Thoughts on writing and writers
Let's change how we evaluate our writing
How confident do you feel as a writer?
Most of us assess our writing as if we were our old English teacher. We worry about it, struggle with it, even obsess on it. We worry about how our writing reflects on us (as if we’re being judged on our intelligence). We get self-conscious about spelling, punctuation, and other things someone told us decades ago. This pulls focus away from simply communicating, and it makes writing harder and downright stressful. Not surprisingly, a lot of people don’t really like writing at work.
What to do instead
Rather than focusing on whether you’re writing “correctly” (which activates the overly-critical English teacher in us), think about the messages you want to convey. You can do this before, during, and after the writing itself:
- Before you write
Focus on your readers rather than your writing. That’s the key—the reader isn’t thinking about us—they just have a job to do, and all they really want is something that helps them do it.
- While you write
Let go of agonizing questions about word choice, grammar, and punctuation, and just write. Simply get your thoughts down on paper! It doesn’t need to be perfect at this stage.
- After you write
Ask yourself, "What messages do I want the reader to get? Have I expressed them? Are they clear?"
What’s the difference?
Changing how we approach writing does good things, both for you and your reader. It:
frees us to do a good job with less stress
puts our best attention on the content, which the reader needs
reduces the tendency to self-analyze and criticize
speeds up the process of writing