Many people assume that writing for a living is easy. Simply type out a few sentences, paragraphs, and pages, and then wait for your next paycheck. And since any elementary school student can string together coherent words, writing as a profession can seem like a joke.
But writing can be just as mind numbing and difficult as any other job. You have to ponder laboriously until you find the perfect word to communicate your ideas. You have to carefully consider your audience and choose terms and phrases that appeal to your readers. And you have to pull together information from all corners of the web to ensure accuracy.
To become a truly great writer, you have to put in a lifetime of work. And as Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
While I still have a long way to go before I could consider myself a great writer, I have learned a lot about crafting a well-written blog post. And as I’ve explored different hobbies, I realized that photography has taught me a few steps for transforming a good post into an even better one.
1. Shift Your Focus
Ever hear the phrase, “great minds think alike”?
It never works when you have to write creatively.
If you use the same tired phrases and worn-out cliches, you sound like every other wanna-be writer in the industry. And though these words save you time, thought, and effort, they also fade quickly into the background. Soon, no one will want to read your ideas, and those who do will likely forget what you had to say.
The same principle applies to photography. Almost every newcomer experiments with the same direct angles and the same auto-focus features that come equipped on their cameras (or their phones). The resulting pictures look pretty, but they feel bland. Empty. Boring.
To liven up your writing and your photos, you need to shift your focus and try a new angle. Think of something that hasn’t been done before, and attack that idea from every side and corner. Stretch high for those vivacious verbs or dig deep to find a subject worthy of your macro lens.
2. Frame Your Thoughts
Once you have a new idea in your mind, you may rush to write it all down. For a few brief moments, your mind may seem suddenly clear, and you want to pour everything you have into your current piece.
But when others read your free-flowing prose, they may feel a little confused. They might not understand how one character relates to another or how one study backs your position on a political debate. Though your piece has key elements and beautiful word choice, it lacks organization.
Similarly, when you see a lovely landscape, you may feel tempted to snap a picture right then and there. But when you look at the photo later, you might not know what to look at. Should your gaze follow the spindly tree branches, the winding river, or the wispy tufts of cloud? Without proper framing, your image might confuse the eye rather than delight it.
So to improve, you need to learn how to focus on a single idea. Then, organize the rest of the piece so it points back to the heart of your message. For example, you may format your blog with multiple lists and bullet points. Or you might frame your photo so the cobblestone road leads to a tree in full bloom.
3. Crop Out Distracting Ideas
As you organize your blog, you may realize that you have a lot more information than you need to convey your core idea. That charming anecdote may get a good laugh out of your readers, but it also detracts from your key story. Or that perfectly crafted sentence may sound poetic, but it also bogs down the entire paragraph.
When you snap photos, sometimes you find a few extra objects, plants, or buildings that don’t quite belong, even though they were present in the original landscape. A crack in the sidewalk, for example, creates a distracting line that points away from your subject. A tree branch may cut into your gorgeous sunset.
Whether you’re a writer or a photographer (or both), you need to learn to crop your piece so it stays as clean, clear, and concise as possible. Everything else is a distraction.
4. Edit Out the Flaws
By now, your blog should look professional and sharp. You have an original, central idea and a supporting format. You’ve eliminated distracting concepts from your piece, and now it’s ready to unveil to the world, right?
Unfortunately, you still have your work cut out for you. This last step is particularly tough, even for professionals. You need to carefully polish your piece until it truly shines, which means some additional editing.
In writing, you need to carefully read and re-read each sentence (and occasionally read it backwards). Look for any grammatical errors that could interrupt the flow of your post. Triple-check for spelling errors, missing words, or extra punctuation.
In photography, you need to analyze your image, pixel by pixel. Use editing software to make color corrections and to compensate for overexposure. Patch, blur, and stamp tools can help you hide the odd hair, the unwanted crumb, or the unsightly blemish.
Fortunately, in both writing and photography, you can usually find someone else to help you with this final step. A professional editor, or an experienced friend, can look over your piece and catch things you may have otherwise missed.
See Life Through a New Lens
Hopefully, the above steps can help you improve your skills in the same way they’ve helped me. I know that writing and photography have shown me to see life through a new lens, so I constantly look for people and places to inspire me. From spilled oil to overturned leaves, I never know what will trigger a new story idea or photoshoot.
Do you have something that inspires you? If so, feel free to share it with me via email or through the comments below. What helps you improve could inspire others who frequent this site—so don’t feel shy!