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How not to let writing content scare you

Posted by Murray Sye

on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 @ 01:23 PM

How_not_to_let_writing_copy_scare_you

Do you feel challenged when it comes time to putting words to paper?

If you're nodding your head, you're not alone 'cause I'm right there with you.

I wish I could write better than I do.

I can write, but you know what I mean. Really write well – with ease. Write like Don Draper. Sexy, juicy, well-crafted, compelling and engaging copy.

Unfortunately this writing thing is something that I've always struggled with. How about you?

When I was in grade school, comprehension, reading, writing and grammar were subjects that I avoided at all costs. I'd do anything to avoid dissecting a compound sentence for pronouns and adjectives.

I'd rather be doodling. That's why I'm a better art director than I am a writer.

Years ago, when I worked in the ad business, I was fortunate to have worked with some really talented writers. I looked after the art – you know, the creative part – they looked after the copy.

And it was really good copy.

I was always impressed (and perhaps a little envious) at how quickly they were able to conceptualize and craft copy that would, in just a few words, sell vacuum cleaners to cars to copiers and fax machines (as below). Remember fax machines?

Ricoh-1
Unfortunately, regardless of your writing prose, we all have to write. Developing content is something that marketers and business owners alike simply can't ignore. Inbound marketing has forced us to produce a constant flow of new content, from blog posts and social media updates to videos, white papers, case studies, ebooks, and on and on.

And so we, the less experienced, must adapt.

Fortunately there are many resources available to help budding writers just like you (and me) improve our skills. There are a million courses you can take, books to read, and experts you can talk to. Here's a few sources that I go to when I need some inspiration.

There is no bigger step to take than simply getting the inspiration and the confidence you need to get started. So let's get started. Here are a few tips that will help get your fingers moving.

It's time to get over the fear, don't let writing scare you

I'm not a writer
What makes you a writer is that you've written something. What other sign are you waiting for? A book deal? For the Queen to appoint you? A LinkedIn Skills endorsement? No one needs to know that you 'are' or 'are not' a writer; it's of no consequence. Write something. And then write some more.

I'm not good enough
You might be right – perhaps you're not very good. But to get good, you'll need to sit down and just do it already. Have some faith. Most people won't even get this far. So you're already better at writing than them. 

Writing takes me forever
Yup, that's me. But, the more you do it, the less time it will take – because you'll be over the fear. Or, at the very least you'll have learned to suppress it!

I don't have anything to say
You have value in just being you. Let that show through in your writing, very few others will have the nerve. Be genuine. Be open. Show someone why you care. That passion delivers value enough.

I get writer's block
Writer's block is an annoyance, but it's not a reason not to write. Force yourself to get started wherever it's easiest. Jotting down an outline, pulling quotes, conceiving storylines – just for the sake of making a blank screen less intimidating.

Words are hard for me
Just start. I don't use big words. Heck, I don't even know any big words. Putting words to paper – brilliant words, stupid words, any words – is the only way you have a chance at creating something worthwhile.

Choose the right words
Lazy writers don't re-read to swap out the vague words for clear ones. Time spent thinking of the word that best describes what you're trying to say is time well spent.

Focus on substance, not art
Don't sacrifice clarity to show off a big vocabulary. Remember what I said: I don't use big words. I simply like to write the way I talk. Keeping it simple.

Write with emotion
Figurative language, imagery, metaphors, all those literary devices you learned in school – look them up again. Practice creative evocative descriptions that show rather than tell.

Tell a story
It's remarkable how much slack people will cut you when they're entertained by you. If you can transfix someone enough that they read your writing from beginning to end, you'll find they forgive the occasional literary misstep.

Revise your writing
Ernest Hemmingway once said: "The first draft of anything is shit."
John Irving quipped, "Half my life is an act of revision." If you want to be an okay writer, don't revise. Wanting to be okay is, by the way, okay. If you want to be extraordinary, do what the extraordinary do: revise.

And finally, here's some great advice from Brian Clark at Copyblogger who wrote: 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer:

  1. Write.
  2. Write more.
  3. Write even more.
  4. Write even more than that.
  5. Writer when you don't want to.
  6. Write when you do.
  7. Write when you have something to say.
  8. Write when you don't.
  9. Write every day.
  10. Keep writing.

I've written enough, now it's your turn. So go write and have fun.

Written by Murray Sye

Murray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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