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How to be an interesting writer

Blog Posts

How to be an interesting writer

The damn point in 10 words max: To be interesting, open your mind and use better adjectives.

Boring people. They’re everywhere. They’re constantly talking about themselves or, worse, their kids. They’re elbowing you in the ribs during flight takeoffs, breathing on your quinoa cracker at parties, and perpetually sending you long emails full of… you don’t know because you always hit delete without reading.

What do all of these people have in common? Every time they speak or post an update, you get the weary suspicion that you’ve heard it all somewhere before. That’s because you have. Boring people think in platitudes, communicate with cliches, and repeat the same thing over and over again.

Dull people make dull writers. It’s not possible to be an original, compelling writer without first being an original, compelling thinker. In this post, we’ll cover how to think better to become not just a stronger writer, but an all-around more delightful human being.

Read and write—a lot

You saw this one coming. That’s because you know it’s true. Trying to become an exceptional writer without reading is like trying to advance a new theory of the cosmos without studying astronomy or invent a pastry recipe without sampling lots of different desserts.

For some reason, we think that “anyone” can be creative—especially children. But what separates your two-year-old’s freethinking scrawls from, say, Franz Marc is not simply creativity. It’s years of disciplined, thankless, back-breaking practice that generates the single marker of quality that can’t be faked: skill.

Unless you’re conceited enough to think you’re a prodigy, you’ll have to perfect your skills by reading and writing. Actually, that applies even if you’re a prodigy. As Clive James remarked, “Probably even Richard Feynman occasionally needed to have something explained to him.”

So, read and pay attention to how the best authors work their magic. I promise: if you can look deeply into, and speak honestly about, even a single poem, you’re already more interesting than you were before. And no, you’re not too busy. If you’re grumbling that you don’t have that kind of time, here’s an idea: cancel your Netflix subscription. You’ll be stunned at the vista of recovered hours.

Be informed—by the other side

Consuming the newspapers, music, and films that reinforce your opinion feels good. After all, who doesn’t like being constantly reassured that they’re right?

Interesting people, that’s who.

Boring people are narrow thinkers, their imagination forever hobbled by the weight of their values, judgments, and anxieties. They call it “common sense” and they’re right about one thing–it’s common. Like dirt. Interesting people aren’t tricked into complacency by the self-congratulatory murmur of their own ego. They like to feel challenged, so they look to the “other side” for both inspiration and information.

In practice, that might mean:

  • Putting down the fashion magazine and picking up a foreign affairs journal
  • Swapping out your go-to action flick for an engrossing, emotional drama
  • Ditching your sporting event tickets for a night at the opera
  • Tuning into the political pundits you disagree with most strongly

Wherever you normally get your information and recreation—switch it off. Edit your sources. Look for alternatives. Yeah, the ones that make no sense. The ones that sound “stupid” and aren’t “your type” and are favorites of The Other Side. 

Get uncomfortable with ambiguity and be humble in other people’s worlds. You aren’t there to opine or advise, but to learn.


I can hear it already: what kind of privileged middle-class bourgeois advice is this? Now I’m supposed to book a ticket to Shanghai just to elevate my blog game?

My answer: no writer should be so goddamn literal.

Traveling isn’t about flights, hotels, spending money, or some arbitrary list of “must-see” locations as decreed by a trending vlogger. At its root, travel is about estrangement—from your culture and yourself. The more you know about the way other groups think, value, and prepare to die, the more lightly you’ll hold your own biases, leading to more flexible, playful thinking. You’ll soon realize that you’re as weird as “they” are.

Can’t go anywhere? That’s fine. Pick up a travel memoir. Watch a documentary about Mongolia. Read up on Hungary’s national dessert—then try to make it yourself.

Go everywhere boldly and let it change you. Invariably, your writing will gain depth and nuance.

Diversify your vocabulary

The easiest way to be more interesting? Stop saying the same derivative shit everyone else says.

Cliches are convenient, sure. They’re also lazy.

Every time you find yourself reaching for a comfortable and familiar phrase, pause. Ask yourself: is this really the most effective way to express this idea, mood, or object? Or is it just a stale shortcut?

  • Instead of, “He was the man of my dreams” try “He was a noble, beautiful person.”
  • Instead of, “We think outside the box” try “We’re bold thinkers.”
  • Instead of, “It was a nice day” try “Sunlight flooded the streets.”

One of my own most despised adjectives is, “Great.” Nowadays, everything is a “great opportunity” or a “great idea” or a “great job.” The English language has a cornucopia of adjectives that are far more evocative and snappy than trotting out “great” for the 47th time on one page.

Below are a few to get you started. Say them out loud. Notice how they feel in your mouth, on your tongue, and in your heart. Some of them are prickly and proud, others are sweet and viscous. Language is a force, not a formula—use it with care and courage. 

Adjectives that are better than “great”: Superb, Lush, Badass, Stellar, Remarkable, Dope, Worthy, Stunning, Baller, Ace, Capital, Hardcore, Tremendous, Premiere, Startling, Formidable, Sick, Smashing, Magnificent, Wicked, Sublime…

Btw, Em Dash Blogging is all of those things. 

We’re also a magic gem: small, brilliant, and with the power to make wishes come true.