A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.
Have I ever been scared? You bet! I was 24 years old and hanging off the side of a mountain (I mean that literally!) with a friend. It didn’t help that my hiking companion – a track coach – was both terribly fit and utterly fearless. It also didn’t help when I discovered, later, that others had died falling from this very exposed trail. The one piece of good news was that it helped me put fear in context.
Fear of writing? Pffft! That pales in comparison to fear of dying.
Nevertheless, I’ve met many people who are deeply afraid of writing. They think it’s impossibly difficult, complicated and a job suited only to a precious few. Oh my, how they are wrong.
Here are five reasons why writing should hold no fear for you:
1) It doesn’t have to be “right” the first time. Unlike if you’re performing in a stage play, speaking to an audience in a boardroom or talking to a TV host, you can always take back your words!! As a writer, your new best friends are the “delete” and the “backspace” keys and don’t be afraid to use them. (Just don’t use them while you are writing. Instead, write as quickly as you can and save the editing for later.)
2) You can make it easier by mindmapping first. Mindmapping is essentially brainstorming with yourself. It engages the creative part of your brain and holds the linear, organized (non-creative) part at bay. To mindmap simply take a piece of paper, turn it sideways and write your topic in the centre of the page. Draw a circle around it. Now, write down everything that springs into your brain. Do not judge or evaluate – just write. Yes, it’s really that simple, but if you’d like more information about mindmapping you can sign up [hotlink to: http://www.publicationcoach.com/sample-newsletter.php] for my Power Writing newsletter (it’s fr/ee) and you’ll receive an ebooklet on how to mindmap from me, at no charge.
3) You can ask for help. I don’t know your group of friends but just as you likely know someone who cooks well, someone who runs well and someone who is a whiz with numbers – you also likely know someone who writes well. So, hand them a draft and ask for their feedback.
4) The homework is fun. The very best preparation for writing is reading. But not “obligatory” stuff – you’re not trying for a degree in English lit! Instead, you should read writing that you consider engaging. Love crime fiction? Obsessed with biography? A fiend for chicklit? It doesn’t matter. Just read. Observe the techniques your favorite authors use and then copy them. Yes, even if you’re writing annual reports or speeches for your CEO you can still “steal” some of the techniques of good fiction writing – without getting yourself reported to the FCC.
5) You don’t need to be talented. Sure, some people are born with writing “genes.” But many famous writers aren’t. Did you know that Brendan Gill used to rewrite his New Yorker pieces 15 times? That’s not about talent – that’s about determination. You have that – don’t you?
I’m not going to tell you the writing is easy. It isn’t. It requires care and attention. But I can tell you, for sure, that it’s way more relaxing than hanging off the side of a mountain.