If you have a hard time writing, you should consider if it is fear that’s holding you back. Try to be more direct and to the point when you write – and practice, practice, practice.
Does writing come hard to you? Do you find it difficult to translate all the brilliant stuff in your head onto a piece of paper? Let me tell you a secret: If you want to be a better writer there is one thing you can do that will go a long, long way. It won’t be easy, but if you succeed you will have taken a giant leap. Want to know the secret? I’ll be happy to share, but first let me tell you a story.
A long time ago I was the editor of a big multimedia project, involving a large number of writers, most of them academics. They really disliked having to write articles with very limited word count. So one of them, a well-known professor, came up with what he thought was a brilliant solution. He translated the word count into a page count and then promptly reduced the font size in order to get more words into his articles. Kind of the opposite of what most middle grade teachers experience when they start handing out assignments and get back essays written in font sizes beginning at 48 and often increasing from there dramatically.
Why did he do it? Why do most experts insist on writing lengthy papers and essays? Why does every product owner in every company since the dawn of industrialization insist on more text to describe the benefits of their product?
Let me answer in one word: Fear.
Fear of not being taken seriously, fear of not including every possible aspect, fear of leaving out that one persuasive argument that will convince the customer or sway a fellow academic.First and foremost fear of criticism.
And that’s how you can dramatically improve your writing. Get rid of the fear. Write more to the point. Don’t be afraid of not getting in all the arguments. Trust that your peers will understand your main ideas even if you keep it short and sweet.
If you start doing this, and practice a lot, you will be comfortable telling your audience the key point of your message without wrapping it in a lot of literary cotton. You will talk in a straight-forward way to your readers, and they will appreciate you all the more for it. You will have the courage to try something new or share something personal.
Plus, you will become a much better writer for this digital era. The average reader on the web now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. If you want to get their attention you have to get straight to the point.
What I’m telling you now does in no way stop you from writing long, in-depth pieces as well. There is certainly room for that, and when you have convinced your audience that you’re worth paying attention to they will follow you down that rabbit hole gladly. But first you have to get them to spend time with you at all.
Get past the fear. Convince your readers that they should give you their attention and leave their goldfish ways behind.
Go get them!
This post was originally published on LinkedIn in January, 2015