Communication skills

Five ways to improve your writing, that aren’t writing

- July 13, 2016 3 MIN READ

Freelance writers can face burnout when deadlines loom. The best way to improve your writing may be to step away from the computer and do one of these five things.

Writing is hard. Not brain surgery hard but difficult nonetheless, at least for me. Sometimes when faced with a blank page, a tricky brief and a tight deadline, it can feel like I have to drag those bloody words out kicking and screaming from a squishy and unhelpful brain. Forgive the drama; I’m a writer.

Staying sane in this game means bringing light to the dark space that can form during those I-must-finish-this-article-today-but-have-little-content-and-zero-motivation days. I love webinars, podcasts and conferences to refocus my communications skills but sometimes the best way to energise and improve your writing is to do anything but.

Here are five great ways to keep your mind clear and improve your writing:

1. Exercise

Unless I have a meeting in the morning, I start every day with a workout. I’ve done this for years and it’s so critical to both my mental and physical wellbeing. I’ve done the Tracy Anderson method since about 2009 – usually 30 mins of toning mat work and 30 mins of dance cardio. Tracey’s method is genius for the body but it also engages the mind in a kind of meditative way. It’s not unusual for a solution to a writing problem to occur to me while working out.

2. Meditate

I was always one of those people who scoffed at those who meditated, saying I didn’t like to sit still (I still don’t) and that my mind was too busy to rest (it still is most of the time). But I’d read so much about the benefits of meditation that I gave it a go. I use the Headspace app – you can get a free trial but I long ago became a paying customer. I still find myself fidgeting and worrying I’m not doing it ‘right’ but meditating has made a huge difference to my ability to be present, more aware and more at peace with my world. The feeling of space in my mind seems to allow fresher ideas to surface and I’ll also come up with brainwaves during meditation, such as a new way to track my hours worked each month. See if it helps you to improve your writing.

3. Burn those oils

You may be starting to think I’m a hippie dippie type – all the omming (I don’t do that) and diffusing oils. I’m not really. I have a four-wheel drive. But I do love my oils and have a little travel diffuser in my office that helps create an environment that is relaxing and helps me work at my best. I’m no oils expert; I just pick out ones that smell nice. Perk #2438 of working from home is a gorgeous smelling office.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.

4. Get outside

At least once a day I’ll get out to the garden, barefoot to feel the ground beneath my feet, the sun on my skin, the breeze on my face. Fresh air is energising and grounding all at once. If it’s nice, I’ll work on my deck until the wonky table height does me in. It’s another reason to be grateful to live where I am and work for myself. And a different perspective tends to encourage different ideas.

5. Be with my dogs

Nothing more to say, is there? Often when I’m in the garden it’s with my dogs Luna and Squid, both rescue greyhounds and sister and brother. Some time spent patting them, watching them run (from a safe distance – those hounds are fast) and seeing how happy they are just to be in the sun and with me is enough to recharge those batteries.

Of course, these things don’t stretch out the deadlines or smooth over the awkward client moments but they do improve your writing and your ability to cope with them. And fill that blank page in time.