Walt Schlender
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On writing clearly

Writing isn't always easy for me. Here are a couple of erm… "mind-hacks" that I use to help me write even when I'm not feeling like it.

Writer’s block

When I start writing I often feel aimless. What should I write about?

Feeling aimless is frustrating and in the past I would find myself giving up — looking for something else to do.

These days I handle my feelings differently.

When I feel aimless I tell myself that — Ideas will come once I get to work. I’m not supposed to feel like writing, I’m supposed to get started.

This self talk really works for me.

A few minutes after I start I usually find myself feeling motivated and productive even though I started out feeling aimless.

Over time I’ve built up a collection of articles. A lot of the time I didn’t “feel like writing” but I got started. Those articles are my proof that this idea works.

A picture of a typewriter

Writing quality

My ideas often start out vague. This used to bother me. My writing just didn’t seem that good.

I would find myself writing a sentence, erasing it and rewriting it over and over. Nothing got written.

Through trial and error I’ve changed my worldview.

These days I expect my first draft to be vague and uninteresting.

My first pass is my ‘brain dump’ pass… just get everything on paper and editing is where my ideas get clearer.

When I edit I’ll ask myself some questions - “What does ‘vague’? mean… is there a more precise way to describe what’s going on?”… and “Does this sentence need to be here? Have I already made my point?”

After I edit an idea a couple of times I usually find that it has become clear and interesting.

Tone of voice

Some writers write as authorities on specific topics. I tried writing this way and it didn’t work for me.

I enjoy writing when I can share my personal experience.

I see myself as a storyteller, ‘here is my experience’ rather than an authority.

This mindset helps me feel more authentic and proud of what I write.


I hope you find these ideas useful.

Have some tips of your own? Let me know. Send me a message on twitter: @wschlender