Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

One Piece of Indispensable Writing Advice

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Every week, hundreds of people email me with questions about writing. They want advice on how to get published or what to do to stay motivated. They’re struggling and looking for a solution.

In so many words, I tell them all the same thing. I wish I could say it to every writer. It’s the one piece of advice you know is true, but don’t want to hear…

Writing Advice Photo

Photo credit: Kanu Hawaii (Creative Commons)

Just keep writing.

(That’s it.)

This works anywhere at anytime

When you feel discouraged and want to quit, just keep writing.
When your words are misunderstood and people criticize you, just keep writing.
When you’re not sure if your work is good or will ever get better, just keep writing.

There is one, and only one, magic-bullet solution to breaking through to the next level. To becoming the writer you long to be. And it is this: You must write.

The words will come

So many people struggle with lack of inspiration and unclear purpose in their writing. They don’t know where to start or how to end. They get stuck. And end up doing the absolutely worst thing a writer can do: They stop.

When you’re feeling blocked, just keep writing.
When your story sucks and words fail you, just keep writing.
When life seems designed to fluster and frustrate, just keep writing.

Don’t stop. Keep going. Breakthrough is near. Closer than you think. You just need to do one and only one thing: Keep writing.

What real writers do

Whether you’re a naive fledgling or a jaded veteran, the experts know something you don’t: The secret to great writing is to “keep on keepin’ on.” Don’t stop. Persevere. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs.

If you are scared of success, just keep writing.
If you feel like a wannabe or a misfit, just keep writing.
If you are waiting for your “big break” — and it feels like you’ve been waiting forever — just keep writing.

Write. And write some more. Then when you’re finished, start writing again. Write, write, write. There is no other way to get good with words. No means to a writer’s a success but this: Just keep writing.

Stop talking about it and just do it. Quit complaining and whining. Enough with the self-loathing and cynical remarks. It’s time to act like a professional. Time to master one very simple, but very hard, discipline. Time to do what every writer hates doing.

It’s time to write.

What’s your best piece of writing advice? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Kanu Hawaii (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://christyfarmer.wordpress.com/ Christy Farmer

    I would tell writers to let go of their fears. Whether it is self-doubt, fear of criticism, fear of rejection, etc. Fear will hinder writing more than anything else. Let go of your fears and just write!  I hope that helps someone today.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       amen!

    • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

      The only thing to fear… :)

  • http://domi-quell.livejournal.com/ jdesperida

    If writing makes you happy and keeps you sane, do not give it up. Do not stop doing things that make you happy 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       great advice. if you don’t write for love, what are you writing for?

    • Michelle @ Raising Will

      “We have to hold onto things that make us happy.” = Line of the century. If Jeff’s post wasn’t enough, this comment has hit me with a baseball bat. Thanks for the Ah-ha moments people!

  • Jen

    Oh, the dreaded “just keep writing” advice! You know, I tell my students to just keep writing or reading because that is how you get better. It is how you learn. It is how you make beautiful things happen. Then I tell them that I know it sucks. Sometimes I think it helps to take a small break from one project and just write out those frustrations! Often, that is when my head clears and the way back to genius is revealed!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Great advice, Jen.

  • http://www.voyagersquill.com/about Patrick Hearn

    This is very true – there are times when I’m halfway through a draft and think: “This is total crap. I don’t think revising would even fix this.” But I don’t let myself quit, and keep pushing forward. Then I’ll start over later, using the ideas I’d already fleshed out, and make something awesome from it. I’ve learned you can’t give up, no matter what – you have to keep pushing forward.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       This is, I’m finding, the secret to great, prolific writing: not editing as you go.

  • Andee Eve

    So many times I used to te fear get in the way. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being good enough. Fear used to paralyze me. Fear was preventing me from realizing my dream. And then I received this advice, “do it afraid.” And I was changed. I don’t let fear run the show anymore. I just keep going. And funny thing, as I keep going, the fear dies. Thanks for this great post, Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Love that. Keep killing fear.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    I would say get off the internet… then just write. :) 

    • http://www.ontargetcoach.com/ Brent Pittman

      Good advice! I have to turn off all my popups and whistles to get a blank screen. Urgent isn’t always important. 

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

         In fact, I would argue, it rarely is.

  • http://bit.ly/GDqPP6 Mike

    I totally agree that we have to keep writing, regardless of the circumstances that are involved with it. It’s important to stay focused on that particular task and everything else falls into place. 

  • http://lifebeforethebucket.blogspot.com/ Adrian Waller

    I did this last night, even though I was tired and got home late. I knew what I wrote for today (World Water Day) was important, and someone was depending on it. Just keep writing!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Excellent, Adrian. A great cause worth writing about. Well done.

