How to write like you give a shit

I am a terrible writer who from time to time produces something decent. That‘s how I feel about what I create. That‘s impostor syndrome for you. I suffer from it as much as the next guy. But I won‘t let it stop me from writing as much as I can. I write every day. I have to. I‘ve been doing this shit for years, and I certainly won‘t stop because my brain tells me to.1

Believing to be terrible at what I do has one benefit though: I need to try extra hard. I go the extra mile to create something meaningful. Over the years I collected different pieces of advice and rules to help better my writing.

I‘ll publish them here as a sort of reminder. Consider this to be my style guide. Maybe you find it helpful and learn something new.

  • „It is only by going through a lot of volume of work that… your work will be as good as your ambitions.“ by Ira Glass. Which translates to: Read a lot and write a lot
  • „You don‘t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.“ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Let me add to this quote: Live a life worth writing about.
  • Don‘t wait for inspiration or you‘ll die waiting
  • Write every day as if your life depended on it. Because it does
  • „This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it‘s done. It‘s that easy, and that hard.“ by Neil Gaiman.
  • Create an outline for whatever you have to say
  • „All good writing begins with terrible first efforts.“ by Anne Lamott.
  • Finish your first draft and let it rest for a few days
  • Edit for flow, not for grammar. And: Write for yourself, edit for your readers
  • You shouldn‘t have to care too much about grammar. Use tools and auto-correct
  • Shorter sentences, even shorter paragraphs: „Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Never dress up your vocabulary. Don‘t use fancy words to impress someone
  • Don‘t steal someone else‘s voice. Create your own, regardless of how long it takes.
  • Delete the word „that“. You won‘t need it in at least 90% of cases
  • Delete „I think“. It strengthens your point
  • Delete words ending in „-ing“. It simply sounds better
  • „The adverb is not your friend.“ by Stephen King.
  • „Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler‘s heart, kill your darlings“ by Stephen King.
  • Make people angry. If half of your readers love what you wrote and the other half hates it, that‘s when you know you created something meaningful
  • Publish. Don‘t let perfectionism get into your way. Sometimes good enough is good enough
  • Break these rules
    1. I do know that I am not that terrible. But I try to stay humble by reminding myself that I still have a lot to learn. And a healthy amount of self-doubt helps a lot.