2 Lazy Things I’m Doing To Improve My Writing + Business By Osmosis* (Yes, Really)


Like most other Type-A humans, I am frequently haunted by the fear that I Could Be Doing More.  I could be styling my Instagram photos better. I could be delegating better. I could be re-writing my own copy and pitching new clients and ohgodtheresneverenoughtimeishouldprobablyeatthatwholebagofshreddedcheesenow.

Not surprisingly, this mindset is
a) exhausting
b) not sustainable
c) not particularly conducive to producing positive, proud-making things

So lately, I’ve been trying to toe the line between proactive self-improvement and cutting myself some effing slack. Giving myself the time and space to breathe. And play bingo with my dude. And discover $5 treasures at the thrift store.  But also move forward on big exciting projects and become the writer and do-er I know I can be.

Here are two little tweaks I’ve made that I think are making a big difference, without taking up more time or consuming my life.

1. I listen to business podcasts while I make lunch
As I’m assembling a salad or grilling a quinoa burger (or eat a giant bowl of popcorn), I’m listening to Social Triggers, The Lede or The Eventual Millionaire. I don’t take notes, I don’t pause the podcast if I have to pop out to put in a load of laundry, I just 80% listen. I have faith that if an idea is good enough, it’ll stick. If doesn’t stick, I’ll probably encounter someone else talking/writing/tweeting about it in the near future.

2. I read authors who write the way I write (but, you know, way better)
If you write for a living and spend a lot of your free time reading, you might do the same ridiculous thing I do: inadvertently start writing like the book you’re reading.  I DO THIS ALL THE TIME. In fact, if you look carefully you can probably tell which blog posts I wrote while reading Annie Proulx.

But I’ve decided to stop fighting it and start leveraging it. I have enough awareness of my own writing voice that I know a (much more talented) kindred spirit when I read them. So if I’m going to be writing like the people I’m reading, I might as well be reading people whose writing gently nudges me closer to a better version of myself.

Because I’ll never, ever be able to write like Paul Harding
“And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.” 

But there is some hope that someday I could write like Bill Bryson
“As my father always used to tell me, ‘You see, son, there’s always someone in the world worse off than you.’ And I always used to think, ‘So?”

Of course, I’m not going to strictly limit myself to humorous, first-person writing but in those moments when I’m aimlessly casting around for something to read, I’m making an effort to choose people whose style is like a much, much better version of mine.

Do you have any tips for improving your craft without breaking a sweat?

* yes, I’m aware that reading and listening doesn’t really count as osmosis. But I tried sleeping under business books and that didn’t really accomplish much.

photo by Matt MacGillivray // cc



Rachel Pierce

Sometimes I find myself thinking in the same vein as TV shows I watch. After many episodes of Downton Abbey I think in a British accent. Watching the West Wing leads to glorious speeches and ants in my pants to walk and talk.


“inadvertently start writing like the book you’re reading”- This is SOOO me. I try to balance out the books I read so I don’t accidentally steal someone else’s style, though haha.

I’ll absolutely be checking out those podcasts, too. Thanks for another awesome post.


I think it’s related to your #2 tip, but mine would be to “read up”. It might sound snobby and pretentious, but I find that if I read certain blogs or articles I find myself wanting to type words like “amaze” and the apparently trendy version of this word that has balls attached to it. (See? Can’t even type the word.) That is an absolute no-no.

Another thing that I do is take notes no matter what I’m reading or listening to. The other day, I was watching a documentary about Jane Austen’s life. It was for pure fun (I know, I’m a girly girl), but I still opened a sticky note on my Mac and jotted down a few ideas with examples from her life, like so:

- was business savvy and learned from her mistakes – she chose to dedicate Emma to Prince Regent, who was a known collector of her work, made her publisher’s move at a faster pace – Murray

- not everybody liked her (Charlotte Bronte, DH Lawrence wrote bad reviews)

- wished she had read more and written less

- avid people watcher

Sometimes I go back to the notes and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I have no idea what my notes mean or I completely forget about them.

But I still do it. Note-taking is a habit I instilled in myself since I was old enough to write.


Yes! And I love the way you put that. I certainly want my writing to feel friendly/warm/accessible but I don’t need (and I don’t think anyone needs to) punctuate sentences with ‘LOL’


I loved this post. I’m truly guilty of writing in the style of another person, so much so that I am currently writing a second book and am forbidding myself to read almost any book whatsoever during this time in case I sound as though I am ‘copying’ anyone else.

But perhaps I should dive back into my teeteringly-high book pile and embrace it?

Oh, and I’m also super-guilty of using lol and even-gasp-emoticons in my post. They’re a hard habit to kick. I’ll get there 😉

Thanks for a good read,


Norma Maxwell

I realize this has nothing to do with anything, but I feel the need to confess that I sometimes start speaking with a British accent (I’m from Washington State) after hanging out with my British friend. Different, but kind of the same, right?

Get Organized Already

After working on updating our website for too many hours today I found great pleasure in smashing the crap out of a few hundred tennis balls this evening.
Not lazy, but rather like pushing Reset.


I too am guilty of these habits - I push until I can’t do another thing.
My trick is to get out of the house, leave technology behind & just “be” for an hour (if possible). Good luck!


I love this post Sarah. I do the same thing re unconsciously emulating whichever author I’m reading. I’ve started reading Stephen Fry now in the hope that his writing style and wicked vocabulary might rub off on me. Sadly, I’m still waiting :-)


These are great tips. Similarly to your #2, I recently redesigned my blog, and spent many hours beforehand examining popular blogs I love (including Yes and Yes) to figure out what exactly I liked so much about the layouts/color schemes/fonts. It still doesn’t look perfect, but it’s way less amateur-looking now.

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