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a blog by @captainsafia

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Answering “How do I write?”

Lately, I’ve been getting a few messages and emails from folks who are interested in learning more about how I developed a habit of consistently blogging and also published my first book.

I thought about it a little bit and I figured I would write some of my thoughts down here. The little impostor inside me feels like I shouldn’t be writing this blog post or giving any type of advice about writing because I haven’t been doing it that long and other people have been more successful and yadda yadda yadda. But I’m gonna ignore that little voice and write down my ideas anyway.

I figured I would start by talking about how I think of ideas of things to write. I would say that the ideas I get are 75% serendipitous and 25% organized. Usually, I’ll get an idea for a topic I’d like to write about as I’m scrolling through Twitter or working on something myself. I’ll remember it (I usually don’t write them down because they are so few that I don’t need to) then try to flesh it out into a more formal prompt later. Usually, I try to turn the prompts into the form of a question. Things like “How does X work?” or “Why does Y do this?” and see where the discovery takes me. Most of the blog posts that I write involve me trying to answer my own questions.

Once I’ve got the prompt, I’ll start writing. I think most people have the perception that you need to write for a large number of words for people to enjoy reading something. The reality is that people have a short attention span and are not likely to read something that is longer than five minutes (a little over 1,500 words), so you don’t need to write that much. That being said, I always try to fall back into the standard writing structure that most of us learned in elementary school: an introduction, some good stuff in the middle, a conclusion. I try to make my tone pretty casual and natural. I used to stress a lot about how I sounded in blog posts then I realized it wasn’t that big a deal and I should just get over it. This realization was coupled with the fact that I had to force myself to write for me, not for other people. Or at least, that is the case when I am writing on my blog. Sometimes this backfires, but for the most part, it’s been a solid strategy.

I think one of the hardest things to establish when writing is consistency and discipline. I publish a blog post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This means that I commit to spending time every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday writing. Right now, I’m sitting in my boyfriend’s apartment working on this blog post on my Chromebook. I’ve also written blog posts after lectures, on planes, and in a dozen other places. Once you develop a habit of writing for the first couple of days, it gets really easy to continue that habit. So, yeah, I guess the answer to how I developed habits around writing is I just went out an did it. I know this sounds reductive and lacks nuance. But I think to truly figure out how to “do” something; you have to start doing it, even if poorly, then slowly get better.

So yeah, that’s all I’ve got on this topic. I’m gonna pull a Nike and say that my advice for “How do I write?” is “Just do it!” Once you start doing it, you’ll figure out the tips, tools, and habits that work best for you and develop a habit around writing.