By: Steve Scaffidi, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
Whether you write for a living, or do it for fun, the act of writing can be challenging sometimes, or even occasionally maddening. We’ve all written something. A letter, a blog, a thesis perhaps? A collective grouping of words on paper or a computer screen. But often, the words don’t flow out of your mind so easily, and the impetus to start can literally stop you dead in your creative tracks. Where to begin?
To build off the exercise analogy, getting started can be the hardest part. Most people stare at the paper or screen for a while, looking for an idea or nugget of creativity to launch them into their project. Cleverness can work, but only if you’re clever. Humor is also a good thing, but not everybody’s funny. If you don’t write often, just like anything else, the process will be tougher. You don’t run a marathon without preparation, good shoes and nutrition, and most importantly, putting in the miles. The same thing goes for writing. To borrow a concept from writer Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, the more you do something the better you’ll be at it. He gave it a name, the 10,000 hour rule, referring to the amount of practice time it takes to be really great at something. Writing follows that same logic.
The more you write, the easier the concepts, structure and the rules of writing will be. So yes, we’ve all stared at the blank page, but writing involves moving past that, and that often begins with a good idea. What are you trying to say? Is it relevant, newsworthy, interesting? Interest is often generated by a commonly shared belief, or story, that speaks to the reader. If you’re writing about an event, was it something you experienced directly, and how did it affect you? Were other people impacted the same way? If the answer is yes, then that story would make for an interesting read. By sharing the experience, with real life feelings and emotions, you’ve conveyed something that goes beyond the words. So if you’re stuck on a writing project, start by writing down something you saw and how it affected you.
Once you’ve started, you need to build a structure to support the paragraphs you write. Make it simple. Think about a beginning, middle, and end. Introduce the subject with a great beginning paragraph telling the reader why they’re here. The middle is the story. Tell it in the best way you can, in the most interesting way. Finally, the end is just that. Wrap it up, but reinforce the value of the words you’ve written, and sum it all up using one of those concepts I introduced earlier. A funny line, clever play on words, or an emotional tug on the heartstrings of the reader. Make it worth their while.
Nothing about writing well is easy. But the effort is worth it when you’ve created something that another human being reads, and upon reading the last word, slowly nods their head in agreement. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare or Hemmingway, it just has to be worth reading.