Writing is one of the most important skills you’ll ever need to master in life. Whether it’s writing a letter, a resume, a blog post like this, a card, a book, an email, a text message, an accident report, a sales page, or anything else that requires the communication of thoughts or ideas. Writing, and in turn, reading, are two of the most essential talents to possess in life. A good writer can do virtually anything!
I never realized how important writing was personally until I became an entrepreneur. I write blog posts every day, I write emails many times a day, I write posts on social media throughout the day, and I write script on my email list daily. If I had not mastered this skill, I wouldn’t have survived. My business would’ve only lasted about a week before I called it quits.
But I did master this skill. And I’m so thankful for it. And I’m thankful to all my English teachers throughout grade school who kept me on track and made me write essay after essay and gave me what seemed like endless criticism at the time. The endless critiquing actually honed my skill, though at the time I despised it!
But what I’ve learn over the years about writing can pretty much be whittled down into 12 simple steps. These steps can be applied to just about anything. Trust me, whether I’m writing a text message or working on my next book, I stick to using these 12 effective writing steps and they always serve to get the best message out of me!
1. Eliminate All Distractions
Before you embark on any particular writing task, you must clear all noisefrom your mind. If that means going in a quiet room, turning off your phone, or locking yourself in a closet with just your laptop, then do it! This is often one of the biggest hurdles of writing. People who don’t make time to write can’t actually write anything.
2. Think of What You Want To Write
Map out exactly what you want to write about in your head. Have a good idea about a topic, a theme, and a point that you want to make. You’re not writing anything just yet, but come up with a plan about what subject you want to write about before you do anything else.
3. Decide Who You Are Writing To
Figure out who your audience is. Is it entrepreneurs, is it union workers, is it moms, is it teenagers, is it middle-aged men, is it someone just like you, or is it someone completely different? Figure this out before you do anything else.
4. Brainstorm All Your Ideas Out
Now you can begin the actual writing process. Either take a pen and a piece of paper (my personal favorite) or just open up your word processor on your computer and begin.
The brainstorming process simply jot out points to cover in your writing. I usually use bullets for this, and I just write out a bunch of random points or cool-sounding sentences that pop into my head that I know I want to include.
When you have a bunch of points written out, no matter how arbitrary, you are done with this step.
5. Zip Through And Write Out Everything That Comes To Mind
If it’s not open by now, open up your laptop and word processor. Now, taking the points from your brainstorm, and taking points that come to your mind in the moment, write out everything that comes to you. Just let your mind flow and let words start putting themselves on your computer screen!
6. Don’t Try To Make Things Pretty—Just Write!
Continue doing this until you finish. Do not stop and try to make things pretty or fix little spelling errors or mistakes. This only slows you down and messes up the natural flow. This is the trick to finishing things. Many people get distracted and then stop because they become so overwhelmed by trying to make everything perfect. Do not do this!
7. Now Make Things Pretty And Touch Things Up
If you’ve followed the steps correctly thus far, you can now touch things up and make them sound better. Go back and read through your document slowly. Examine your sentences and how they flow. Replace words that you repeat with different words, put commas in place to make necessary pauses, and touch up all noticeable errors.
8. Put In A Great Opener
These next few sentences will blow your mind! That’s the type of writing that catches the eye and creates interest and intrigue in what is being said. Make sure when you are touching your document up, that you include a great opener. If you have a boring introduction with a boring first sentence and a boring first paragraph, nobody will want to read your stuff!
9. Spell Check
Use the spell check next. Although not a fool-proof system for catching errors, the spell check is still incredibly effective at catching easy and often overlooked mistakes within a writing.
10. Have A Friend Proofread It
Knowing that the spell check is not going to find every error on your page, it’s imperative that you have another set of eyes look over your content. It’s one thing to look something over with our own eyes and read it over and over again and think that it’s incredibly awesome. But it’s another thing to have another, unbiased and impartial judgment giving you feedback and helping you find overlooked mistakes.
11. Make Necessary Changes
Take what the proofer says and look back on your text one last time. If you think your friend is right on what they said, listen to them. If you honestly consider their points and disagree with some things, then keep things the way you want them!
After all, it is your writing and you know best what you are trying to convey. Just remember that a good proofreader is there to help you, so try not to shut down everything they’ve suggested.
And now, it’s time to publish! If you’ve gone through all of these steps carefully you should be thrilled that you have an awesome piece of writing to share with the world! Sit back and enjoy your work and let others see what you’ve worked hard to create. Writing that is shared, respected, and praised, is the epitome of achievement for any true author.
Follow these steps and see your writing improve. All talented writers use some sort of list similar to this. So reference this whenever you have a tough time figuring out how to write something. It works!
We all have a story to tell, and by following these 12 steps you can shareyour story with the world right now!
This article originally appeared on Lifehack.org