The Elements of Writing

by Jean Paul Cortes
(San Jose, Costa Rica)

Writing is an act of self-expression. Like many others, I've struggled with writing and still continue to wrestle with finding my "voice." Even when despair has reared its ugly head along the path however, I've always found a way out of the maze, the below guidelines have helped me do this and may help you as well.

What To Write About

The first thing to focus on is on finding a topic. This may seem obvious, and yet it's also the reason why many writers fail to get past the first paragraph. They usually have a lot of ideas, but not real clarity about what to write about and this makes it very hard to write about anything.

Topic selection is like honing in on a target, in order to hit it you need to see it first. If your mind is jumping from one point to the other, this will reflect in your writing and your readers will probably be dazed and confused and stop reading.

This process allows your mind to focus on what it needs to produce, and it doesn't really need to be a grueling ordeal. Just sit down, grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down what's on your mind, don't worry if it's not clear, at this point what you're doing is getting your thoughts out of your head, you'll be selecting a topic in a bit.

Next, read what you've written down. You'll probably notice that there are several ideas roaming about, as you spot them, underline the words that seem to best describe them. When you have two or three underlined words, pick the one that calls your attention the most and then let your mind free associate this word to everyday situations, this is what you'll write about. What you're doing is breaking down many thoughts into a single idea that's easily digestible for your readers.

What Are Your Strengths?

Do you know what your unique talents are? If you don't, you should start figuring out what they are. You see, we all have a particular makeup of character strengths, and while good writers can probably write about anything, great writers stick to their strengths. They find out what those are and learn how to use them to their advantage. Express yourself by expressing your unique talents and strengths.

There's an important lesson in this learning and one that's sadly not recognized by our educational system, which is that you will grow the most in those areas where you are naturally stronger. The fact is, that you will not achieve exceptional levels of growth or knowledge in areas where you are weak.

Does It Really Matter?

I can't even imagine how much is written in the millions of articles, blogs and web pages on the Internet today. Ask yourself, how much of this really adds value to your life. If it doesn't, are you really willing to give up your time to read it? If you want to write an article, make it valuable to your readers. Honor them by helping them fix a problem or by offering a solution. Put yourself in your reader shoes, try to understand what their needs are and you'll write better.

Tell Your Story.

Human beings love stories, they describe events that unfold over time and have the power to change how we see things. By the time we're children we've already absorbed many stories and perhaps made them our own. We crave them so much because they allow us a glimpse into human experience, we identify with the stories that we tell ourselves and others.

Think about the last time you changed your mind about something important, in the midst of this change you can probably find a story to tell. Tell it. Your readers will appreciate it.

Be Inspired

Writing requires inspiration. Articles that lack passion probably will not be read. Would you like to read something that brings you down? Of course not, nobody does, people want to feel inspired. The passion that you put into your writing shines through.

Be Original

There's nothing bad about being you. Say what you think and feel. Does it really matter what other people think? You'll never be original if you allow yourself to be ruled by the good and bad opinion of others. The greatest writers have realized this, they view their writing as an expression of themselves and aren't afraid of letting it show and neither should you. Have confidence, generating it, if needed, by your own will.

Sit Down To Write

The path to mastery lies in practice. If you want to become a better writer, sit down and start writing, you will get better. There's no better explanation to this than the one give by William Zinsser in one of the greatest books about writing "On Writing Well" he says: "You learn to write by writing. It is a truism worn thin by repetition, but it is still true, and it can't be repeated often enough. The only way to lean to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis."

Comments for The Elements of Writing

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Nov 20, 2010
My opinion
by: Susana

Your techniques sound very well planned, but for me writing is just an expression of an inner thought that needs to be put into the surface,

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