How to Write With Purpose and Clarity
Many people mistake writing as the special realm of published authors and bloggers. That’s just not true; writing is a way to organize your thoughts, express yourself, and work out tough problems.
“Don’t judge a book by its size, but rather its substance”
For some reason, people tell me they like the way I write, it seems like I’m having a conversation with them and only them. To tell you the truth, that’s what I’m aiming for.
When I’m sitting down in front of my computer, I usually start with the white screen of death, the type bar on my word processor blinking, just waiting for me stain the white page with black ink.
After a few minutes of organizing my thoughts, I start, imagining I’m sitting down and explaining a concept to my younger sister.
She’s an intelligent person and I love her to death, but she can’t be bothered to make heads or tails of what I’m saying if it’s not clear and to the point.
So, as I imagine sitting down with her, I construct an outline, hitting on the most important points so she can decide whether it’s something she wants to learn more about.
As she gives me her nod of approval with a slight smile tugging at the corner of her mouth, I know I’m in business.
I throw away all the high level terms I was going to use because I know what she’d tell me “plain English only Daniel”.
Her statement always brings a smile to my face as I begin to explain it to her like a five-year-old.
As I dive deeper into my explanation, her pupils dilate and force her light brown iris to hug the whites of her eyes. I know I’ve gotten her attention now, and when I’ve gotten her attention, I’ve gotten the attention of my reader.
It’s time to dive into my narrative properly. This time, I know she’s already swallowed the hook so I lay out the details with the best supporting evidence I can think of.
I go off on tangents
I use too many words
I enter a few wandering explanations that only serve to confuse her
“Tighten it up Daniel, you’re losing me.” She whispers into my imagination.
I realize that her attention has been fading; she’s close to standing up and going about her day.
I can’t have that so I cut out all the details she doesn’t need to understand the message I’m trying to convey.
Now comes the moment of truth.
I’ve said my piece and only one question remains.
“Did you get it?”
I want to make sure that I didn’t waste my effort; I want to make sure the energy I poured into my piece did what it was supposed to.
“Yea, I understand what you’re saying, I’m going to go explain it to mom, she was asking me about it the other day.”
Yes! I exclaim in my head as my imaginary sister walks away. I’ve been able to deliver my message clearly, the ultimate aim of writing.
So clear in fact that she not only understands what I’m trying to say but wants to share it with the world.
So how do I do it?
It’s simple really.
Write for One Person
Communication is a personal medium. When you listen to a song and love it, it’s not because the musician is talking to the world, it’s because something in that song is speaking directly to you.
The same thing happens when you learn how to write. In order to connect with a thousand people you need to write for one.
In my own writing process, I chose a single person, my younger sister. Not a target audience, not an ideal group, not a demographic; just one person.
I imagined sitting on my favorite lounge chair in the early evening, kicking my feet up, sipping a glass of Sancerre, and explaining my thought process to her.
When you approach writing like this, there’s a very good chance you’ll Communication is a personal medium you’re writing for in a very real way.
Cut Out All the Jargon
Nobody cares if you have a PhD in English, Communication is a personal medium
Trust me, the people reading your articles don’t either.
The only time you should be showing off your command of the English language is when you’re writing a fiction novel. Other than that, your major aim is to help people understand in as few words as possible.
The only thing you care about, I care about, and the world at large cares about is being able to understand.
If you can do that while getting them to feel something, then you’ve entered the realm of elite authors that are sought out all over the world.
When you’re in doubt as to whether your writing is clear, that means it’s not and needs to be edited.
If you’re writing contains technical words or phrases and you don’t explain them, you’re doing it wrong.
The majority of the world reads on an eighth grade comprehension level, anything above that and you’re overestimating the patience of your audience.
Obsess over cutting out unnecessary details, it’ll only make your writing better.
Never shoot for a certain word count. If it takes a hundred words then use a hundred words. If it takes a thousand words, then use a thousand words.
Simplify it man, simplify it.
Your First Draft Always Sucks
The last thing you should always keep in mind when figuring out how to write is that your first draft sucks.
It always has and it always will.
I’m not trying to be an asshole; I’m just trying to help you understand the power of editing your work.
It’s the most important aspect of writing.
Edit your words
Cut your words
Prune your words
Rearrange your words
It’s only after you understand and use the editing process that your writing will have purpose, it’s only then your writing will have clarity.
Writing Takes Constant Practice
If you go back just a year ago on this blog to look at some of my first posts (the ones that I haven’t had a chance to update, like this one) you’ll see the difference in my writing then and my writing now.
I’ve been practicing my craft incessantly for the years and I only get better. I’m not amongst the best by any means, but I’m better than A LOT of people.
If you start writing today, don’t stop because you’re not recognized immediately. Don’t stop because you’re writing isn’t turning out like some of your favorite authors. It’s only the things that you work at that you improve.
Many of your favorite writers started just like you. Without a clue of how to put their thoughts together in a cohesive way.
Over time, they practiced their craft, got feedback, and Obsess over.
If you think you’re a good writer now, practice every day for another year and you’ll be amazed at what you can do when you decide to put pen to paper.
Writing is something humans have developed over the course of thousands of years. It’s the way we share our stories, thoughts, and technology.
Without the ability to write with purpose and clarity, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage.
Whenever you’re putting pen to paper just remember, you’re writing for one person, you don’t need to use all the terms in the dictionary, your first draft could use some work, and the more you practice the better you get.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other insights on how to write with purpose and clarity.