4 Ways to Become a Better Writer, Even If You’re Short on Time

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Freelancing takes many forms, and although you may consider yourself a writer, there’s a slew of related work that comes with it: researching, editing, conference calls, invoicing. Let’s face it, being a writer involves a lot of not-writing — and all that not-writing takes time.

Even when you are writing, you might find that your daily gig of expressing a brand’s mission in 140 characters or less, or keeping a blog post to 300 words, can be stifling.

When you have a million and one tasks to accomplish and work guidelines to respect, what’s a busy writer to do?

Try these exercises to stay sharp and stretch your writer’s limbs — all while moving through your daily tasks.

Challenge yourself with a “banned” words list

You can improve your writing skills even if you’re just keeping up with emails. Keep a list of three to five “banned” words and hit that backspace key each time you see one crop up in your daily tasks. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it).

For example, I’m striving to ban “awesome” as a go-to adjective. If I spy a sentence in an email that starts with “so,” I revise immediately. Pat yourself on the back when you catch a correction before you hit “send.”

Set a mental timer

How quickly can you respond to those daily emails? Can your project update notes be more concise? Challenge yourself to complete emails and other updates in record time — while still excelling in grammar, clarity, and authenticity.

Take note of when you feel comfortable breezing through these tasks, and consider working this strategy into your daily routine. Maybe you cruise through emails before breakfast but only after that first cup of coffee. Know thyself, writer.

Go back to basics with a notebook

Our tech tools have plenty of perks, but consider the simplicity of pen and paper. A notebook can thrive despite drained phone batteries, bad reception, and device sharing. I keep one next to my bed for capturing bits of dialogue or ideas that float to the surface during those pre-alarm moments.

Read, even if you have no time to read

When you’re busy, it’s hard to fit in any extracurricular activities, let alone “reading for pleasure.” Make it happen, though: squeeze in a newspaper article, short story, or even a blog post whenever you can. Use a tool like Pocket to save longer reads to your phone for when you’re eating lunch or waiting for a train.

Writers notice others’ writing. The best way to stay sharp is to keep a steady stream of content flowing.

What’s your favorite way to sneak writing practice into your day?

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Lisa Rowan joined The Write Life as a contributor in 2014 and was named editor in 2015. When she's not writing about writing, she cohosts Pop Fashion, a weekly fashion and business podcast.... .

Lisa Rowan | @lisatella

Lisa Rowan
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  1. Wow… I really want to write like you do. I will definitely do these 4 ways and hopefully I’d be a better writer. Thanks a lot for your insight.

  2. Thank you for these useful, common-sense pointers. All writers can benefit from them.

  3. I love the banned words list and try to be mentally aware of any word I am over-using. Awesome is one of those words for me as well, along with amazing.

  4. A great writer friend of mine calls it “writing in the cracks” – finding bits of time here and there, even maybe just five minutes to carve out a sentence or an idea. That time adds up and eventually becomes routine.


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