Connections, Coffee & Confidence
10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Confidence Right Now
One of the things I get asked about the most is confidence in writing, communicating. So I came up with this list of my top 10 tips for gaining that confidence. Pick which one works for you for the project you're working on right now and put it into action!
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Hello and welcome to the Connections, Coffee and confidence podcast with me, Janice. This might surprise you but one of my earliest dreams was to work at Dairy Queen. And if you aren’t in a country lucky enough to have a Dairy Queen, let me break your heart by telling you what you’re missing. It’s a fast food chain that yes, offers hot food but the real beauty is that they offer treats like blizzards where they take their ice cream (actually ice milk but we aren’t going to split hairs here) and blitz it with candy pieces and flavours of your choice, and dipped ice cream cones, and sundaes and banana splits and my personal favorite the peanut buster parfait - layers of ice cream with hot fudge sauce and peanuts. So when a new DQ opened up in the town I lived in in high school, I took myself down and got a job. Just like that, I fulfilled one of my life’s goals.
Fortunately, I had other goals left to conquer such as becoming a published author. And I’ve been published publicly before, in magazines and newspapers in Canada and Ireland, but not under my own name. Because I usually do for others what you do for your own business, write. You might not think of yourself as a writer, you might shudder in horror or laugh your head off at the idea of you being a writer but trust me when I say, you are a writer.
Off the top of my head, I know you write emails, text messages, social media posts for sure. And you probably write product or service descriptions, maybe a sales page, website or landing page words...you write.
Something that is often asked about when people join my private facebook group is writing - getting confident in writing, knowing what to write about, how to do those things with comfort and ease. Okay, comfort and ease are my words but people ask about writing a lot. And when I talk to them, it’s because they aren’t comfortable, it doesn’t come easy and therefore it’s hard.
So today I am bringing you ten tips on gaining writing confidence. These aren't in a strategic order, you don’t need to start at number one and master it before you move to number two; not at all. You pick what you need as you need it, work on it, try it out. The tip you focus on could well depend on the situation you find yourself in and that’s just right, too.
So I’ll start with this tip I’ll call number one and it’s sort of ironically called get started. The worst thing to do is to stare at that blinking cursor, the one that seems to reappear in a slow laughing rhythm. Put some words down and break that rhythm. Often the first few words are the hardest or the least sensible or the most muddled but they are words and those words lead to more and better words. And that’s what you’re after. So get started.
The second tip is for you to Practise. Keep doing it. You might not feel like writing or rewriting that sales page, and that’s cool. But if you know it’s something that needs to be done, take a practise run at it. You aren’t committing to anything, you’re practising. Take the pressure off the act of writing, just try it out. And if some gold happens to fly from your finger tips well, that’s a bonus. Copy and paste it into the real version of whatever you were practising. You may have expected me to say practise like write the same thing fifteen times. And if that works for you, then do it. I know I write about four or five, sometimes more titles for my episodes. But any more than that and I drive myself crazy. I use a headline analyzer and check the SEO and the readability for each title, pick the one that works the best and roll. But I always have those practise headlines to help me.
Another note about practise is that Seth Godin has written in his blog every day for well over a decade. And he talks about how not every post is solid gold. But it’s practise. And if it works for him to show up and practise every day, there’s probably no harm in us trying it more days than not, eh?
The third tip is do not expect perfection. There’s nothing to kill that creativity, to stifle your ability to access words from your brain, than the pressure of writing and making it super awesome. And awesome on the first go. Ugh. It is better to be done and done well now then to be perfect in, well, you and I know things are never going to be perfect. So do it to the best of your ability and move on.
Fourth is a common piece of advice from me: Have a point. Nothing helps focus your work like, well, having a focus. When you have a goal that you’re working towards, you’ll find it much easier to decide what to say and to say it well. This is where my eguide on messaging can help you - a workbook that walks you from your goals to your messaging and helps you find that focus. I’ll link to it in the shownotes and you can also just go to janicefogarty.com to see for yourself. But when you know what you’re talking about, when you know what the end result will be, that will always help shape what you actually say.
Fifth is to keep in mind who you're talking to. It’s much easier to communicate with someone when you know who they are. Have you ever gone to a party that your friend begged you to go to with them, where you don’t really know anyone other than that one friend? And then you don’t quite know how to speak to people straightaway. But once you’ve had a chance to chitchat a bit, get to know a little bit about the crowd, it’s easier to talk. You know if you’re in a room full of masters degrees, entrepreneurs, stay at home parents, married couples, single parents, employees, friends or colleagues or whoever. Once you know who you’re talking to, you know how to communicate with them. It’s part of being strategic as a communicator, you know who your audience is.
