(Writing 101) 5 tips for better Creative Writing OR Technical Writing

So you’re someone who’s a little bit more artsy, love to express yourself in sonnets and imagery but have a harder time with technical writing?  Or maybe you’re great at writing facts, non-fiction, and being very concise but you have a harder time with creative writing?

Don’t worry, whether you’re one or the other–you’re in luck.  Here are 5 tips that might help get you through your thesis or get your creative juices flowing.  And always remember: writing is a skill.  Even if you grew up writing acrostic poems while the rest of your class were deciding between “I love you, Mom” and “I ❤ U” (true story), it is still a skill.  It needs to be honed, practiced, and critiqued before it gets better.  So don’t worry if you’re not the next poet laureate or David Sedaris (I love you).

1.  Get familiar with what you’re trying to write.

Read.  Read.  Read.  Read.  Read.  Read until your eyes bleed.  Okay, maybe not that far.  But the point is, read the kind of writing you’re trying to emulate.  As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery, so you’ll learn some things or see some things that you might want to borrow and make your own.  Read lots of theses or dissertations or scientific articles.  You’ll learn about the kind of language they use.  You’ll start to discover a basic template that you can use.  If you’re trying to write creatively, check out well-known authors and unpublished, random works.  There are so many great creative minds out there that have zero ambition to publish, but their words can be just as inspirational.

2.  Your first draft is going to be sh*tty. 

Even if you’re David Sedaris, your first draft is not going to be Shakespeare.  You have to get over that real quick.  Hell, maybe even your second draft.  Or your third.  But slowly it will start to take shape, and you’ll start to see it take a form very close to where you want it to be.  So, the point is: just get something on the page.  You might just word vomit your thoughts or ideas, or you might brainstorm bullet points or you might make a Venn diagram.  Whatever works for you.  The scariest part of any work is just starting.  You got this!

3.  Let people read it–but remember you’re the author.

And be prepared to get red marks and criticism about a section of your writing that you thought was brilliant and genius.  It always helps to have more than one set of eyes read your work.  They might spot something that you miss, or they might have some words of wisdom that gives you a lightbulb.  But always remember: you are the writer.  And you have what I like to call…the “writer’s veto.”  Meaning, you don’t have to take all their advice, you can veto anything.  It’s your work.  You take everything with a grain of salt.  If you have an editor, then it probably behooves you to listen to what they say very seriously, but ultimately, it’s your choice.  Maybe there’s something you want to fight for because of Reason X.  Who knows.  If you have an advisor, then yeah, maybe it’s a good idea to approve all their edits because if you don’t you’ll be stuck in grad school forever and spend your nights crying alone in the dark staring at a blinking cursor wondering why “via” sounds dated.  But again, if you have really strong feelings about something, it’s still up to you, and eventually they’ll back off.

4.  Focus on your strengths.

If you’re more technical or more creative…own it.  That’s what you’re better at.  That’s great.  Some people are crappy at both, you should be happy.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve the skills you’re weakest at, but you should use the tools you have right now.  If you can’t write prose in your thesis, that’s understandable, but you’ll probably have a fun time using your creative brain by looking at a thesaurus to find the best words.  Because using the word “utilize” a million times is so boring, am I right??  Or maybe you’re having a hard time letting loose for a creative piece, but you’re really good at making outlines or planning.  You can gather the gist of what you’re trying to write, and then practice word vomiting on the page.  Go back to Tip 2, just write something down.

5.  Take a break.

When we focus so much on trying to do something, sometimes we can become resentful of the task.  This can be particularly bad if you’re trying to write a thesis and you’re gathering more and more debt the longer you stay in your program and would rather pluck all the hairs on your body with a tweezer than stare at your dissertation.  In other words, take a break.  Close your laptop.  Stop thinking about it.  Do something else.  When you’re ready to come back to it, do your best to re-frame the way you view it.  Maybe you find it boring or overwhelming or too difficult or not good enough.  Find something positive about it.  Or make your goal smaller.  Or accept that that’s how you feel about it but focus on what you can do to get it done.  Focus on what you’ll get when you get it done.  Like having everyone stop asking you when you’ll finally graduate because if you hear it One. More. Time.  You can do it!  And if you have the luxury of going back to it later…try that too  If you’re not finding joy or purpose in it, try something else.

Did you find these tips helpful?  Do you have any tips of your own?  Like this post, leave a comment, and subscribe for more writing tips!