Writing is hard and, unless you’re a total freak, you’re probably not going to be good at absolutely every aspect of blogging. Maybe photography is your strong suit, perhaps you excel at social media and marketing or maybe you’re a natural on camera and kill the Vlogging game. My blogging strength is writing and my weakness is photography, something I’ve had to work really, really hard to improve.
I’ve talked to a lot of bloggers who have said they’re totally comfortable with photography but find the writing aspect of things to be really hard. Today I wanted to share with you some really simple things you can do to improve your writing. I firmly believe anyone can learn to write well and express themselves how they want to and I’m hoping these tips will help you.
1. Keep it simple
Mate, give yourself a break. Not everyone can be Jack Kerouac or Harper Lee, most of us are just regular people trying to share our stuff on a blog. So, take the pressure off yourself to write a Pulitzer-Prize winning blog post. In the grand scheme of things, it’s one blog post in a sea of thousands you will write over the life of your blog. Don’t overthink it, don’t use big words you wouldn’t normally use, don’t write in a voice that isn’t your usual one. Take all of the pressure, stress and crap away from it. Just write.
If you’re really struggling with your writing I would recommend you scale back the amount of words in your blog posts until you build confidence and experience. Rely on your amazing photography and make your posts more image-based, with shorter captions and guidance spliced among the imagery.
2. Decide on a template
It’s overwhelming when you sit down to write but have no idea where to start or how to make the piece take shape. Set yourself a template for how you write each blog post, to take the pressure off.
For example, you might decide your blog posts will be 500 words long each time, comprising a heading then dot points / short blurbs under images / a couple of body paragraphs, followed by a conclusion then your bio. It may sound simple, but knowing this format will relieve pressure off you, all you have to do is follow the template. Once you’ve used it a few times, you’ll be comfortable enough with it that you won’t freak out when it comes time to write.
3. Write it how you’d say it
This is the best piece of advice I can give you. Imagine you are writing an email to a friend or imagine you are sitting across from your best friend at the coffee shop, telling them the story. Now, write it exactly like that. It really is that simple. This will give readers a sense of your true voice and who you are, it’ll give them a chance to get to know you.
4. Don’t overthink it
I’ve watched Matt sit in front of his computer and quite literally hit himself in the head with frustration while trying to write an email. When I’ve asked what the problem is, he says he’s been sitting there for 20 minutes trying to write back to someone. When I ask him what he’s trying to say to them, he usually says something like, “I want to tell them I can get the work done for them, but I’m away next week and can’t get it back to them until end of the month.” My advice to Matt is always, “Then just SAY THAT!” Write it exactly like that. Stop over-thinking it and trying to come up with a fancy way to say it, just bloody say it! “Sure, I can get that done for you, Brenda. I’m away next week and can get it to you by the 20th, does that work for you?”
5. Don’t judge it
Your writing is not yours to judge. It is only yours to create. Your blog post about visiting Rome isn’t going to attract critical acclaim from the New York Times and become the next big major motion picture, so what are you worrying about? Your only job is to write the blog post and put it out there for the world to enjoy (or hate). Whatever happens next is out of your hands and you can only do what you can do. So, stick to your job. Create it then let it go and move on. Don’t judge it. Don’t give it a second thought. Keep moving forward.
6. Practice makes perfect
Practice really does make perfect and this applies to writing too. Let me give you some homework. I want you to think of some of your happiest memories. Right now, in your mind, picture some of the happiest moments of your entire life. Even if it was just patting the cat down the street last Tuesday! Let it fill your mind. Where were you? Who were you with? What happened? What did that day feel like? Now, write it. Tell that story, but make a point of writing it exactly how it happened, in your own voice, exactly the same way as you’d tell it to a friend who hadn’t heard the story before. No fancy shit, mate. Just keep it regular.
“Last Tuesday I was walking down the street and I saw that damn gorgeous cat that belongs to my neighbour, Frank. This cat is seriously beautiful, she’s all orange and fluffy with hair that sticks up real crazy. Unlike other cats I’ve met in my street, this one is particularly friendly and really enjoys under-the-chin scratches. Her name is Princess Fluff-Butt and I am planning to steal her off Frank and make her my captive because I love her so much.”
The key here is learning to tell things as they are, not in a fancy, convoluted way that makes your head spin and stresses you out because you have to spend 7 hours on Synonym.com trying to find another word for ‘pretty’. If it’s pretty, say it’s pretty. Once you’ve mastered the art of simple storytelling you can kick things up a notch and move up to creative writing, adding more flair and fancy words to your junk.
If you want another way to practice, look at old travel photos (or similar) and write a short description about them.
7. Write about things you know and love
I find the things that are easiest for me to write are the things I want to write about. If there is passion behind your writing, you’ll find it a lot easier to get involved in what you’re creating and the words will just flow. If you can unblock your mind and let everything just tumble out, without judgement, you’ll start to find enjoyment from it. By writing about things you know and love, it’ll be that much easier for you to achieve that. I write about travel because I freaking love it! But I find the blog posts that flow easiest for me are ones like this one and my travel stories.
8. You gotta proof-read that shiz
You absolutely must proof-read your blog posts before you post them. This is essential. I proof-read mine, but sometimes my mind does this weird thing where it reads the words how I want them to appear and not how they actually are. So I can very easily read a type-o and not even see it! Stupid brain!
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that you have to make time to layout your blog post with words and images, then preview it before you post it and proof-read. You’re looking for continuity errors, do your sentences flow? Have you made any big leaps and missed key pieces of information to the story? Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Have you used the right ‘their, they’re and there’? Read it slowly. If you struggle with proof-reading, read it backwards. This stops your mind running too much and will help you spot spelling errors.
One trick I use is to write down describing words at the top of the page, to give me an overall feel for what the piece will be like. For Bali, I might type out words like; spiritual, sticky, warm, tropical, fresh fruit, yummy food, scooters, buzzing, noisy, rice fields, peaceful, yoga, meditation, reiki, street dogs, cute cats, temple. Those words create a reference point for me and, when I read them, take me back to Bali and make it easier for me to write the piece with some heart.
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Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.