01 Oct Think writing is just about words? Think again.
Let’s talk about writing.
I used to think that writing is a simple skill, easy to master. After all, it’s just about stringing words together to form coherent sentences, isn’t it?
I have a good understanding of English. I learnt how to write in school. And I’m good at texting.
So, I should be a good writer. Right?
I’ve since found that it largely depends on how I’d like to define ‘writer’.
If it’s just about writing for the sake of writing, then yes. As long as I follow basic grammar rules and write something with all relevant information included, then, tada! I’m a good writer.
But, if I wanted to dig deeper, convey the right message, hit the right notes and evoke the right emotions…
Then, like a young Padawan, I had much to learn.
And learnt, I have.
My career has seen me go from a radio newsroom to a digital agency to finally, now, a premium copy and content writing agency. Through these years, I’ve been fortunate to learn and experience many different types of writing.
And in my quest to hone my craft, I’ve been reminded again and again that writing is about so much more than just words.
Here are five key things I’ve learnt along my writerly journey.
#1: It’s about critical thinking
Every writer knows the value of a very exciting pre-writing stage called ‘research’.
This is when we learn all we can about our subject matter to understand it inside out. But does that mean we should then regurgitate everything we’ve learnt for our dear readers?
No. No, you shouldn’t. Please don’t.
Because the last thing they want is to read 5,000 words about something they may not really care about.
And that’s where good writing comes in.
Good writers step back, put themselves in the reader’s shoes, and ask themselves: “What does the reader really want to know?”
Or better yet: “What does the reader really need to know?”
Because good writers know they need to get through the slush pile and present only the most important messages – quickly, clearly and smoothly.
#2: It’s about storytelling
Since ancient times, people have fallen under the spell of storytelling. And they know a good story when they see it.
Good writers need to write good stories. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a novel, news report, landing page, LinkedIn post or even a WhatsApp message.
As a good writer, you’ll take your readers on a journey. An emotionally satisfying ride.
You might think: “But, uh, all I’m trying to do is write an About Us page. Not a best-selling book.”
It’s still all about good storytelling!
Take your readers through the entrepreneurial journey. The business as the protagonist. The difficulties as the obstacles or even antagonist.
And finally, the triumph – how the business overcame all odds to reach where it’s at today.
Need to write about products and their benefits? There’s still a story in there. Start with the customer’s pain points. Their struggles. Their darkest night of the soul!
And then show them how your solution will help them overcome all to reach their goals.
#3: It’s about human connection
Good writing is remembering that you’re writing for another person. Another actual human being.
But the problem in this day and age is that too many writers write to please a machine. The Google Machine.
I understand that SEO is a huge consideration. First page ranking is important. And many businesses want writers to give them content that would make them easily found online.
But if hitting high Google rankings is the sole purpose and goal for your writing… you’ll lose more than you gain in the long run.
Good writing goes beyond satisfying ranking requirements. It aims to connect and to engage. To inform and inspire. To evoke emotions and leave an impact.
As a good writer, you should strive to make meaningful connections. And these connections can be a lot more powerful that just hitting keyword targets.
#4: It’s about self-acceptance
Now we come to the core of good writing – you, the writer.
To be a good writer, you need to first know and accept yourself. I know it sounds cliché. But it’s true.
It’s good to learn from others and aspire to be better. But you cannot merely try to write like another person or follow someone else’s style.
You bring a unique set of skills, perspective, and work as well as life experience to the table. You have a special sense of humour. A different way of translating ideas. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to tap into it.
Understand yourself and accept who you are – wholly, fully, unashamedly. And the writer in you will thank you for it.
I’ve been plagued by doubts. There were days when I felt every word I wrote was utter rubbish. My self-confidence dropped to the lowest level. (Oh, who am I kidding? There was no self-confidence in those days.)
But I’ve since learnt that to write well is to accept who I am, flaws and all.
Because when I can accept who I am, I can believe in myself. And be confident in my thoughts, trust my judgment and listen to my gut.
Once you know, accept and believe in yourself, you’ll find it easier to unlock your creativity and let the words flow.
Which leads us to my final point.
#5: It’s about taking risks
It’s about being real and vulnerable and daring to try.
Will I fail? Probably.
But I hold on to Samuel Beckett’s wise words: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
The beauty about trying is also the fact that you may actually… succeed.
It’s easy to stay within the rigid lines. It’s easy to keep within the box.
That’s safe, yes.
But good writing needs – nay, it demands – that you step out and take a leap.
If you want to write well, you need to not only accept who you are – but dare to show others a piece of you.
Trust your judgment. Listen to your gut. Take the risk.
Does that make you feel a little vulnerable? Definitely.
Is it scary to put yourself out there and see if others agree with you? You bet.
But all good art is created with vulnerability. And often, it’s that very essence of yourself that you’ve shared in your work that will connect with and relate to your audience the most.
Because you, oh good writer, have put your heart into it. And your reader will feel it.
A journey that never ends
So, that sums up some of the lessons I’ve picked up about writing through the years.
And the beautiful thing about writing is that there’s always something new to learn.
As Ernest Hemingway said: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
At the end of the day, your words are your tools. Your writing is your craft. No matter what kind of a writer you are, when you put your heart into your work, your writing becomes so much more than just words on the page.