I often tell myself my writing sucks.
Hear me out.
I regularly call myself out on my own bullshit whether it’s how I act towards my family or how much I’ve been slacking on a project.
Now, I can’t say for certain whether this habit has made me a better person. What it has done is made me a better writer and freelancer.
Not the best. Just better.
Before I’ve hit send on a blog post, I’ve already thought of half a dozen criticisms the client will have and you can bet your typing fingers that that list of six was whittled down from a list of sixty before I decided to shut the critical voices up and just hit “send”.
“This is boring.”
“There are a hundred other blog posts like this out there.”
“This entire article is too simple.”
“These sentences are too wordy.”
There is usually much more cursing involved.
With the exception of minor revisions, most clients have been happy, but this doesn’t make me any less critical. In fact, it makes me convinced that since I dodged the bullet this time I’m that much closer to the day I get verbally assassinated.
So what do I do?
I read. I read as much as possible about how to write better and how to come up with better ideas and what other content writers do.
Last night, I spent an hour reading about how to write better sentences. My most recent source of self-consciousness has been how basic my sentences seem. Or, on the other end of the spectrum – but just as cringe-worthy – is the fear that they sound too pretentious.
(Related, but unrelated: Last night, Douglas Preston of the Pendergast series writing duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child followed me back on Instagram while I was reading that article about writing better sentences. I wish I had been quick enough to get a screenshot of the banner notification, but I was too stunned.)
I am always improving and learning new skills because of this tendency to pick my work apart. It also helps me confirm when I’m doing things right.
This habit does have its downsides. I spend much longer than I should on a project with a scope and budget that simply doesn’t justify it. I’ve even put off sending a simple email because I obsess over the tone.
Constructive criticism that mutates into analysis paralysis will do you absolutely no favours.
One thing that proved helpful over the last year is blogging. Committing to a certain number of blog posts pushes you to hit “publish”. It also serves as writing cardio that forces you to practice in a low-stakes environment where you don’t have to maniacally edit and proofread.
Another helpful habit has been remembering the purpose of a piece of writing:
- Does the email respectfully and clearly get your message across? Yes? Stop wasting time and hit send.
- Does the 500 word article meet the project requirements? Yes? Proofread and hit send.
- Is your friend really going to screenshot this boring conversation about what time to meet up and share your typo with the world? No? Stop being a paranoid narcissist and hit send.
Here are a couple things I read and watched this weekend about improving your writing:
5 Ways to Write a Damn Good Sentence via Copyblogger
Declaring War on Bland: Copywriting as Fresh Literature via TEDx Talks
Do you have any recommendations for educational books, blogs, or videos? I’m always learning and I’d love to hear what’s helped you become a better writer, marketer, or business owner. Comment below 🙂
P.S. Don’t worry. I spend way more time gassing myself up, but that’s a blog post for another time.
Featured image via Pexels