For many of us, writing can be a chore. We’re up against rigid deadlines, we have a hard time putting our thoughts into words, and the many rules of proper written English are confusing. As a result, it’s a task that we often hire out because, to be honest, we’re just not confident in our own ability to do it well. But as anyone who is comfortable with his or her writing ability can tell you, there are lots of little things you can do to boost your confidence in your writing skills. That’s right — skills. Just like shooting free throws, flipping an omelet, or balancing your checkbook, the ability to write well is a skill that can be taught, learned, and honed. Work on your writing skills long enough, and you’ll feel confident about writing anything. Learn how to be a better writer and a more confident writer with these 7 steps:
- Know yourself.
While it’s true that this is good advice in any endeavor, it’s important to know your habits and know the time of day and environment in which you write best. Are you an early bird or a night owl, or are you at your sharpest in the afternoon? Do you write best while listening to NPR on your headphones or in complete silence? Are you most motivated at home or at a coffee shop with a latte at your side? It may take some trial and error, but find your zone and write in those conditions.
- Know your audience.
Who will read your writing? Knowing the answer to that question will determine a lot: your tone, what you need to explain, the references you use, and so much more. You’ll feel more confident — and more comfortable — in your writing ability when you know your audience.
- Do your homework.
Or more specifically, do your research. You’ll feel most confident and sound more authoritative when you know what you’re talking about. Seek out reputable sources for information on your topic, read them carefully, and take notes if that helps you. When you feel well informed, you’ll be more self-assured as you start to write.
- Go for quality over quantity.
There’s a lot of focus on word count in writing, but more important is actual content. Give your readers something they can use: helpful advice, relevant information, a nugget of wisdom that they can really turn over in their minds. If you’re focused on quantity over quality, you’re just likely to repeat yourself instead of saying anything of value.
- Use specific examples to back your claims.
You probably remember this bit of advice from high school and college: providing specific examples will not only make your writing more commanding, but it will make you more confident in what you are writing. Anecdotal or historical evidence is good for a more narrative approach, statistics are great for providing concrete data, and quotes from experts in the field lend authority to your claims.
- Remember: your first draft is not your final draft.
Great writers know that writing is a process. Once you’re done with your first draft, the process is not done! The next step is proofreading, editing, and revising. Not only do you want to look for proper spelling and grammar — you want to make sure that your phrasing is clear and that you’re connecting all the dots for your reader.
- Don’t wait until the last minute!
It may be true that nothing inspires thought and creativity like a deadline, but it’s also true that nothing inspires fear and anxiety like a deadline. You’ve heard this bit of advice many times and in many contexts, and that’s because it’s true. Bottom line? Start your writing project early! You’ll feel more confident in your finished piece when you know that you’ve given it the time it requires.
Trust Your Writing!
It may take some time to truly build up your confidence in your writing ability. However, once you hit your stride, you’ll find that you can produce better articles in less time and with less stress. It’s important to note, though, that the act of writing is more akin to running than it is to riding a bicycle. In other words, it’s not something you never forget how to do well. Instead, it’s like a muscle: you need to keep writing and keep exercising those parts of your brain for them to function smoothly. Stop for a little while, and you’ll be rusty. Stop for a long while, and you’ll need to build those muscles up again.
If you’re confident in your writing abilities, what piece of advice helped you? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!