24 Ways to Keep Your Writing Real

writing series header Final

Even if we don’t make our living off words, we all write every day.

Think about it. Whether it goes out in the form of emails, tweets and texts, work-related memos, blog posts and comments, birthday cards or Facebook updates, communication is continually flowing from our fingertips.

And in an electronic culture that is often characterized by both outrage and comparison, it can be equally as tempting to over think every word as it is to dash something off and post it without a second thought.

There’s got to be a happy medium in there somewhere. For me, that sweet spot is closely intertwined with what I like to call “keeping it real.” When my writing stays true to who I am and what I believe, comparison and outrage fall by the wayside because my words cease to depend on someone else’s reaction or response.

There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in that, don’t you think?


What real writing looks like in real life obviously depends on the situation and personality of the communicator. But if you want to join me in making your writing—whatever form it takes—honest and meaningful, here are a few thoughts that you might find helpful.

• Don’t try to copy another person’s style. Sound like who you are.

• Don’t set out to write “lyrical or poetic prose.” That kind of writing flows naturally. If it’s forced, it shows.

• Don’t try to write in any particular way, actually. Write what you want to say. If it ends up being lyrical or poetic, fine. If not, that’s fine too. You’re communicating a message, not a style.

• Write how you speak—clearly and conversationally.

Read what you’ve written out loud. If you find yourself gasping for breath before the end of a sentence or stumbling over your words, rewrite.

• If what you’ve written makes you laugh, that’s great. But don’t try to be funny on purpose. That rarely works.

• If you find yourself in tears as your words hit the screen or as you read your work aloud, you’ve likely hit upon something that will touch someone else too. At this point, don’t shy away; dig deeper.

If it’s not your story to tell, don’t tell it.

• If what you’ve written flowed from a deep emotional well, save it and come back to it in a few days or weeks. Time has a way of revealing whether or not you should hit send or publish.

• Write to encourage, educate, comfort or (possibly) challenge. Never write to impress.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. That kind of attitude doesn’t translate well on the page (or screen).

• Ask someone who knows you and loves you well to read your writing. Give that person permission to let you know when what you’ve written doesn’t “sound like you.” (Trust me on this one—it’s important!)

• Write what you need to hear, not what you think a particular person in your life needs to hear. If you feel compelled to share a certain message with someone, try to do it in person.

Ask yourself: Is it right? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If not, don’t write it.

• As a general rule, don’t react. Originate.

Watch the snark. If it sounds like something a 13-year-old girl would say, consider revising.

• If what you are writing makes you squeamish because you think no one will be able to relate, keep writing. You are not alone, and others in the same boat need to know that they are not alone either.

• If you’re afraid to write something, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen if I post this?”

• There are times when real is better in retrospect. Very often, feelings and thoughts need to simmer a good, long time before they can or should be expressed in writing—at least writing that is intended for public consumption.

• Last paragraphs are hard to write. Sometimes abrupt endings are better than tidy bows.

• If you write about faith-related topics, you don’t have to include a verse or mention God in every paragraph, or even in every post. Your worldview (and your view of grace) will come across in how you write—in your tone, in your word choices and in the way you respond to criticism or compliments.

Humility trumps the need to make sure everyone knows that you are right.

• Pray while you write and before you hit send or publish. Ask God to direct your words to the people who need to read them.

• Let go of your expectations about how any one thing you communicate is going to be received. Write from your heart and leave the results up to God.

Now it’s your turn. Is “real” writing a challenge for you? What would you add or take away from this list?

Lois Flowers

Also: If you’ve missed previous posts in the “Faith, Fear & the Life of a Writer” series, you can catch up here:

  1. New Series: Faith, Fear & the Life of a Writer
  2. Fear Doesn’t Cancel God’s Direction in Our Lives
  3. When the Work Doesn’t Get Easier
  4. The Writing Feedback that Changed My Life

Finally: I’m linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragementThursday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.

32 Responses to 24 Ways to Keep Your Writing Real

  1. Aimee Imbeau says:

    This is a great list of ways to keep writing real, Lois. I especially like how you mentioned about if our writing brings us to tears. That is me. Often, when I am writing on something sensitive, I have to take an ’emotional’ break. Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

  2. Such great tips here, Lois. I love your encouragement to let things simmer and emotions subside a bit before we write the words. I know taking that step back has helped me before. Thanks for taking the time to lay down this wisdom.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I know what you mean, Tiffany. When I write in the heat of the moment, it sometimes sounds like ranting, which is NOT how I want to come across! My husband is good at pointing this out when I’m too close to it, and time away from it also helps. Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Lois,

    Thank you! These are super helpful. I’ve been coming back to these all week. So many of these points were freeing! My husband is my real-checker, and I’m really grateful for it- his help is especially important for my writing authentically. The points about endings, writing what you want to say, and focusing more on the message than a particular style were timely encouragement! So thankful for you and what the Lord is doing through this series!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad you found some freedom in these suggestions, Bethany. I think that’s a good way to sum up how I feel about it too. Being the writers God has designed us to be takes the pressure off to achieve and perform and fit into a mold, doesn’t it? Thanks again for sharing your creativity with me!

