A list for any occasion

I’ve always been a big fan of lists. You don’t need to worry about linking one thing to the next, and you don’t need to worry about the cumulative effect. Each point stands on its very own merits, and no one can quibble about whether the whole thing hangs together. All it needs is for you to put one foot in front of the other and set off into the distance.

So a list is the perfect structure to reach for when something – perhaps inspiration, clarity, or time – is lacking. Following my own advice, then, I’ve written a list of six things to help you write better and more easily.

1/ Remember, you’re not writing a masterpiece, you’re just writing a first draft. The pressure’s off.

2/ If you’re composing a difficult email, take the name out of the ‘To’ box. That way, you don’t have to worry that you might press ‘Send’ by mistake. Maybe that’s just my own paranoia, but – again – the pressure’s off.

3/ Write like you speak. It’ll feel much more natural, and then you can tighten it all up with a bit of sensible editing.

4/ If you can’t work out what you want to say, work out what you don’t want to say. You’ll realise you do have strong opinions and you do have something to say.

5/ Make a start right now, even if you only have five minutes. Then when you do sit down with enough time to focus, there’s no blank page and you can just pick up where you left off.

6/ Turn all those awkward ideas into a series of bite-size chunks. Everyone likes a list (but tell me if that’s not the case…), and a list makes it easy for you, and easy for your reader. And, by the way, a list doesn’t always have to be a nice round number – six is absolutely fine.

So that’s it. Six short, sharp tips to get you writing more easily. I hope they’re helpful.

PS If you’re wondering about the image, it’s Trinity Buoy Wharf, which I had the pleasure of getting to know recently when I went there to run a workshop. I thought it would be more visually appealing than a list, because that’s the thing about lists – they’re useful but they’re not exactly beautiful. And, as I’ve said, when you’re writing a list, it’s not about one thing linking to the next…


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