Why Writers Should Ditch Their Smartphones (Occasionally)

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.com

Smartphone addiction is a real and prevalent issue among many people today, myself included. In fact, of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, many report feeling panicked and anxious when misplacing their mobile devices. This desperation to be connected at all times can be especially troubling for writers despite the vastness of the internet, and the overwhelming amount of information available at our fingertips.

It’s easy to get lost in your phone or tablet when browsing the web, reading online articles, and indulging in the endless world of social media. For many people, “taking a break” means surfing the internet and reading funny or interesting articles rather than checking their emails. However, you are still on your smartphone (or tablet) while doing this. Occupying your mind via technology at all times can be detrimental to your creative process, and thus your creative writing.

Today, it’s much easier to pick up your phone and go through the many applications you’ve downloaded when you become bored. By doing this, you are effectively preventing your mind from wandering, which is an essential activity for creative writers. A majority of writers credit their stories and ideas simply from their imaginations; something that can only be done when the mind is able to wander and reflect on the day, and the interactions that occurred throughout.

Have you noticed unique or eclectic ideas coming to mind more often while you are driving or in the shower? While you may not exactly be bored in these situations, your brain is receiving little stimulation, and thus begins to wander and reflect. Shoving your face into a smartphone when you are overcome with boredom does stimulate your brain, but in a way that prevents creative thought. A great way to conquer this is by forcing yourself to simply be bored. This may seem, well, boring, but make your smartphone technology unaccessible for a certain period of time, and get back to your roots of boredom. This can force you to think of a more creative outcome rather than simply grabbing the nearest mobile device or tablet.

What did you do as a child when you were bored before smart technology existed? Many people might answer playing outside, or just letting their mind wander in relaxing locations. Little did we know it, but these actions sparked our imaginations and creativity, and, depending on how long you’ve been writing, we may have written these experiences down in journals.

If you’re truly motivated to get some writing done, but know that your addiction is bad, there is software that can help you. Here are some apps that do this best, allowing you to free your mind and expand your creativity. Boredom is a small price to pay for productivity.
Pay attention to times in which you become bored while writing. If you aren’t inspired during a certain scene or piece of dialogue, there’s a good possibility your writers will feel that lack of inspiration. It’s times like this where most people will immediately feel compelled to grab their phones and spend hours on social media. Instead, study that specific scene and find out what it is that is lacking. It may be just one sentence throwing off the entire conversation. The more you analyze and think about your writing, the happier you’ll be with it through editing; something texting and checking emails cannot do.

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Overcoming Self-Doubt When Writing

Many writers and artists of all types would agree that they are their own worst critics. It is a completely normal (though unhealthy) habit to doubt anything that you put a great amount of effort into, as you often strive for perfection. Though ‘perfect’ is fairly hard to come by, creating a piece of work that you take pride in and are excited to share with the world is not. The trick is to silence that voice in the back of your mind telling you that it’s not good enough.

Writing especially can drum up a cluster of emotions that may deter you from continuing. With how much people rely on social media for validation today, that introduces an entirely new facet of acceptance that many come to crave in order to merit their work as worthy. Constantly checking to see if your blog that you just published is receiving ‘likes’ or being commented on can create an unhealthy dependence that will only hurt your chances of improving as a writer.

A great way of finding a trustworthy source of reviewers is by taking part in a writing group, whether in person or a verified online community. Sharing your work with other writers that may have more experience than you can provide you with not only valuable feedback, but lessons learned and tips you can apply to future projects. Working alongside fellow writers is a great way to build confidence and offer helpful insight into your current writing strategies and techniques, but keep in mind that being open to critique is of utmost importance for yourself as a writer.

Another highly efficient way to silence that doubtful voice in your mind is to turn off notifications on platforms that you may be posting to (as pointed out by Terri Kue on Medium). Waiting for and expecting a certain number of ‘likes’ or comments on your post is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment, whether you’ve posted on Facebook, WordPress, or Instagram. Perhaps your audience hasn’t had a chance to read it yet, but the fact that your work hasn’t immediately gone viral can eat away at you and become nothing more than a source of stress.

Start working on your next piece immediately after posting your latest work. Get your mind off the fact that it is out there waiting to be read. The anxiousness that follows is never worth your time. Focus your attention elsewhere, particularly on another blog, story, or poem. Keep pushing forward with and explore different techniques or strategies. Paying attention to how well received your last work was will only prevent you from growing as a writer.

Becoming a great writer takes time. Impatience can hinder improvement, and doubting yourself throughout will belittle your confidence. Understand that there’s only one path to becoming a better writer, and that is simply by writing more. Seeking validation via social media is not an effective way to measure your talents. Silence that doubtful voice and know that as long as you are passionate about your craft, improvement will come.

