Do you find writing difficult? I do. This may come as a bit of a surprise when you consider that for most of my life I’ve written a lot, and practically every day. I even write on my days off. Evidently a taste for difficulty lies somewhere in my psyche.
For me, writing’s difficulty comes from it being a complex task. By this I mean there are many points at which things might go pear-shaped, and it’s tough to work out where problems lie just by looking at a finished piece. When you’ve got one of those in front of you there are no obvious clues about what you did to make it.
This is why it’s so important to view writing as a process. When you do that, it becomes obvious where you struggle, and it’s clearer what you need to do to find help. If that sounds horribly abstract to you, please allow me an example:
For me, the worst part is usually getting started. Every morning at 10 o’clock I fire up the word processor and sit staring at a blank white rectangle in my computer monitor. I’m frozen with feelings of…well, I dunno. I’m from Essex, not California.
So how do I get going? I mimic myself on a good day. Say I’m supposed to do a blog post: I’ll retrieve one of my old ones and adopt its paragraph structure, the composition of my sentences, even the figurative writing. Of course, I do all this using fresh vocabulary and content applicable to the new assignment.
Sooner or later, a miracle happens. I start to take issue with my template, and see where things could have been done better. I have ideas, where before there was just the hum of idling neurons. My fingers begin to quiver because it’s hard to type fast enough, and then I know it’s all going to be okay because my abilities have been freed.
Over the years I’ve applied this method to technical writing, fiction, poetry, blogging, biography, reports and—the ultimate writing challenge—minutes of meetings. It has yet to let me down. If you write regularly and sometimes get stuck, the best writing advice I have to offer you is: get yourself a solid set of well-written examples. If you can’t find any, ask a colleague or look online. You’ll be using your own words, so this isn’t an act of plagiarism but one of inspiration.
If you’re ever really stuck for great examples, you could always commission some from a talented content writer. Just saying.
Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.