papers, you’ve got to find a way to work smarter rather than harder. Slaving over something in this manner feels like your chipping away at your brain. As such, if you can get the act of writing an essay or long-form piece done by ensuring that the process of writing itself is easier on you, it will make for a smoother process.






Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

Writing: It’s All About Flow

Writing is all about flow


by Jay Donnelly


Creating great art isn’t something that can be taught. It’s more of an experience that bubbles up from the unconscious, sometimes effortlessly. If you were to ask a great composer or writer how they came up with such incredible novels or symphonies, they probably wouldn’t be able to put their experience into words, no matter how much time you gave them.

But what state of mind are great writers in when they do their best work? How is it that they can create such remarkable works that captivate their audiences?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on the idea of “flow” – a brain state in which the writer loses themselves entirely in their work, not stopping to think about superficial things like grammar and punctuation. In this state, they lose their sense of time or perception of the outside world and can remain single-mindedly focused on their narrative for hours at a time. Flow allows writers to unleash the full productive potential of their brains without interfering thoughts interrupting their progress. It’s when writers are in this state that they produce their best work.

What flow actually is is something of a mystery. It used to be thought that writers used the right hemisphere of their brains to intuitively and emotionally feel their way to the best possible prose. But new science debunks the notion that our brains are split into two distinct regions, each responsible for different types of thoughts (left for rational and scientific thinking, and right for emotional and intuitive thinking).  It’s now believed that the process of writing is a whole brain experience, encompassing both feeling, emotion, logic, structure and memory. Brain scans of writers show that numerous regions of the brain light up, indicating that the process isn’t limited to a single section.

With that said, achieving flow is difficult. Scientists think that writers need to reach a certain level of competence before flow is possible, and even then, it still might not happen if they are not capable of entering the right mental state. At the very least, writers need to have an unconscious command of the language and be able to manipulate it in written format unthinkingly. This doesn’t happen overnight but is instead the result of many months or years of repetition.

It’s similar to driving. When you first learn to drive, you have to think carefully about everything that you’re doing and try to coordinate both your hands and feet. There’s an enormous amount of conscious effort to keep the car under control. But over time, actions are learned and then increasingly regulated by the unconscious mind. After a while, drivers don’t need to put any conscious effort into what they’re doing: they just do it automatically.

A similar thing happens for writers at the top of their game. Over time, the nuts and bolts of the writing process become automatic, freeing up the conscious mind to focus more on style, expression, and rhetorical form. Once all other distractions are blocked out, flow just happens as the natural result of all that unconscious learning.

So how do you achieve this magical state of flow? By its very nature, it’s not something that can be learned through instruction. But there are things that you can do to bring yourself closer to it. Here’s how.


Read Your Writing Aloud

Proofreading your work is a good idea. But your internal voice is often very different from your real voice – the one that requires the use of your vocal cords. As such, many aspiring writers get into the habit of reading their own work aloud to make sure that the intonation is how they imagine.

Sometimes when you read your work aloud, it sounds entirely different to how it did in your head, prompting you to make changes. At other times, it seems okay grammatically, but it doesn’t sit well with your intended audience. Perhaps it’s too formal, or too complicated, requiring simpler sentence structures and shorter paragraphs.

Reading aloud also helps you to identify problems that your eye might not catch. Scanning a document is one thing, but truly listening to it is quite another.


Experiment With Sentence Structure

Learning how to manipulate sentences is a crucial writer skill. There are all sorts of ways to arrange English that will make sense to your audience, but only a few ways that feel natural. Many struggling writers seek the help of a virtual writing tutor to show them how to create sentences that flow naturally on from one to another. Writing that does not achieve flow can feel disjointed and ugly, and can confuse the reader.

If possible, try to get your ideas down on paper first before you start rearranging. Then, once you’re happy with the content, start fiddling around to see what sounds good. The editing process can actually be very beneficial. Although it’s time-consuming and challenging, it will slowly teach you how to create fluency in your work, making it easier to get into the flow state later on.


Be Concise

Novice writers often feel that they have to pad their writing with additional fluff. This should come as no surprise: schools teach the importance of adjectives and adverbs to build the scene. But genuinely effective writing tries to communicate complex subjects in the simplest possible terms. Additional fluff gets in the way of conveying meaning to the reader, and in some circumstances, can be downright annoying.

Also, keep a keen eye out of sentences which run on and on. It can be challenging to communicate certain concepts, especially conditionals, without including multiple clauses. Good writers learn how to shorten sentences so that they retain the focus of the reader without sacrificing rigour or clarity.


And Finally …

Make sure that you get your ideas down on paper first before you start the editing process. Allowing yourself the freedom to write without constant self-criticism is the first step to getting into the flow state. There’s always time to go back later and sort out the punctuation, grammar and structure.



Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

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