  • http://penandprosper.blogspot.com/ Jenniferwriter

    I’d say to learn to be your own biggest critic and biggest fan.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Interesting! But I think my wife already has that job. ;)

  • http://www.nginaotiende.blogspot.com Ngina Otiende

    I would tell writers that it’s okay to start all over again. 

    When you have wandered, are struggling and your craft no longer connects and reflects what you believe in, it’s okay to go back to the beginning, re-invent things, find your true voice. 

    You can only succeed doing what you love. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       amen. i’ve seen that.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Fantastic advice. I’ve experienced this first-hand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christina-Li/800762617 Christina Li

    I think one of the saddest things for an author to do is to write only one book. So what if the first one no one read, maybe it’ll be the next. Look at that church who puts out those great movies, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Courageous. What if they had stopped with only one? Yes, it was a lot of work, a huge investment of time and money and heart and soul, but the ministry is amazing. We write because we are called, because it’s not for our own glory but for the Lord’s glory and to minister to others. How can I not write? 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       That is said, Christina. Unless, of course, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

      • http://itsakoolife.wordpress.com/ rebecca koo

        I was TOTALLY thinking To Kill a Mockingbird!!!

  • http://www.hermitofbardstown.com Stephen Taylor

    This is good advice, Jeff.  As always you are an inspiration.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      glad it helped, Stephen!

  • Sally cameron

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the encouragement and wisdom. I will just keep writing…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Today, that is enough.

  • http://www.qwitr.org/ Tony Fuentes

    Awesome and simple. “Keep
    writing.” Easy to remember too. :)

    When I felt unclear about
    the direction of my blog, I decided I needed to write it out. So I signed up to
    750words.com and started a “30 day-write-about-my-blog-purpose-and-get-clear”
    campaign.

    Now, I use this when it
    comes to anything that is bothering me. When I get an uneasy feeling in my gut,
    and I just don’t feel right, I start writing. That’s why I love the technology
    of smart phones. I write on the bus or train, when I walk, or even in the
    bathroom :)

    99% of the time I feel much
    better when I’m done writing, and I’ve learned something valuable about myself
    too.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       love that site. 750 words is the perfect amount, especially for memoir. not too long, not too short. you get substance and brevity at once.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    My best piece of writing advice is to trust yourself to come up with good content. (Jeff, you also talked about this in the recent blogcast fm interview you did).
    It’s tempting to want to store up your really good ideas for important times and to post just mediocre stuff today. There’s a fear that you’ll run out of good ideas. But don’t hold back. Write your best stuff. More will come. Trust yourself in that matter.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       “Trust yourself.” Yes. Very Emerson of you. :)

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    Jeff, I agree.  When I first started writing a blog, I would write a couple of pieces on Saturdays and  post them.   I might skip a few weeks.  And I would struggle with ideas.  Now, I have a backlog of ideas, which seems to be because I write everyday.  I think writing often and even when you don’t want to primes the pump.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       I love how creating begets more creativity.

  • Levi Larsen

    Another wonderful post Jeff! Right now I write every other day, sometimes even that can seem overwhelming. So how do you Find a balance? How do you deal with the stress when it seems over bearing, and how do you deal with the times when you feel unproductive?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Levi! One thing I do is this: I’m constantly creating. Never waiting for a deadline or the next paying gig. As an example, I started writing my next book — without a contract. It’s all about discipline and muscle memory for me. And if this works for a lazy fellow like myself, it should work for others, too. The trick is, I’ve found, to find your own trick. :)

  • Levi Larsen

    Another wonderful post Jeff! Right now I write every other day, sometimes even that can seem overwhelming. So how do you Find a balance? How do you deal with the stress when it seems over bearing, and how do you deal with the times when you feel unproductive?

  • http://twitter.com/ChristelleHobby Christelle Hobby

    Isn’t it funny how a writer’s biggest challenge is making themselves write?  I know it is definitely my issue.  My problem is that I have so many things I want to write and so many ideas I get a little paralyzed and end up not writing a thing.  Seems silly to have a brain full of ideas and empty sheets of paper.  I’m trying to move on from that and just force myself to tackle one thing at a time. Thanks Jeff!

    • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

      I know this feeling all too well… I try to just pick one thing and stick with it. I try avoid multitasking… in fact I generally solotask :)

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

         so hard, but so productive. thanks for your example, Josh.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristelleHobby Christelle Hobby

    Isn’t it funny how a writer’s biggest challenge is making themselves write?  I know it is definitely my issue.  My problem is that I have so many things I want to write and so many ideas I get a little paralyzed and end up not writing a thing.  Seems silly to have a brain full of ideas and empty sheets of paper.  I’m trying to move on from that and just force myself to tackle one thing at a time. Thanks Jeff!

  • http://lawyerology.com/ Rob Sullivan

    Be yourself and write from the heart. This is the only way your message will be genuine. People can easily spot a fraud in the spoken and written word. Most often this will be at the least respected, even if the reader does not necessarily agree.

