The best writing tip I ever got

Back in high school, one of my favourite teachers was this guy in his 50s who taught natural sciences. He had a lot of humour and actually treated us like adults. He did this by making everyone understand that they’re there for their own education and he was merely there to help. If you weren’t interested, fine, don’t come.

This was 15 years ago, so I’ve forgotten most of what he told us, but there’s one sentence I will always remember. He was complaining about the quality of the papers that were being handed in, which were mostly factually correct but contained a lot of grammatical and spelling errors. He said:

If you can’t be bothered to read over your own work at least once before handing it in, why do you expect me to want to read it?

Proofreading sucks. Especially on a deadline. I think in uttering that line, he was probably just talking about respect, but it stayed in my head for years.

This one line helped me become a better writer. I only write things I’d want to read myself, and I try to write in a style that I enjoy reading. If my proofread is not enjoyable, I won’t publish. This actually just happened prior to penning this piece. I wrote an article about how music startup founders overestimate the value of music. It’s a thought I’ve been playing with for a while, but while proofreading the piece I realized it’s not there yet. So I’ll owe you that one.

This is not just about writing. This is about making things. If you don’t enjoy the process of revisiting that thing you make and going through it again and again, then you shouldn’t expect others to find joy in it either.

Make with love. With joy. And always keep in mind: you’re the first to be confronted by the results of your creation.