Lately, I have been working on increasing my writing output, and in general, becoming a better writer. The progress is questionable, so far.

As with exercise, however, the more you do it, the more chances you have to become better at it. I don’t subscribe to the notion that practice is sufficient, however. Because practice can also reinforce bad habits, and may not necessarily be helping you make progress.

Practice is necessary, but not sufficient. Your practice needs to be deliberate.

The other thing that writing practice does for you is to entrench your thought process and communication in the medium of the written word.

We think our thoughts easily. For some, it is like nonstop chatter in the mind. But when it comes to writing, we fall short.

One more advantage of writing is that it helps you to organize your thoughts. Just as you would not do a complex math problem in your head, though some might, the image is of the mad scientist or mathematician writing all over a blackboard. They are organizing and tracing back their thoughts in the same way.

So how can you practice the writing habit? Easier said than done, right?

Here is what I do.


First, make your environment conducive to writing. This can be as simple as having a notes app handy. Evernote, OneNote, Google Docs, or even a plain old notepad. Though since I tend to have my phone with me, I want to make writing as accessible as possible. It must be convenient, or I won’t do it.

Next, for things you might be tempted to solve in your head, things you’re chewing on, things that might be bothering you…just work the habit of writing it down.

At this stage, we are not trying to optimize the content, but the practice, of writing.

Getting Ideas

Once you have a good handle on the habit of writing, and you feel like you are writing some volume each day - whether it’s 5 minutes, or 200 words, or 500 words, you can start to channel your efforts.

Maintain the free write habit, but maybe a few times a week, pick a theme.

Two ways I tee up writing:

Topics Backlog

Whenever I have a question about something that requires some pondering, or something I think would be good to write a bit about, I jot down that idea in one single place. When I actually sit down to write, I have a list that I have accumulated just by going about and living my life.

A more advanced and directed version of this is the swipe file. Marketers have used this for a long time to catalog the best ideas they come across. It’s really a Pinterest of sorts: a way to capture, organize and annotate the best ideas you come across for easy access and reuse when the time comes.