Tip number six for gaining confidence in writing is to ask yourself why the person you’re talking to cares. It’s not the same as what’s your point; this tip is about the audience, the person or people you’re speaking to in your writing. You can think of it as being generous with your intentions, if that makes it easier for you. It’s often easier to write when we hold in our minds what it is the recipient will find value in from your words. It’s not just a sales tactic, it’s helpful in all writing.
Tip number seven is to give it time and space. This is a phrase I’ve borrowed from child psychology but it exactly describes what works for me every single time. This is commonly known as editing but honestly, I struggle to edit my own words. I read it exactly as it’s meant to be read or spoken, I go off of what was in my head versus what’s actually on the page or screen so I miss the goofs; my brain fills in what was supposed to be there so I miss the gaps. I need to give my work time as in, don’t rush the edit to publish, and space as in think of something different, do something else, before I go back to edit so I can do so with a clear brain that may have forgotten the details that were flowing through me, making it easier to catch what I originally missed putting down. Sometimes that’s not possible, I know I’m not the only one who mmmm shall we say doesn’t always plan the best or is stricken with inspiration that you simply must post right this minute which doesn’t allow for time and space editing or life simply happens and you gotta publish now or it becomes less timely and you’ve missed making your impact.
That’s where tip 8 comes in. Say it. So this works in two ways, you pick which suits you. First, whatever you’ve written, whatever for, whoever for, read it out loud - not in your head - out loud! And you’ll catch what you’ve missed, at least most of it. When I was a speechwriter for a government minister, you can bet your last dollar that I not only paid attention to how she spoke, her rhythms and her speaking style, but I also read every speech out loud before handing it over to anyone else. So I caught the things, the awkward phrases that read well on the page but people don’t really speak like that, or the less than perfect word to make that point. Reading it out loud made it, whatever it was, better. Try it.
The second way this works is to say it out loud first, then transcribe it. I like to write. I had someone reach out to me from my past for help and in the third email he commented that he didn’t remember me being so chatty. And that’s because I’m comfortable in my writing. But also because I’m over forty, I'm a mom to three neurodiverse boys, and wife to someone with a strong personality; I’m not the exact same person who he knew all those years ago. Same as you - your experiences shape your voice. So if your voice comes more naturally to you when you speak or sing or whatever verbal exercise works for you, then do that and take what you need for your posts. You might think you’re only good at going live when your communications strength comes from actual verbalization but that’s not re-using your content creation in the most efficient way. Go back over some of your really great lives and pull the quotes or even full paragraphs worth of words and repurpose them into posts. They’ll be brilliant because they’ll capture your best voice and your message and they’ll appeal to those in your audience who prefer to read than listen.
Tip number nine on how to write with more confidence is to personalize it. It might be another way of saying be authentic but it feels less catch-phrase-of-the-moment and more, well, like me. How would you say that to a friend, to your sister, to that co-worker you used to really enjoy chatting and having a laugh with? When you can speak as you would to someone you’re comfortable with? How would you say it then? Can you capture that for your material? Can you relate it to something that has happened to you or worked for you or you’ve seen in others? And sometimes it’s easier to speak about something that happened to us like it happened to someone else and that’s ok, you’ll tell that story in a wonderfully clear way because you have full confidence in the details. And that clarity, those details, make the communications feel good for both you and your audience. When you feel good, you’ll be more confident to do it again.
Last but not least, perhaps the most important tip of all actually, is number ten. Have fun. Seriously. When’s the last time you were just living in that moment, laughing your head off or feeling so full up with contentment, at peace and smiling because that’s where you were meant to be at that moment. Not concerned about if you had the right word, if you looked good, what someone might think. What platform, what time of day, what clothing, what setting, what style of delivery feels really good for you? Do that. Sure you can’t always choose what’s the most fun but you can recapture that feeling of having fun and inject it into whatever you’re doing in the moment. Try saying to yourself straight up and out loud: holy heck, I am having fun! I am frigging loving this. Or however you might speak to yourself in moments of great enjoyment. Your brain will follow along. It wants what’s best for you and if you tell it you are having fun writing copy for your sale page or product descriptions, well it’s all in on the fun and won’t notice that you’re doing work. The better you feel doing that work, the more confident you’ll become in doing it.
So there you have it, my top ten tips for gaining confidence in your writing. And really, I think you can extrapolate these tips to all communications. You want confidence when you communicate. That doesn’t mean you aren’t nervous sometimes or you aren’t scared every once in a while; it means that you do it anyway, and that you just do your best to do better every time you try. So don’t forget if you want help on your messaging, you can download my guide and workbook from my website or you can pop me an email and we can book an appointment to see where I can help. In the meantime, I really want to know which tip stood out to you the most. Write it down and tag me on Instagram at janiceefogarty so I can see! And until next week my friend, have a fan freaking tastic rest of your day.