  • http://lawyerology.com/ Rob Sullivan

    Be yourself and write from the heart. This is the only way your message will be genuine. People can easily spot a fraud in the spoken and written word. Most often this will be at the least respected, even if the reader does not necessarily agree.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       excellent.

  • http://twitter.com/MicheleWilbert Michele Wilbert

    My best advice is that writing doesn’t always happen in front of the computer or on a clean desk, but outside where my head is free to roam around with ideas. Thanks for your encouragement Jeff! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       love that, Michele.

  • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

    This is my favourite advice, to just keep writing; as well as finish what you start and edit, re-edit and rewrite like crazy.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       thanks, Josh!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       good writing is rewriting, right? :)

  • http://twitter.com/ConnorMeaks Connor Meakin

    Thanks Jeff. This is so simple, but I’ve never heard someone put it this way. Everyone loves the “sexy” tips and solutions ie how to find inspiration… boost your creative spirit etc. This is simple and easy to put to use.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Yep. sex sells, but commitment is what makes a marriage last. and that’s what writing is: a marriage. till death do us part.

  • http://twitter.com/scskillman SC Skillman

    I found this so encouraging, and true, and exactly what I needed to hear – especially the bit about waiting for a big break & feeling that you’ve been waiting forever. But if writing is a compulsion, you will keep on writing anyway. Thank you!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       great! you’re welcome.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I would tell then to listen to a song that inspires them.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       love that. music is so inspiring.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

    Oh, that’s  a big one for me…questioning myself.  When this happens I  have to do what you suggest.  Just write through the self-doubt.  I can’t make progress sitting still.   So often, an idea will come to mind and even as I start writing the idea down, I’m thinking…now where in the world is this going to go and I’m tempted to stop.  But, those normally end up being the posts that resonate with my readers most. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       ditto.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      love that, Eileen. writing is an act of faith for me.

  • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

    I am exhausted. After 30 hours or more awake, 15 hours of which were in an ER and an urgent need to find myself in any semblance of a bed, I could not do so without writing and posting to  my blog. I don’t even know if it was coherent, I just know I had to write and make sure I pressed through the sleep deprivation to get the work done. My best piece of writing advise: write ahead of the deadlines, so you always have a backup plan when life throws you a curve ball, and your desk is a fading memory and your “quiet” time is none existent!  

    • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

      Oh, and night night! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      excellent. i need to follow this more often. :-/

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    I’ve gotten two huge truths from you this last week:

    Just keep writing.

    Butt in chair. 

    Simple (but not easy), effective, transformational.  Thanks Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       amen

  • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    very true, jeff

    it’s easy to get lost in other things, like online everything, but keep on writing is the key

    I seriously need to find more time in the next couple of weeks to kick start my editing again. It’s become stilted in the last few weeks, which is not good agt all :(

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • http://twitter.com/MyselfBetter DB Landes

    This makes me think of Dory from Finding Nemo…
    Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing writing…

    Great advice!

  • Rogerdduke

    Jeff,
    I say a hearty “amen” to all you have said above. I have published 5 works in as many years and it is hard to “keep writing.” But I encourage all to do so. If it is “fire shut up in your bones” nothing will ever satisfy as much as “just doin’ it!” And do it for the sake of doing it alone. One of my major outlets for writing is my nearly daily journal. Start a blog, keep a journal, but do something if you are a real writer you must write–if for no one else then for your self alone.
    sdg
    rd

  • http://michaeltyler.me/ Michael Tyler

    Yes! Yes! Jeff, that’s exactly what fits my state of writing. Overwhelmed with how to organize the 13K+ word count, wondering where to go next. Simple enough, write on. Will do. thx. M

  • http://granbee.wordpress.com/ Rose Byrd

    Write words, either on paper, or through the computer keyboard, every day–even it is just a compendium of whatever random words come to mind.  Pretty soon, you will see a pattern to your “random” thoughts and can start forming dialozue, narratives, poetic phrases, captions for illustrations and photos, etc.  JUST DO IT is a most worth slogan borrowed from Nike!

  • http://jamesloscombe.me/ James Loscombe

    Seems logical. I think there is a lot to be said for writing exercises to get you going as well. There’s no real excuse for not sitting down and getting on with it.

  • DarleneCraviotto

    People write for different reasons. Stop reading articles about writing looking for your reason. Too much time is wasted reading about writing instead of writing. Nike said it best: Just do it.

  • http://itsakoolife.wordpress.com/ rebecca koo

    I really liked your post about finding your voice. The questions for writers to ask themselves really helped me gain clarity which then helped me focus my writing more, which then increased my confidence and passion. It did not magically give me more hours in my day, but did help me use my writing time more effectively. And I think all those questions are good to come back to as we develop and evolve as writers. So thank you, sir!!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/TheKevinBasil Kevin Basil

    Great post Jeff. I agree that you just need to keep writing. My best piece of writing advice is not to think too much and get caught up in all of the crap that comes with writing. Don’t think about being perfect or what people think. Just remember that you write because you love it and go from there. You can’t go wrong when you do something for the right reasons.

