Five steps to becoming a better writer

Writers write, right? Here are five things you can do this week (with me) to become a better writer. And since big projects tend to scare (and excite, but mostly scare) me, we can take it day by day.

Monday: Make a promise to write every day this week. Promise to write for at least five minutes in the morning or the evening. Here goes.

One of my favourite contemporary authors, Zadie Smith, tweeted the other day that to write well, you should unplug your internet. I spend so much time procrastinating on social media when I’m supposed to use my free time to write. I even write about how I procrastinate on social media! Aarg!

In the beginning of the year I vowed to write every day, but you get busy, things get in the way, at the end of the day you’re tired as all hell, and then you have to be social, take the dogs for a walk, wash the dishes, do the laundry, the endless tasks of trying to carve a place for yourself in the world.

Take this morning, for instance. I woke up with a plan. 6 am. Wake up, shower, take the car out, dress, start working early, perhaps with a few minutes of writing.

But then the dog pooed in the lounge, the domestic worker (not mine, I just live on the property, sort of like a bywoner who doesn’t pay rent) arrived and I was the only one here to let her in. Then the big dog started jumping up on my work clothes (every day, every day, I go to these big corporate events with long white Jack Russell hair all over me). “Stop buying black clothes, you idjit!” my inner voice screams.

Where was I? Oh yes. Then the search for the keys commenced, followed by the search for the GPS, the search for coffee, the search for a clean cup, and before I knew it it was 8 o’clock and the morning had lost its lustre.

But I think it’s time I follow my own advice. Break it up into smaller pieces. I’m flipping out over this one rather large project I have to do between July and September, but I know, I can do it, I am smart enough and I work hard enough, it’s my anxiety that gets in the way.

Just like with everything else. Will I ever be a brilliant writer? Will I ever figure out what I want to say? Why hasn’t it happened for me yet? What am I doing wrong? How will I support my family? Am I letting everyone down? Should I have studied to be a doctor/lawyer/accountant instead?

These questions kill your passion. It’s good to be self-critical, and I love neurosis as much as the next guy, but there’s no point trying to tackle all of life’s problems at once. I’m doing my best for now. And no matter how well I do, I am the sort of crazy anxious person who will always want to do better. But there has to be someone like me around as well.

And now, to work I go!


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