What I Learned About Writing in 2021

As we finish 2021, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned so far as a junior writer. Here are the top tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. 

I didn’t set out to be a writer. When I was offered a job as an administrative assistant, I pictured setting up meetings and replying to emails. Paperclips and file folders. Coffee and notetaking. But then I had the chance to explore the unknown and try my hand at actual writing, and it didn’t take me long to realize how much I loved it. Thus began my exciting—and terrifying—adventure into the world of writing. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1: Embrace the fear (and then get over it)

Starting a new job always brings some feelings of doubt and fear, and it’s no different with writing. It’s good to acknowledge those feelings because they’re completely normal. However, it’s also important not to let those feelings overwhelm you. You’re not going to know everything when you first start writing, and that’s okay. The sooner you can accept that there will be a lot of things you’ll need to learn, the sooner you can begin the learning process and be on your way to becoming a fantastic writer.

2: Ask questions. Then more.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a writer, it’s that you can never ask too many questions. Asking questions is the best way to learn, and can save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run by making sure you fully understand what you’re working on.

A writer isn't good because they know everything. They're good because they're tenacious, scrappy, and willing to ask questions to unlock answers.​

3: Observe everything.

Aside from asking questions, another great way to learn is through observation. Writers are observers—this is our superpower. Observing allows you to gather as much information as possible and get the full picture of what you’re writing about. Every interaction is a learning opportunity: every email that you’re CC’d on, every client meeting that you attend, everything is an opportunity for you to improve your skills in some way and learn from other people—so pay attention!

4: Plan, plan, plan.

Dale Carnegie once said, “An hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing.” Before you can begin writing about a topic, you need to put in some major prep work. The only way you can confidently write about something is if you have a good grasp of the subject first, so take time to thoroughly research the topic you’re writing about. 

Once you’ve gathered the information you need, invest time into building an outline. An outline can make the difference between having a smooth and easy writing process, and wanting to pull your hair out. By thoroughly planning out what you want your article to look like, you can avoid wasting time staring at a blank page waiting for the perfect words to appear, and instead write with ease.

You won’t always be motivated, so cultivating the discipline to power through is key.

 #5: Create your own inspiration.

Writers don’t always feel like writing, so it’s essential to find ways to keep yourself motivated on days where you’re not feeling inspired. For me, a surefire way to get out of a writing funk and regain focus is changing my work setting. My personal favourite way to do this is heading to a local cafe for a few hours of work, concentration, and oat milk lattes. Find what works for you to help you stay motivated. And when all else fails, remember that sometimes it comes down to discipline over motivation. You won’t always be motivated, so cultivating the discipline to power through is key.

#6: Let go of the idea of perfection.

We all wish that we could write a perfect first draft every time that doesn’t require revisions or edits, but unfortunately, the perfect first draft doesn’t exist. During the writing process, be honest if you’re unsure about something and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Once your first draft is done, embrace the editing process. This takes humility—but any edits, advice, or criticism you receive is really something to be grateful for.

#7: Trust your editor.

Your editor is your best friend, especially when you’re a beginner. Knowing that your work will be edited can actually give you more confidence to write and help you avoid the trap of perfectionism and overthinking. Your editor acts as your safety net—someone that will be behind you, ready to polish your work and catch any mistakes. Be thankful for their help and learn from it as much as you can.

#8: Have a “can-do” attitude.

A writer isn’t good because they know everything. They’re good because they’re tenacious, scrappy, and willing to ask questions to unlock answers. Sometimes even after you’ve put in the research and all the hard work, you still feel like you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. But a good writer can successfully write about any topic under the sun, as long as they have confidence, are willing to do the needed research, and aren’t afraid of a challenge. Skill is important, but attitude is everything.

So there you have it: my top tricks and tricks that I’ve learned in my first year of being a writer. I undoubtedly have so much more to learn, and I’m so excited to continue to develop my writing skills in the coming year.

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