The 5 W’s To Improve Your Writing


The movie Trumbo is a compelling account profiling the McCarthy era blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriters. A paranoid nation clamping down on liberals and intellectuals in order to withhold the crackbrained idea of censorship. An important but fun view for anyone making a living from writing. One striking piece that stood out for me was how Trumbo – actor Bryan Cranston – did most of his writing from the bath tub. At first glance, it seemed weird and out-of-place. Oddly, as the scene continued it became expressly clear. Other than a few wet pages, the bathtub was the perfect place to write. You are relaxed and alone in your own home. What can be more conducive towards a creative process than that?

Leveraging Your Creative Juices

Professionals or amateurs, as writers we all have our sweet spot that provides just the right mix of familiarity, isolation and comfort when partaking in our craft. But location is not the only tenet that we instill when writing. Following the 5 W’s of journalism, who, what, where, when and why, let’s look at not just where we write, but why, when and who we write for. All equally beneficial ingredients for a productive writing session.


1) Why We Should Write

In these days of analytics, there is a heap of data out there that extols the benefits of writing; everything from managing negative experiences to strengthening our immune systems.  The American Psychological Association cites evidence that supports both assertions. This “curative mechanism” of writing down our thoughts, directly links to our ability to effectively manage our stress levels. Clinical evidence shows therapeutic wins within rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and HIV/AIDS patients.

We write because it makes us healthier. Just like quinoa and greens. Sleep and exercise. We now have pen and paper.

In’s “33 Inspiring Reasons Why You Should Write,” Anne Thériault offers a less clinical and more pedantic and introspective look at why we should write. Thériault discloses, whether building posterity or simply voicing clichés, we wouldn’t write unless we had a deep love for the craft. For passion or spite, therapy or recreation, in a thousand words or two, stop thinking about it and just do it!

…and so I continue.

clock on typewriter

2) When We Should Write

For many writers, putting pen to paper can be tremendously laborious and challenging. Do I need to be fresh as the morning air, or mollified by the day’s events before I write? Does my mental and physical state need to be aligned? According to blogger Kevin Lee at, science once again has offered its evidence. Body rhythms produce hormones which in turn make the mind upbeat for mental tasks. This, of course, happens in the morning. Ergo, morning is best. O.K… however, Mr Lee continues to warn, “Willpower is a finite resource.” Translation: laziness abounds even though our prefrontal cortex is teed up and ready to go.

No matter when we decide to write, the mantra must sing routine, routine, routine. The brain thrives on routine. Whether a lark or an owl, keep it consistent and regular. Not necessarily a laptop on the night table, but a pen and pad may be the ticket.


3) What We Should Write About

“But while we writers all share a passion for creation with words, what exactly it is that we like to create—that is, what we like to write about—varies greatly from writer to writer,” says the author Ava Jae. She gets it. The elemental core of what we write is driven by our passions but how we tell our stories are articulated through the genre we select to tell it in.  Diversification at its best. Many would argue that writing genres are the reflection of our hidden pathos and ids. Fair enough. This makes sense. If we yearn for a good scare, we read Steven King’s fictional masterworks, as The Shining. As readers, we are cautiously hoping to find that particular horror we experienced as a child. If it’s historical meanderings we desire, we have the fact-based fiction of Winston Churchill. Heck, he made history! How’s that for authenticity? Even the outlandish science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke or Phillip K. Dick will contain references to each author’s vision of future dystopia or paradise. Living through the cold war and modern technological evolution would have provided immense fodder for paranoid storytelling.

Lastly, erotic novels will contain a typical example of sexual desire the author has either contemplated or fantasized. The reader has merely helped them perform the loving or sordid act.

The fact is, we write about what we love, yearn or desire. Plain and simple.


4) Who We Should Write About

Other than diving into an autobiography or biography, writers tend to hard-wire the “who” directly into the “what.” In TV Tropes’ article “Most Writers Are Writers,” they support the fact that you write what you know. And what do we know best? You got it. Writers. Most of us are nothing more than “author avatars” headlining our “show within a show.” Be it grander or lesser, that’s us on the podium with eyes wide open receiving the award. Or, god forbid, that’s us lurching under the bridge in the pouring rain watching each drop descend from our noses to the ground below. By utilizing “framing devices” to position the story-within-a-story, first-person writing can become much more interesting and intriguing; as the reader will want to dig further into the plot. Just remember to kill off the right antagonist.


5) Where We Should Write

Looking back at our champion writer Dalton Trumbo, a bath tub, although eccentric in nature, seemed the perfect fit for this man of morals. Bubbles to beds, we seek out the perfect spot to park our behinds and gingerly tap away. We are embraced by the world outside and unbothered by its inhabitants. Our minds are free to roam the streets of a faraway city or journey to the deepest realms of our souls.

Cafés come to mind for most. Not just the jolt of java, but the heady parade of human beings, rich smells and awe-inspiring art on the walls, feed our hungry minds. The same can be said for parking ourselves under a majestic oak in our favourite parks. Or by getting our Hemingway on by propping up our weary bodies to our local bars. No matter where we plug-in, they’re all useful; filling our minds with themes, plots, structures, characters, settings, styles and tones. Wonderfully wound into words that eventually shape our stories.

So remember, the next time we sit down either in the morning or at night furiously scribbling horror or romance, think about the 5 W’s of writing. Have we aligned each W towards maximizing our creative and practical processes? After all, when do we get to do something that’s all about us? In the first, second or third person that is.

Photographs courtesy of Pixabay




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