#73: Rules for Writing
Transform your writing, thus thinking
When I look back at my old blog, I am shocked at how messy my writing was. Here are six rules that have helped me transform my writing, and thus my thinking, in the past 1.5 years:
Powerful writing stems from powerful thinking: Writing is a medium for putting thought into a tangible form, like putting your enemy in the light. Muddled thoughts are confusing, stressful, and too abstract to do anything concrete about. Through writing, I can form an understanding of that muddle and thus instill clarity.
Simple is genius: There is elegant ingenuity in simple ideas expressed in simple but precise words. “Simple” doesn’t mean shallow. “Simple” means user-friendly, profound, and universal.
You are writing for an audience: This hurts, but this is the truth: when I read something, whether it’s for entertainment, technical knowledge, or personal growth, I am there to extract value for myself. Therefore, the easier I make it for my reachers to extract value, the more willing they will be to come back.
Own what you say: In my earlier days I would diffuse the responsibility for my opinion by saying “we”, or “you”. It was scary to use the first person; it’s putting too much responsibility on me. Yet talking in the first person about my experiences is not only honest but also powerful.
Use Active Voice: Passive voice is projecting a passive stance towards life. Powerful writing is active, daring, and brave. It’s full of actions and agents of those actions. I am a hero if “I decided” rather than being a victim when “I was forced to”.
No half-truths: Speaking in the first person makes it impossible for me to say things I am unsure of. I can only own up to something I think because my reputation is on the line. As a result, my writing becomes more authentic.
Cut Radically: “Must this be here?” If it must not, then it must go.
Do not be boring: I want to honor the time my reader gives me. There is enough boredom, sameness, and mediocrity in life. So I ask: “How can I make this stand out: with a joke, a provocation, or a unique insight?”
Six Rules for Writing, George Orwell
Essay Writing Guide, Jordan Peterson