Practice makes perfect they say. If only this applied to writing. Every piece we wrote would be better than the last. Every time we put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) the words would flow more easily. And with every draft would come less re-work and finessing.

Unfortunately, in my experience at least, this isn’t the case. Practice certainly helps – but it doesn’t make perfect. Some days, some projects and some topics just make for difficult writing. The will to write can be there but the words just aren’t.


21 Hints / Tips / Tricks for Successful Writing

Whether you’re having an ‘almost throw in the towel’ moment (or looking beyond practice to write better) it’s helpful to bear in mind a few rules. Tips or tricks. Hints or principles. Whatever you call them here I’m sharing wise words from two writing greats:

David Ogilvy

Called the ‘father of advertising’ and the ‘original Mad Man’ he’s the advertising guru who famously told staff: ‘Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.’ Here are David’s 10 rules to write by (my top three picks are in bold):

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.


Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments

An American writer who proudly worked to a fixed daily routine – a routine that included 11 Commandments (again the ones I’m keeping close by are in bold):

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.


Whether you like any or all of these 21 pieces of wisdom pick a handful that resonant the most. Keep them in mind the next time you embark on a new piece or hit a good old writer’s block.


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