Improve Your Writing Without Thinking About It (Much)

The small daily task is your best weapon. |

Is there a place in your writing, a gap in your abilities, that you'd really love to improve, except you can't find the time?

I'm guessing that's basically everyone. Who doesn't want to improve? Who has time for massive improvement?

Right. That's what I thought. 

Want a solution? Here's where it starts. With the favorite quote of sloggers everywhere, including me:

"A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules." -- Anthony Trollope

We're gonna grab hold of this idea of a small daily task. How small? REALLY small.

It's my favorite way to grow.

First of all, though, you have to believe in incremental growth.

You have to sign on for that small daily task. Because--read the quote--it has to be really daily. It's too tempting to drop that daily out of the equation. And then you're left with a small task that doesn't end up doing much.

And we want to leverage this, right?

So now that we're all on board with a small constant change, with growing in near-painless ways, let me tell you about a trick I learned from one of my writing professors.

Every day when we got to class, we were expected to write two sentences, within the first five minutes. So I'd go in, dump my books, look up at the board for the day's prompt, and scratch out my two sentences.

No big deal. Didn't take much thought. (In fact, it actively discouraged overthinking. Five minute time limit, and we all had to put something down.) 

After just a couple of weeks, it became a habit.

It was a class on writing non-fiction, so our writing prompts were two rhetorical structures each day. We'd write a single sentence for each of the two prompts. A few people would share their sentences with the class when the time was up. And then off we'd go on the lesson of the day.

Didn't take a lot of time or effort, but by the end of the semester, guess how awesome we were at thinking in terms of those rhetorical structures?

Yeah. Pretty darned decent.

So here's my big question to you:

What's a skill you'd like to improve, with a small daily task? What's been bugging you about your writing lately?

What if you tackled it in miniature, in two painless sentences at the start of every writing day?

Just two sentences. Just the first five minutes of your writing session.

No big deal. No overthinking.

Just a small daily task, quietly making you awesome, without you even noticing.

A few ideas for your sentences:

- Develop a flair for wordplay. Scramble the parts of speech in two sentences. Turn your nouns into adjectives, your adjectives into verbs, your verbs into nouns. 

- Flex that dialogue muscle with a two-sentence dialogue exchange. 

- Amp up your description powers. Take two sentences to describe the sky outside your window in a totally unique way, or to personify the buildings you see, or put words in the mouth of whatever bird is squawking.

The trick is: keeping it tiny. The trick is: refusing to overthink it.

The trick is: doing it every single day.

You just might beat out that spasmodic Hercules. 

What will you be writing your two sentences on?