Media Shower writer Tegan Farrell is well-known for her work in travel, health, and education.
A 100-page academic thesis sounds like the opposite of short-form online writing, but I was surprised to find the nine months spent crafting mine made me a better writer in every form.
It turns out a lot of the advice I had been given as a new writer is true; it really does help to write down ideas as soon as you have them, make sure every word is there for a reason and read as much as possible.
But I also learned some things that my writing to date, extensive Googling and a master’s degree hadn’t yet taught me.
Appreciate Your Editors
It’s easy to feel like editors are the enemy. After all, you put your heart and soul into your writing before giving it to an often-faceless editor with the power to tear it apart or tell you it’s not good enough.
But most editors want your work to be good too. While it’s easy to take things personally, remember that changes to your work in the editing process don’t necessarily mean it’s bad, it simply might not fit the required style or length.
It’s best to try to think of sending your work for editing as an opportunity to learn and as a test-run for your reader. Maybe you tried something that your editor didn’t understand. The chances are your reader won’t get it either and it’s best to find that out before it goes live. It’s difficult to see your work clearly as the writer – sometimes you love your work and sometimes you hate it, but your editor is neutral. They don’t care about your ego, they care about making your writing the best it can be, and that’s a great thing to have.
Remember You Enjoy Writing
Deadlines and writer’s block can easily make writing feel like a chore even if it is your dream job. Reminding yourself that you enjoy writing even under the constraints of a brief and deadline makes the process more enjoyable, which can make you more productive. Perhaps even more importantly, it can also translate into more passionate, thoughtful writing, in turn making pieces more interesting for the reader.
One simple tactic is to take a moment every so often to tell yourself you are doing this because you want to be. Another is to make the process as pleasant as possible. Huddled up in the dark back room next to a pile of unfiled invoices? Move to the living room, cuddle up with your pet and sip tea from your favorite mug to add some fun into the writing process. Head outside or to a local café every so often to add some variety.
Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
In some jobs it’s easy to work even when you don’t want to. Writing isn’t one of them. The often flexible hours combined with the level of concentration required to produce good work makes it easy to procrastinate when you feel anything other than inspired. But you shouldn’t.
Procrastination is complicated, has a long history, and affects most of the population. There’s no magic cure. But being mindful that you’re doing it can make a big difference. After all, you can’t correct problems you don’t know exist. It can also be useful to make the task seem less daunting by using goals or timers to break it up into smaller chunks. The Pomodoro Technique – cycles of 25 minutes working followed by 5 minutes resting – is my personal favorite.
Another key is to make sure you’re being realistic about your expectations. Planning to work all night? It’s better to first give yourself the rest you need and work productively after than to procrastinate all night because you’re pushing yourself too hard.
If you do find yourself procrastinating, there’s no point dwelling on it. Don’t waste more time beating yourself up, just do the work.
I went into my thesis thinking it was completely different to the short-form writing I had been doing up until that point, but the unique constraints and freedom to experiment without an imminent deadline taught me some worthwhile lessons for writing in general. After all, it’s the accumulation of our life experiences that helps us find our voices and takes us from good writers to great ones.
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