  4. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh this post is a keeper, for sure, friend! I don’t see myself as a writer, but a counselor who writes. There is a difference for sure. You’ve given me alot to consider and to keep in mind.

    For that I am grateful, always. I so appreciate you sharing your giftedness with those of us who are still in a learning mode …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s so interesting that you don’t see yourself as a writer, Linda, because I think you have a wonderfully distinctive writing voice. Your posts (and the comments that follow) always sound like conversations, and I learn so much from them! Thank you for your kind words about this post, my friend!

  5. Lesley says:

    I love these tips, Lois. They are so helpful. I tend to overthink it sometimes and I like how you keep it simple with your advice to be yourself and write what you want to say. It is important to keep it real. I totally agree that last paragraphs are always hard to write!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Overthinking is a struggle for me too, Lesley. The words do seem to come easier when I focus more on what I want to say instead of on how people are going to receive it, though. I just love it when the last paragraph practically writes itself, but that doesn’t happen very often! Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friend!

  6. Sherry Stahl says:

    Lois I’m here again via the #HeartEncouragementThursday linkup. Love how you’re #KeepingitReal ? Great post to remind us all to use our words wisely. Have a great day!
    ~Sherry Stahl

  7. Joanne Viola says:

    Lois, so many good tips in this post. The highest compliment ever given to me was when someone said that they can hear my voice when they read my writing. May we always be ourselves as that is who we were meant to be. Grateful to have stopped here today!

  8. Lisa notes says:

    We do write and read all day long, don’t we? We don’t often think of it in that way. But because we’re always writing, your list is so important for keeping it real. Thanks, Lois.

  9. Hi Lois,
    All of your practical writing tips are right on target (I feel sure you could have listed 100 of them!) and are exactly what can help make a novice writer’s words glow and resonate — love that! Sometimes we try too hard to sound like a writer whose work we admire, when really we just need to be ourselves. Keep up this good writing series — I’m really enjoying it! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Valerie. Trying too hard never produces good writing, does it? I think it even causes writer’s block, at least for me! So glad you’re enjoying the series … it’s been fun to write and also quite enlightening in some unexpected areas! 🙂

  10. Trudy says:

    Such helpful, insightful tips, Lois. Thank you. They’re all so good, but I was especially encouraged by your advice to stay true to who we are and what we believe and to leave the results to God. Blessings and hugs to you!

  11. Lois, fabulous suggestions! I have a friend who reads 99% of what I write (I ran out of time to send her the post I put up today). She’s caught errors, inaccuracies, and noteworthy things in my writing. She’s also added her thoughts which helped me deepen or clarify what I was trying to say. It’s soooo helpful to have someone who will read words and let me know if they resonate. And tell me the truth when something doesn’t make sense or sound right. 🙂

    I so appreciate what you wrote here: “Humility trumps the need to make sure everyone knows that you are right.”. Humility goes a long ways in writing, doesn’t it? It’s okay to not always be right. And it’s okay to hear other viewpoints. It’s good to consider others’ responses to what we share.

    Loved this post, my friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Isn’t it wonderful to have a friend like that, Jeanne? My husband is a great first reader for most everything I write, but I also have a couple of friends who I can count on to offer honest feedback from a female perspective. My former college roommate, in particular, has been reading my writing for a LONG time and is really good about offering helpful constructive criticism. 🙂 Thank you for the gift of your encouragement this week! 🙂

  12. Wow I absolutely love this post Lois! I need to save this for myself somewhere. You definitely nailed all 24 ways! Thank you for the insights you share here as you challenge us to be real. It reminds me of knowing your “why.” When we remember why we write, it makes our decisions on the things we publish easier as we stay true to ourselves. Thank you for sharing this fantastic post. Have a wonderful week and may God bless you and yours.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Horace, that’s a great point about the importance of knowing our “why.” You’re right … it is easier to stay true to ourselves when we remember why we’re writing in the first place. Thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement this week!

  13. Such a great encouragement for all of us writers out there! This is exactly what I needed today. Thanks for sharing at the #RaRaLinkup! <3

  14. So much wisdom here. I find myself flinching sometimes before I hit “publish” or “send” — Tough to find that balance between a right kind of responsibility for the weight of influence . . . and a fear of sticking our neck out. Blessings to you in your writing!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I hear you, Michele. Sometimes I literally screw my eyes shut after I hit “publish” and wait to open them until the page has refreshed itself! The way you write shows that you take this responsibility seriously … I think you’ve found that good balance, my friend!

  15. Lois, thanks so much for these great tips. I so identify with what you say about our media-saturated world in the opening paragraphs too. Yes, it’s hard to find a balance between agonizing over every word and just shooting something off. I love your emphasis on being ourselves. 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you, Betsy! It doesn’t surprise me that you mentioned the part about being ourselves. One thing I’ve always appreciated about your writing is how comfortable you seem to be in your own skin. 🙂

  16. Liz says:

    So much great truth in this, Lois! I’ve been told before that something I’d written didn’t sound like me. It stung a bit at first, but I’m so thankful for the gentle correction! Blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks, Liz. My husband is the rough-draft reader who lets me know when I start to veer off in a wrong direction. It’s sometimes hard to hear, but I agree with you–in the end, I’m always thankful I took his advice and made the changes!

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