Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

New Series: The Foundations of Writing Success

One recent afternoon I watched a Gordon Ramsay video on how to master five basic cooking skills. I’ve been cooking more over the last couple of months and realized that I need a crash course on kitchen fundamentals.

We all need to revisit the basics of our craft. Whether it’s cooking, auto mechanics, photography, writing, or something else, the basics never go out of style.

But it’s not enough to just revisit the basics. We must strive to master them as well.

This is the first post in a new series on the Foundations of Writing Success. I’ll do my best to give you an overview of the fundamental habits and practices that will help you reach your goals as a writer. The series is mainly for bloggers and non-fiction writers. However, anyone who writes will benefit from it.

Why Study the Fundamentals?

Every writer wants to be successful. A quick search for books, podcasts, or blogs devoted to writing will turn up countless resources devoted to this goal. Much of this material is genuinely helpful!

However, it’s tempting to take shortcuts on the writing journey. I am no exception. I want to be just as successful as the next writer! Sometimes we just want to find the quickest route to success and skip all the foundational stuff.

But that would be a mistake. Here are five reasons why you should pay close attention to the fundamentals of writing success:

1. Fundamentals give you the best chance of long-term success.

I will be the first person to admit that I’m not a “car guy.” I hate messing with auto maintenance. But this attitude causes problems sometimes.

A few months ago I noticed that my truck transmission was running a little rough. It dawned on me that I hadn’t changed the oil in a while. Come to find out, it was 2,000 miles overdue for a change!

Neglecting this fundamental act of car maintenance could have been a major problem if I had let it go on for much longer. Such is the case for writing fundamentals: they keep our communication working in top form and give us the best opportunity for success.

2. Fundamentals remind us that we are all learners.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” If someone of Hemingway’s caliber saw himself as a constant learner, the same is true for all of us. (This concept inspired my friend Blake Atwood so much that he named his editing-focused podcast “All Apprentices.”)

There is no such thing as “arriving” as a writer. Arriving is not the point. Rather, the journey is the point. Mastering the basics will help us create excellent work on the journey and serve our readers well.

3. Fundamentals give you a competitive edge.

Let’s face it. Writing is mentally and emotionally difficult work. That’s why so many people want to take shortcuts and bypass all the hard work.

Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? The hare was naturally faster, but the tortoise won the race by persevering. As the saying goes, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

The point is not to be fast. The point is to keep moving in the right direction. Slow and steady. Slow and steady. Slow and steady.

It’s easy to start new things all the time but never finish them. How many times have you started writing a book, blog post, story, or some other type of writing but didn’t finish it?

If you’re like me, you’re too embarrassed to admit. I am learning that it’s more important to steadily practice the fundamentals than to start a bunch of half-baked projects yet never finish them.

When we keep persevering in the right direction, we will outlast and outwork others who have tried to take shortcuts.

4. Fundamentals help you establish a foundation of habits instead of hoping for luck.

Talk to almost any successful writer, and they will tell you the importance of good habits. Most of them have a daily page count they try to hit. The daily production of words makes it much more likely they will reach their goals.

This is a much better strategy than sprinting toward the finish line and hoping you get lucky.

Do some writers get lucky with their first book or a blog post that goes viral? Of course. It does happen occasionally. But the exception proves the rule: chances are pretty low that you will get lucky.

And what if you do get lucky? The likelihood of getting lucky twice is almost zero. Then you’re back to square one with no foundation of habits that could create long-term success.

5. Fundamentals remind us that success is built on a few basic things.

Remember the video about Gordon Ramsay I mentioned earlier? When I began watching it, I was surprised that he started by showing how to cut up an onion. I have been cutting up onions my whole life. What could I possibly learn?

It turns out that I had been doing it the hard way my whole life. I hadn’t yet mastered something as fundamental as cutting up an onion. Perhaps that is why people like Ramsay are so successful—they master the fundamentals and then continue to build on that success.

The same is true for all writers. We must master the fundamentals of our craft. In the new few posts, I’ll do my best to point out these foundational practices and habits for writing success. Not because I have mastered them, but because I need to.

Even if you have been writing for a long time or have become mega-successful, you can still learn something from revisiting the fundamentals.

Which of these fundamentals resonate with you the most? What writing habits do you want to establish this year?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.