2 posts tagged

work

Writing on Resource

I never write when I get a good idea. I only try to write when I find suitable resource to illustrate that idea. With proper resource, writing is fast and persuasive. Without resource, writing is a waste of time.

For about a year, I have had an idea to write an article about emails: what's the best way to start a conversation with someone you don't know. I knew how to explain it. But every time I set to writing that article, I stopped at the first example. It was too hard to create a believable letter to illustrate all of my ideas. I spent hours writing and editing, but never published any of those drafts.

Then one night I got an email from someone I didn't know. The moment I looked at it, I knew it was badly structured, without even reading. It looked like this:

Wow, I thought. I don't need to read it to see it's bad. How did I just learn that? Clearly, it looked messy and long. You don't write such things to people you don't know. Gotcha.

This letter illustrated what I had wanted to say for a long time. In 15 minutes I made a simple image to illustrate the principle:

I wrote two lines of text, threw in that image, and got myself a perfect article: it was short, clear and persuasive. The whole thing took 20 minutes to write.

My previous drafts had a good idea behind them, but no resource. There was no good example, no good illustration of my idea. Creating that illustration took time, and I never liked the result. Then suddenly a good example just kind of... floated by. So I grabbed it, and used it, and it was great.

Then I realized: I've been doing this for a long time:

As I edit articles at work, I collect elegant 'before — after' bits and use them in my editing courses.

I collect curious bits of text and layouts for my future projects and books.

People send me their ads for review. I use those ads as examples for my articles.

When I have a conflict with a client, it becomes a case study for my negotiations course.

This may seem counterintuitive, because normally you write towards a goal, not based on example. But writing towards a goal puts pressure on you, and to me writing is never better when under pressure.

Writing on resource feels better. Also, it's a hundred times faster.

May 29   editing   persuasion   work

Don't be afraid to make mistakes

The only way to get good at writing is to write. Write a lot. And then write some more. And then get back to what you've written and rewrite it. Seriously, that's the only way. Ask anyone who's good—he'll probably never answer because he'll be busy writing.

The reason many people fail at getting good—they don't do the writing. The reason for that—their fear of making mistakes.

The Russians I know will take pride in pointing out my mistakes. This is their way of saying they are better than me: more intelligent, better-educated, with more experience. Last article I wrote—oh, had I not gotten my ass handed to me! All those people, salivating with joy, writing up screens and screens of how I went wrong in English, how I don't belong and should stay down, bury myself in Siberian snow and never write again. It pains, but it's good pain.

Here's the deal.

The more you write, the better you get. When you write a lot, you will make mistakes. Your readers will point them out and you will correct your writing. You will get good. You will get better.

So whenever you feel like writing about something that matters, just get your ass to the keyboard and do it. Write it up until you are loving what you see. Make those mistakes. Get shit from your readers. Own that shit. Then clean that shit out and move on.

Here are some tricks that help me cope with my fear of mistakes:

Admit to myself that I make mistakes. Nobody's perfect, unless you have a degree in Linguistics from an Ivy League college, in which case you're wasting your time reading this.

Make sure this is the best I can do. Before I publish, I spend the time to read, re-read and re-write, until I am confident: this is the shit. I can't do it any better.

Thank everyone for input once I get the criticism. People give feedback to feel good, so there is no reason to not let them.

Correct what truly matters, ignore the rest. Some people will spend time arguing about dashes and commas—fuck it. I'm here to get good and help others get even better, not to prove I'm right. Especially not about the dashes and the commas.

And then write some more.

Get shit. Own the shit. Correct the shit. Then write some more

2016   editing   work