The other day someone asked me whether I write a lot. I said I don’t know. What’s a lot? I write once a day a post on facebook. Sometimes two or three. And an article for our websites a couple of times a week. Such as this one. Writing is important for me because it keeps the grey matter fit. Which is one of our goals.
The person who asked me the question would love to write, but felt insecure. So I explained how he could overcome this insecurity. This article is an extended version of my explanation: How to effectively write with confidence.
Given our experiences, the most important tip is to write a lot. The more the better. No writer is born a star-writer. Every single one of them became better in time after writing thousands of words.
Table of contents
What will you write?
You can read yourself into the theory of writing. The problem is that long before you’re done reading, you will have lost all confidence. The rules and recommendations are so numerous and complicated that they are not very helpful.
Also, never ask yourself the question: Why do I want to write? This question is totally out of order. You will never be able to come up with a satisfying answer. Just enjoy the mere act of writing.The question you should answer is: What will I write? Choose a subject. Preferably a subject that is closest to your ‘knowledge and experience bank’. Write about things you like, or dislike for that matter. This will give you enough confidence to start.
Whatever suits you, gives you confidence
Okay, you’ve picked your subject? Now it’s time to design the layout of your text. Oh no, there’s another millstone on the neck of so many novice writers. Every writer has his or her peculiarities. You will have to discover yours.
Sharpen your pencil and write on a brown envelope (some of the most famous authors did this: Walt Whitman, Georges Simenon, Bukowski). Take your fountain pen out of your mouth and scribble in a notebook worth 50 euro/dollars.
To write with a pencil or a fountain pen, instead of using a keyboard, is better for you and for your brain because you’re forced to use different parts of your brain at the same time.
When you’re done type the results on your computer. Or read them out loud to your mobile phone*. Best is that you try all of these.
*A useful tool is the dictation function in Google docs. This works best on your phone. The English version has more features than those in other languages.
Or start by sampling information about your subject, analyze this and write down the ideas that popped up in your head. Break down any logic that you thought was in the information. Or do just the opposite. Turn your summary into a meticulous, mathematical correct explanation with diagrams and all. Whatever suits you, gives you confidence.
For whom do you write?
As soon as someone is prepared to pay you 5000 euro/dollar for a commercial text of 500 words, you have to master: Who is my target audience? Until then, you mainly write for yourself. Your aim must be to have fun when you write.
You should be aware though that writing with someone else in mind can boost your inspiration. Imagine you talk with someone, a relative or a friend, and write down this fictional dialogue. Or write down a fictional dialogue between two of your friends. You might even copy a discussion you witnessed.
A stepping stone to write with confidence
In our articles on either this website, OurGreenHealth or AGEwithCARE, you find many examples of texts that might interest or inspire you to write your own. Some articles dig a little deeper in a specific kind of text: a diary or a journal.
If, in the beginning, you want to practice your writing skills everyday and do not want to confront others with your texts, start a diary. Write down what you do. Who you meet. What you discuss with others. What your feelings or intentions are. Diaries know no limits. You can write down whatever you please.
A more structured diary is a journal. You can pre-program a journal in many ways. You can use it to write down your daily intentions and whether you were able to achieve them. You can write down what you felt and how you dealt with your feelings. Or write down how you coped with a specific task.
Some professional tips
The Pulitzer prizewinning novelist Cormac McCarthy developed tips on how to write. Here are the most important ones:
- Decide on your theme. Choose two or three points you want readers to remember.
- Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph.
- Ask a question and then progress to the answer. It’s also perfectly fine to leave questions unanswered.
- Keep sentences short, simple, and direct.
- Avoid jargon, buzzwords, or technical language. Don’t use a word repeatedly.
- Use minimalism to achieve clarity. Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
- To be understood is more important than to form a grammatically perfect sentence. Use examples.
- Don’t be overly formal.
- When you’re done, read your text aloud. Satisfied?
Is writing for a website different?
For the most part, writing for a website is the same as regular writing. A few items are different than, for example, writing for a book or magazine.
- Keep the paragraphs small, 2 to 3 sentences is enough;
- Provide a lot of white (= breathing space);
- Make lots of subheadings to break the text into small parts
- Tell what the article is about at the beginning;
- Summarize the main elements at the end.
How to effectively write with confidence
My questioner writes a lot nowadays and has built up a lot of self-confidence. He asked several times if I wanted to comment on his texts. However insecure you may feel at first, this is of course a good way to grow and learn.
Oh, and one more tip if you are not a native English speaker, like us. Install Grammarly on your browser. That extension improves both your typos and your language.
Do you write? Let us know in the comment box below.
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