Where does your writing personality fit in?
I recently came to the end of parent-teacher interview week for another year. It was a great opportunity to gain insight into the daily lives and learning styles of my two children.
What struck me this time, however, was the stark contrast between the way each of my children approach tasks.
My seven-year old daughter’s teacher says:
“She can do great work, but is often too slow to get started. She needs to be 100% sure she is doing the right thing first. She double and triple checks – by which time, the rest of the class is well underway.”
My four year-old son’s teacher says:
“He can be too impulsive. He often starts a task when I’m only half way through giving instructions. He gets overexcited and often doesn’t consider or plan what needs to be done first.”
When it comes to writing at work, which one of my two children are you more like? Do you worry too much about getting it perfect – sometimes to the point where you can’t get started? Or do you dive straight in and focus more on getting it done than getting it right?
And what’s the better approach anyway?
Well, as you will have guessed, for best results you need to incorporate both writing personalities.
What matters most is your timing. Different writing personalities are best at different points in the writing process. We cover this concept in our one-day business writing workshop. It’s known as the “Four Stages of Writing”.
The four stages of writing
Stage 1: Planning
This is where you gather your thoughts. You do your research and make a list of subject areas you need to cover. Being thoughtful and considered now will save you time later. Planning also helps you tackle the next three phases with more confidence.
Stage 2: Drafting
This is where you get all your thoughts down on paper. Be impulsive. Let your energy and passion take over. Don’t worry about getting things exactly right. And don’t edit as you go – or you might inhibit your creativity. Just write.
Stage 3: Editing
Now read over your work. (Best if you can leave your draft for a while.) Your aim is to improve and fine-tune all the way through. Ask yourself these important questions:
- Have I got to the point quickly?
- Is my writing clear?
- Is my writing concise, and have I removed any unnecessary words, jargon or cliches?
- Have I kept my audience involved and relevant?
Stage 4: Proofing
Proofing is about precision. It’s where you check everything. Carefully. Don’t simply rely on your spell-checker. And don’t rely on other people. It’s your name and your professional image at stake. Learn how to proofread with greater certainty.
A balanced approach is best
It’s fine to approach a writing task with caution. Like my daughter, do your research first and be sure you understand exactly what your audience wants.
But don’t plan so much that you can’t start writing (otherwise known as procrastination). Recognise when it’s time to just write. Like my son, be impulsive, get overexcited – and don’t worry about getting it exactly right. That comes later.