How to be a more adaptable writer

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Don’t fear change. Instead, embrace it. Become an adaptable writer who is able and willing to face whatever comes your way…

When I worked at a daily newspaper in the 1980s, my desk was in a large room with roughly 100 other people, most of them talking on the phone.

Those who weren’t talking were typing, loudly, using their computers. A few eccentrics still preferred typewriters — one tall guy positioned his machine on top of a filing cabinet and wrote while standing, several decades before the invention of the standing desk. The sight of him doing that always made me laugh.

But the level of noise in the newsroom was something else. It ranged from loud to louder. Plus, my desk was two yards away from the receptionist. I heard every conversation with all sorts of fascinating people, including politicians and actors. And I also knew about bomb threats before most other people.

Before joining the paper, I’d always worked in my own office, with a door I could shut. I thought I needed absolute quiet to write. But, turns out, I was a more adaptable writer and editor than I’d ever imagined. In fact, when I eventually left the newsroom, I missed all the noise and hubbub. 

Adaptivity is a useful characteristic for writers and editors. As E.B. White once said, “a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Adaptability means being able to quickly respond to change — your boss wants a different story than the one you started, a source is suddenly unavailable, the great lede (beginning) you’d developed for your story suddenly doesn’t work. The ability to adjust or shift to changing situations like these make you nimble — a valuable attribute today when so much around us is constantly changing.

Think about it like this: If you’re a farmer, you can’t just plant your crops and expect them to grow without attending to changes. You have to keep an eye on the weather, adjust your watering schedule and deal with any pests or diseases that pop up. Some days are tough – you have to be in three different places at the same time. Or you have to deal with what seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Other days are easier. You can enjoy the feeling of sun on your face.

It’s the same with writing. Some stories are hard to research. Hard to write. Or hard to edit. (Or, all three!) You have to adjust your style and approach and be willing to try new strategies. 

Here are some tips on how to become a more adaptable writer. Start by reading widely and diversely. Read in genres you’re not familiar with, seeking new voices and perspectives and being willing to engage with ideas that challenge your worldview. This will not only help you develop a more nuanced and varied writing style, but it will also broaden your intellectual horizons. 

Be open to feedback and criticism. Don’t be too quick to defend your own approach. Instead, seek out honest and constructive feedback from peers, editors and readers and be willing to revise and improve your work. Always be willing to challenge your own beliefs with a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking. 

Also, take advantage of what technology has to offer. While it’s important not to become overly reliant on it, embracing some aspects of technology can help you write and edit more quickly and stay ahead. Learn how to use different writing tools and software but avoid the time sucks like Facebook and TikTok when you’re trying to write. 

In an article published by Forbes, Jeff Boss identified 14 signs of an adaptable person. Here they are:

  1. Adaptable people experiment.
  2. Adaptable people see opportunity where others see failure.
  3. Adaptable people are resourceful.
  4. Adaptable people think ahead.
  5. Adaptable people don’t whine.
  6. Adaptable people talk to themselves in a positive way. 
  7. Adaptable people don’t blame.
  8. Adaptable people don’t claim fame.
  9. Adaptable people are curious.
  10. Adaptable people adapt. (This one made me laugh!)
  11. Adaptable people stay current.
  12. Adaptable people see systems.
  13. Adaptable people open their minds.
  14. Adaptable people know what they stand for.

How do you rate in terms of each of these qualities? Think about them and figure out which attributes you’d like to adopt. 

To me, the biggest secret to becoming an adaptable writer lies in learning how to embrace change. Don’t begrudge it or accept it reluctantly. Look forward to it. Take more risks and accept the result, whatever they are. 

As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


My video podcast last week addressed how to solve a common mindmapping problem. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.  


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.

How have you become a more adaptable writer? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below.  Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by April 30/23 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!

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