Member Update – Writing Exercises That Make You Better

4 minute read

When you learn about writing, you learn a lot about the structure of a piece… the elements that are necessary if you want to have a shot at producing a successful result.

For example, if you’re studying how to write a great blog post, you’re bound to encounter the importance of headlines, why leads are important, a little bit about what goes into body copy, and the need for a strong conclusion.

You’ll also encounter suggestions and guidelines for making each part of the structure work.

Take headlines. They need to grab the attention of your reader and convince them to click through and see what your piece is all about. You can do that by making a big promise, by sharing something intriguing and curiosity-provoking, or by connecting emotionally with your reader. Headlines work best when they use some combination of AWAI’s The 4 U’s™: urgency, uniqueness, usefulness, and ultra-specificity.

But knowing the components and the techniques doesn’t necessarily convey how to write well.

Writing well takes practice. It is, fortunately, one of those things that gets better just by doing it. Kind of like running. Even if you don’t have great form starting out as a runner, the act of doing it regularly will result in faster times. It will also give you an idea of what people mean when they start talking about how to fix your form. If you’ve never run before and someone tells you to draw your shoulders down and back while you run, you’re not going to have the same sense for what that means as you will once you’ve put some miles in.

All this is to say that one of the ways to get better at writing is to write. Write bad stuff, bland stuff, boring stuff, disorganized and illogical stuff. Don’t worry about writing well out of the gate. Just start writing… and then all the things experienced writers tell you about how to improve your writing will start making more sense.

And you’ll see yourself getting better week over week, month over month… and the improvements year over year? Look out!

So, to get you started at doing the writing, here are three 10-minute exercises you can do on any given day (or on every given day) to help you put in the miles, so to speak.

Exercise One — Use a Squibler Prompt

Squibler is a tool I’ve been using of late and I love it. Here’s the gist. You go to the app. You set a timer. You hit start. And then you write for the allotted time. If you pause for too long, the screen will start to turn red, and what you’ve written so far will start to blur and fade. If you don’t start typing again, everything will disappear. Terrifying, right? And it is stressful the first time or two. But then, you get in the habit of just letting your words flow onto the page. When the timer is finished, you can copy and paste your work into Word or a Google doc or what have you, and play with what you’ve written.

If you’re not sure what to write about, Squibler has you covered. It will give you a prompt if you need it. For example, I just requested a prompt and received, “He opened the door to find her standing there crying.”

Remember, you’re practicing. You’re not looking to craft something brilliant. You’re looking to put in the miles.

Exercise Two — Get Sensory

One of the ways to write better is to appeal to the senses of your reader. Words that describe what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel.

This exercise works best when you go somewhere out of your daily routine, maybe to the library or the coffeeshop. For five to 10 minutes, describe your surroundings. Get as detailed and sensory as you can.

You’ll probably start off a little flat and generic, but the longer you write, the more detailed and interesting your description will become.

Exercise Three — Practice an Element

Headlines, leads, benefits, proof, calls-to-action — pick a random product or topic. It could be something you bought recently or read this morning. Then write 30 headlines or five different leads. Make a list of 20 benefits or write out a dozen calls-to-action.

The more you write, the better you’ll get, so put these exercises to work… every day if you can, but at least a few times a week. As you develop your writing skills, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to apply the techniques you learn from experts, courses, and other writers.

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Coming Up on Digital Copywriter

March 7: Our next live event is Tuesday. During this Monthly Member Update webinar, I’ll talk about local clients, including what makes them special and how to go about landing them. We’ll also look at some of the top content added to Digital Copywriter in the last month and I’ll field your questions about copywriting and freelancing. I hope you’ll join me.

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