“I CAN’T WRITE!” - Yes You Can! (Tip #1: Stop Saying That!)

Posted by Cie Peterson on January 28, 2015

In Business Blogging

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.  

Most adult people can speak. If you are among that lucky majority, then the truth is that you can also write, and if you want to – or need to! – then there are some very simple steps you can take that will greatly enhance your ability to do so. I am not talking about going back to school or getting a tutor (although I can help you with that if you’d like :). Rather, I am talking about making a few significant modifications to your approach to the task that will provide you with immediate results.


Tip #1 – You must stop saying that you cannot write, or worse, that you hate to write!

As an acting coach, I am constantly reminding my students that when they choose a goal to pursue for a character, that goal must neither be too easy nor too difficult to achieve, for in either case they will not fight hard enough to truly achieve it. (For more on that topic, read Objectives: The Key to Grounding Yourself on Stage.) The same is true here. When you approach a writing assignment with the belief that it is not something you can do well, your efforts will tend to be minimal at best and mainly for show. That is human nature; few people truly try to accomplish something that they don’t really believe they can accomplish, especially when the task has been assigned, rather than chosen. They end up expending more energy trying to prove to their boss, their teacher, or even themselves how ill equipped they are to write than they expend trying to actually write something of merit. If they also believe and/or declare that they hate to write, then they doom themselves even further. So, if for whatever reason you are going to author that report, create that blog, or pen that paper, then make friends with the task right at the start. You may be quite surprised how much this alone with improve your results.


Tip #2 – If you can speak, then you can write. So speak.

Regardless the topic, regardless the audience, what is written is meant to be read. Teachers of writing, including me, constantly talk about the “audience” because there always is one, even if it is just the writer himself. So the next time you set out to write, try speaking first. Begin by determining your general audience. Are you blogging online for teenagers? Did you pull the short straw for the annual sales report for your team? Would you like to craft an engaging summary on your LinkedIn page? Once you are clear on the group you are addressing, pick a real life, specific, particular person, who fits that group. Then grab some type of recording device, commit to speaking without stopping for just one minute (more, if you can), and talk to the person you selected in your mind. Remember, you communicate verbally with success and ease all the time, especially when you are interested in your own topic. If asked to describe in detail the plot line of your favorite movie, you probably go on and on without hesitation. If challenged to defend a belief you hold dearly, off you go with little effort indeed. The only difference with doing the same thing on paper is that you get in your own way. So get out of your own way, and speak it first. No, you will not be able to just transcribe the audio and use it as is because writing is different from speaking, but you will have some very usable points, phrases, and even entire sentences that will at least get you started.


Tip #3 – Clear, simple, and honest beats the pants off “pretty, fancy, and smart.”

If I had a dollar for every time one of my writing students bemoaned the quality of their work because it wasn’t “pretty,” “fancy,” or “smart” enough, I would have many, many dollars. (Not enough to buy a car, but I could probably go out for a nice dinner.) The truth is that all your reader really wants is something that makes sense and is error free. Rather than worrying about how many multisyllabic words you have used, focus on communicating effectively. Use words that you own, and by that I mean words that can’t get away from you and muddy your points because you don’t have enough control over them to use them correctly or well.


Tip #4 – PROOFREAD!!

I am always a bit astounded by the simple errors people allow to live in their written work. It bespeaks of a lackadaisical, if not straight out lazy, work ethic. There is an adage that states, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.” I assure you that if you do not take the time to re-read your work once it is done, you will not have done it well. Personally, as much as I strive to reduce my carbon footprint, I still print out everything I author on the computer in order to catch all my flaws. Perhaps doing the same will help you, but either way it is an imperative task. Several years ago, my daughter had a teacher – a stern and demanding English teacher mind you – who never failed to send home a progress report containing errors. Needless to say, it was difficult for my sharp and sassy daughter to heed that teacher’s writing advice when she presented her own work so poorly on a regular basis. Your writing, and you!, have little chance of being taken seriously if you do not take the time to check that the words you have written are the words you meant to write, and that you have written them without spelling, grammatical, or usage errors.

Bonus tip: Take some time away from your work before you proofread it. When the authoring is fresh in your mind, you will have a tendency to read what you think you wrote, rather than what you actually wrote; however, if you wait before you proofread, you may be surprised, and quite pleased, by how easily you catch your own errors and how quickly you realize that a point you thought was crystal clear was much clearer in your mind than it was on your screen.


Tip #5 – Seek criticism.

Every professional writer has an editor whose job it is to improve the quality of the writer’s work. If you can find a skilled editor you trust, be it a friend, neighbor, relative, or colleague, be ever so grateful for the many ways that that help will benefit you, and be open to the criticism offered.

Lastly, let me say this: Indifference towards your subject matter not only produces poor results, it makes the writing itself a bore, a chore, and a snore. So find a way in. Regardless of the topic, approach it from a viewpoint that is truthful, specific, and yours. Consider how your particular perspective can help shape a unique take on your topic. If you can do that, along with any, or all, of the tips above, you will find that you have more to say than you first thought and that you can say it more effectively than you first imagined.



For more more writing tips and information on business blogging, try this:

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