Originally posted on LeonardRaymundo.com

Writing Skills Needed to Survive the Digital Age

Like nearly every other facet of the world, writing is something that has been changed by technology in the last few decades. What was once a form of print media manifested through typewriters has since become an entire business of freelancers and employees working to drive their writing to the public eye through computers, smartphones, and tablets. That being said, the skills necessary in order to find success as a writer in today’s digital world have been quite altered.

Branding, marketing, and advertising are fields that require exquisite writing more than most, and are a few aspects of the actual content that writers need to take into consideration. Digital writing today encompasses an array of styles that cover literally every piece of written content on the internet. While writing is (obviously) the most important part of the job, aspiring writers and professionals must do much more than just constructing engaging content.

First, and perhaps the most obvious, writers must develop a habit of writing no matter the setting. Waiting for inspiration to strike rather than just letting your thoughts pour out onto a page is just wasting time. Of course, better content calls for a better source of inspiration, but in order to develop the most basic skills, you should be writing as often as possible.

As previously mentioned, branding is now an enormous part of digital writing. People are interested in who you are and what you write about now more than ever. Because of this, building an audience is key. If your work isn’t seen by anyone, it will never gain traction. Create a following and establish yourself as a professional in the field you write about. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram can be valuable tools for writers who wish to grow their audiences. Once you’ve created a brand that people remain loyal to, more eyes will be exposed to your work.

Patience is key. It is rare that your work will become an overnight sensation. Keeping that in mind, remember that individuals buy either what they want, or what they need. No matter how great your content is, if it doesn’t fall under either of those categories, it will be ignored. Start writing outside the box. Focus on topics that cover a wider range of people. For example, writing about how aspiring entrepreneurs can find success will reach a much larger audience than something on the greatest poets to ever come from France.

Lastly, be confident. Never be afraid to share your work with the harshly critiquing internet. Publishing a piece of yours to the public is the best way to grow, as you’ll learn what people like, and what people may despise. The level of vulnerability that comes with this allows you to see your work in a different light. The fear of judgment forces you to look much closer at your writing than ever before, possibly helping you catch simple mistakes that fell through the cracks. Confidently share your writing with the real world and allow the public to watch your growth as a writer.

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Harmful Habits to Avoid When Writing

They say you should write like you speak, which is mostly true. But when you’re in a creative flow and writing just seems to come naturally, it’s easy to overlook mistakes and fall back into a safety net of repetition. You might be writing just like you speak, but it’s important to remember to avoid using the same exact words and phrases in each and every one of your written pieces. There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with creative writing, but if you edit with a careful eye, your writing can be that much more impactful.

There’s some truth to the quote “write drunk and edit sober.”

Run-on Paragraphs

We are taught at an early age how unprofessional and awkward sounding run-on sentences can be. In an attempt to avoid these however, many writers end up creating run-on paragraphs. Most readers want clear, concise sentences that are easy to read. A huge paragraph without breaks looks like a giant concoction of information that makes people zone out.

Break up your paragraphs depending on where subjects shift. Varying lines of words are much more pleasing to the human eye, and will keep your readers’ attentions.

Long-winded Introductions

Introductions are obviously key parts of stories to lay ground for what’s to come, whether they are fiction, nonfiction, or news stories. However, a lot of writers tend to ramble with this much creative freedom. I suggest sticking to just 4 or 5 sentences when writing an introduction rather than incorporating a life story that you think a few readers might enjoy. In most cases, they’re here to read the piece of content for what it is, and nothing more.

Exclamation Points

I understand these are basic punctuation marks that are used pretty frequently, but a surefire way to lose credibility in your story is to use too many exclamation points. Personally, I think even one is too many. Unless you are quoting somebody or the situation really calls for it, try to avoid using an exclamation point at all costs. It almost forces the reader to hear the sentence in a surprised, amateurish tone. It’s a step away from using all caps, something we can all agree should never be done (unless on Twitter).

Vagueness

Reading vague sentences that don’t seem to get to the point can be incredibly frustrating for readers. The longer it takes you to clearly explain the main point of your sentence, paragraph, or entire story, the less interested your audience will be. Keep in mind that people’s attention spans are typically very short. If it takes 100 words or more for them to figure out just what you’re trying to say, readers are going to skim your writing.

Though I have just listed a few of many possible writing mistakes, many different errors can be umbrellaed under these considerations. Pay attention to your writing before you hit that publish button. Read it out loud. It’s always better to catch these things yourself, before the rest of the world does.

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