  • http://www.copyblogger.com/ Sonia Simone

    Right on. :)

  • http://alisonwest.wordpress.com/ Ali

    I agree, to just keep writing is to be a writer. You are what you do, only action counts.

  • Digginsmo

    This is like doing calligraphy.  One writes the same thing over and over again until, not that it sounds good, but so that it looks good.  But, if one wants their calligraphy to look good, it’s like learning to play an instrument…one little passage played over and over until it sounds the way either you like it or the way it’s supposed to sound, and I guess those two things are the same thing, otherwise ad-libbing takes over.  But, not to get off course, ad-libbing doesn’t just happen.  There is a starting point, and that’s learning how to play the instrument first, otherwise, ad-libbing on an instrument that you don’t know how to play, say the piano, produces a cacophony of discordant sounds by banging on the keys in an accidental way that no one wants to hear.  First one has to learn the piano, and that’s done by learning how to read notes on a page and applying those to the keys on the keyboard of the piano, and then, and only then,  can one learn how to ad-lib.  The difference between learning calligraphy and ad-libbing on the piano, or any other instrument, is that in calligraphy, the goal is to, first of all, learn how to hold the pen and how much ink it needs, how to sit without cramping, at what angle to place the piece of paper, and then to follow, by example, the shaping of the letters.  One always starts off with learning to write letter by letter, and after each letter is learned, one can start combining letters to form words on the paper, and that is the goal of learning calligraphy…to write beautiful looking words just as how one has to know the piano and the notes the keys represent and then by using our ears to make a cohesive piece of music.  But there’s one big difference — in writing in calligraphy, one wants all the letters and words to look the same, but in playing an instrument in an ad-libbing style, one can change the notes but still play in an organized manner…one wants each performance to sound a little differently so that the music doesn’t sound like one is playing notes that have been written on a page, playing the same thing over and over again.  But in writing words, there is a similar thing going on.  One has to know letters which form words, and to put the words to the page in an organized style so that the reader is able to make some sense of the writing.  Then can one begin to write, and write, and keep on writing, otherwise the writing becomes ad-libbing (and there is a certain form of writing where this is the desired effect, like stream of consciouness, when a writer lets the words flow in an almost directionless way.)  Having said all this when one is talking about “keeping on writing”, first there are rules to follow, if one is going to make any sense of one’s writing, one must follow those rules, and then one can write and write to no end.  One can keep on writing.  Just as I have done in this comment.  I just kept on writing, and who knows what would happen if I were to keep at this, going on and on?  I don’t even know, but I would be writing and writing and writing, ad naseum, and that wouldn’t matter.  The idea is to keep on writing.  No?   

    • Digginsmo

      Oh, my God.  What have I just done to Jeff’s blog to keep on writing?  Maybe this is just an example of keeping on writing.  Sorry, Jeff, but I did keep on writing, and I found that finally I had to cut myself off.  I could have gone on, and you would have lost your audience to this blog.

  • http://austrianalpineholidaysblog.com/ Linda

    With decent research and a coherent structure, writing takes care of itself!

  • http://www.successful-entrepreneurs.co.uk/ Doug_Tobs

    Thanks for that great piece of advice.
    I started a blog sometime ago and gave it up because the writing was too much. I am back again, this time no sliding back. The trick is to keep writing and since i have stuck at it the writing is getting easier. Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham, I like your advice on writing ahead of deadlines.Thank you Jeff i will follow your blog

  • http://self-esteemdream.blogspot.com/ Katrina

    This is excellent advice!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       thanks, Katrina!

  • http://onlinerookies.com/ Kalen’s Internet Resources

    Sometimes the greatest words of wisdom are the simplest. You can smash through writer’s block by just writing your way through it. Thanks Jeff!

  • http://sarahathanas.com/ Sarah Athanas

    Great words of advice Jeff! I am leaving my full time job in the pursuit of a writing career and I stumbled across this post via Copyblogger. I suffer from a lot of what you mentioned above– feeling like a wannabe, unclear purpose, scared of failure. But something is driving me to drop everything and write. And I think your magic advice really is the key. Any tips for maintaining focus/productivity?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Ugh. Nope. I stink at that stuff. Just trick yourself into doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

      • http://sarahathanas.com/ Sarah Athanas

        Thanks, that sounds about right! We shouldn’t have to force productivity once we’ve found our passion…. right?

  • Eleanore

    Yup!

  • frequenweb solution

    My best piece of writing advise: write ahead of the deadlines, so you always have a backup plan

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