13 Rules for Writing

Writing is one of the highest-leverage skills you can carry in your toolkit.

Anyone can learn how to do it. And with the technology available at our fingertips today, anyone who can masterfully craft an argument can win an audience.

Writing improves thinking. Better thinking improves your ability to get the results you want from life.

With enough effort and practice, writing can change your life for the better.

So to that end, I offer you my “13 Rules for Writing Better”.

Rule 1. Write. A lot.

You won’t get better at anything if you don’t practice. You must practice to triangulate your own voice. Until you find your voice, you’re just an imitator. When you’re just imitating, you’re not thinking critically. Until you can think critically, you’re at a disadvantage when you encounter new challenges. Write. A lot. So you can survive the challenges of life.

Rule 2. Begin with the end in mind. 

What are you trying to accomplish? Starting at a blank page will steal hours of your life. That’s amplified when you don’t have an aim.

Rule 3. Copy good writing.

Find good writing. Physically copy it down by hand. Get acquainted with what if feels like to write masterfully. Borrow great writers’ voices until you find your own.

Rule 4. First sentence. Second sentence. 

Writing should flow. The goal of your first sentence is to get someone to read your second sentence. And so on.

Rule 5. Consume as much as you create. 

Keep your head full of ideas. You can’t pour out from an empty vessel.

Rule 6. Less is more. 

Great writing removes the unnecessary parts. You jump into the story no earlier than necessary. You get right to the action. You eliminate fluff. You make powerful points without excess bluster.

Rule 7. Master the rules before you break them. 

Just like any great athlete, if you want to write well, you must learn the fundamentals first.

Rule 8. Perfect your process. 

Find what works best for you. Do you write best in the mornings? Evenings? In a coffee shop? Facing a blank wall in a quiet room? Until you build the discipline to sit and write at will, remove any barriers to your creative process. 

Rule 9. Write drunk. Edit sober. 

Figuratively speaking. Unless you’re Ernest Hemingway. Don’t wait for inspiration to write. But when you do *feel* it. Sit down and get it out on paper. It’s impossible to manufacture authentic desire – so when you’re in the moment, write while your muse is smiling. Because most days you probably won’t feel like it.

Rule 10. Find a sponge bullet. 

Find someone you can bounce ideas off without ridicule. To get better, you must write a lot. Which means you’ll have plenty of duds. Find a trusted confidant who can help you navigate through your own ideas and improve them.

Rule 11. Write stuff that moves you. 

Write about what you know and care about. Especially while you’re building the muscle. Over time you can expand your horizons. But you’ll make it more difficult on yourself if you try only writing about things that bore you.

Rule 12. Do your homework. 

Get beyond the limits of your own experience. Ask questions. Read books. Draw on other sources. Color your writing with the experience and insights of others.

Rule 13. Write like you talk. 

Nobody wants to read boring academic-speak filled with thesaurus replacement words. Be real. Triangulate your authentic voice. Remove barriers to clarity from your writing.