Learn to Write by Pushing Yourself to Write

Pic by Drew Coffman

I am a firm believer of this ancient Greek saying, “Water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow.” If you want to master any skill, you have to practice regularly. The more you practice, the faster you master it. If you want to write well, write regularly. Period.

Okay. Not so period.

I was lucky to have my first job–at 18 years old–in Indonesia’s daily newspaper. It required me to write 5 pieces of feature-length article every day. From Monday to Saturday. No excuse whatsoever. When I was in a bad mood after an ex-boyfriend dumped me, I still gotta finish 5 articles. When I was ill and could not leave the bed, the next day I would have 10 articles to write. When my dad passed away… No excuse! I gotta write them all!

Even luckier, I had a fierce editor. He would yell at me whenever he thought my articles were badly written. He would scream and kick my chair–with me sitting on it–when I could not finish them on time.

It was insane. I just graduated from high school, filled with teenager hormones, and I cried almost every weekend trying to find new topics worth being published on a national newspaper.

Six months later, however, the scream and the yelling gradually diminished. I even became the first editor under the age of 20 as far as I know of that 30-year-old company’s history. My current job also requires me to write a lot, but deadlines no longer feel like deadlines as I can write quickly.

What does this experience prove?

Writer’s Block is Bullshit

‘Writer’s Block’ is just an excuse coming from us sitting in our comfort zones. It does not exist. All we need to do is pushing ourselves to keep writing.

If you write only when your mood is good, you are sitting in your comfort zone. If you write only after you capture great ideas, that is not challenging enough.

Be a Fierce Editor for Yourself

Set your own commitment on how much or how often you want to write, and then… stick to it!

If you are writing a book, you can set deadlines per chapter. Commit that you will finish, for example, one chapter each week.

If you are a blogger, you can set deadlines per post. Commit that you will write one post a day, or one post a week, or five posts a week.

Whatever happens, do not–EVER!–miss your own deadlines. Write when you are happy, write when you are sad. Write even when you have no idea what to write.

Quantity is not the point here. Regularity is. But of course, the more you write, the faster your writing improves. It is known.

Disclaimer: This post is written for my best friend who personally asked me to teach her about writing. I am not a professional writing coach, never got myself into a formal writing class, and never intend to magically turn you into the next J.K. Rowling.

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