Last month, my neighbors invited me to a party at a “paint bar.” It’s a brilliant concept: Combine friends with a mini painting lesson, snacks and alcoholic beverages, and voila! Everyone is a budding artist for a night. We would all paint a wintery version of Boston’s iconic Make Way for Ducklings statues, based on Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book.
Having never painted so much as a fence, the idea was thrilling … and terrifying.
What if my ducks looked like something that crawled from the sewer, rather than a family of cute yellow quackers? What if my painting was the lamest one in the class? What if? What IF?
This got me thinking about why some people hate writing so much….
1. Writing is personal. Like painting, writing is an outward expression of who you are, what you think and how you see the world. Like painting, or playing music, or dancing, or any creative endeavor — writing comes more naturally for some people. They enjoy doing it, and the words seem to flow. For others, it’s a struggle. As some clients have said, “It’s hard to put what’s in my head into writing.”
In today’s digital age, it’s hard to imagine any job that doesn’t require some writing, whether it’s a company email, some webpage copy or a case study. But that doesn’t mean people who say they hate writing can’t improve and grow to like it more.
2. Writing takes practice. My first foray at painting was, well, sobering! I have newfound respect for all painters, because clearly, it’s way harder than it looks. Good writing is like that too. It demands ideas worth communicating…then a plan, focus, execution, revision. And then, more writing. Lots more writing. It’s hard work, and it takes time and practice. That old saying “The best writing is rewriting” means what we first put on paper isn’t necessarily our best effort.
As MarketingProfs founder Ann Handley writes in her new book, Everybody Writes, “…writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” (BTW do yourself a favor and put Ann’s book on your holiday wish list. Her insights on writing and content development can help any business.) Good writing means putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and looking at your own work with a critical eye. Writing takes courage.
3. Writing is a leap of faith. Some people would rather have a root canal than write something. I can relate. I think any writer—even accomplished ones—would be lying if they said they never feared the blank screen. Or the ideas that struggle to come together. Or the umpteenth revision that still isn’t quite right, which begs the writer to “scrap it and start from scratch.”
Writing is putting it out there for the world to see. It takes daring and willingness to fail. To me, writing often feels more like a toss in the mosh pit than a waltz.
Painting the ducklings was a humble reminder that we all have different talents. Painting is not mine, though clearly others in the class had natural and/or well-practiced chops (including two tween girls, whose creations happily paddled in Facebook likes by the class’s halfway point). It was also a great opportunity to push self-doubts aside and try something new.
If you hate writing, try this: Find something you love, and write about that. It sounds simple, but it’s a good starting point. That’s why our grammar school teachers assigned us those essays on “What I Did This Summer.” I enjoyed writing those. Did you? Maybe get your feet wet with one of those family holiday letters. Who doesn’t enjoy writing about their kids and pets, and yes, how they spent their vacation? Have fun, be conversational and use humor (quack a joke or two).
I really enjoyed painting the ducklings, though the picture remains a work in progress. The ducks were supposed to have Santa hats…and the picture has more to say. I’ll bet you do, too. Dive in!