Halloween is nearly here, and there are ghosts, goblins and ghouls lurking around every corner.
Sometimes, though, writing content can be spookier than any witch. After all, your writing is front and center, displayed for colleagues and customers to see. Even more importantly, it’s a visible indicator of your writing skills and professionalism.
In the face of this pressure, otherwise competent and self-assured people often find themselves feeling like a scaredy cat, whether they’re tasked with writing a blog post, an email blast or a social media update.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By approaching workplace writing assignments one step at a time, you can learn to brainstorm, research and write with confidence and courage.
The question remains, how can you face your fears, trust in your abilities and improve your writing skills, all before a looming deadline?
Let’s find out.
Take Time to Think
Here at bizbuzzcontent, research is our bread and butter. Before we begin the content creation process, we ask clients questions like:
- Who does this topic matter to?
- Why does the audience care?
- Why is it relevant right now?
- What are the key points we want to make?
- What are at least three key takeaways?
While this is approach is useful for ghostwriting, it also stands its ground when it comes to writing on your own. Simply ask yourself those questions, take note of your answers and build a rough outline from there.
Once you’ve finished the preliminary version of your piece, the thinking still isn’t over. When I read over one of my first drafts, I ask myself a few key questions to refine and flesh out my writing:
- Is the point concise and well-structured?
- Are the sentences straightforward and concise?
- Is the text broken up into easily readable paragraphs?
- Is the text organized into navigable headings and sub-headings?
- Did I make each point that I originally set out to make?
- Is each takeaway clearly defined?
Even if you’re an expert on the topic at hand, it’s likely that someone, somewhere knows more about it than you do, and that’s a good thing.
One of the best ways to further your credibility and strengthen your piece of writing is to reference reliable supportive sources.
Here are some tips for finding and vetting credible sources:
- Determine if concrete numbers and statistics are being used to back up claims. If so, ensure that those statistics link back to an original study or report.
- Cross-check any provided data with other sources. If two different publications cite the same report but list incongruous numbers, something is likely amiss.
- Keep an eye out for biased information. If something sounds like an opinion, it probably is—that doesn’t make it unusable, but it does mean you’d be wise to include some counterpoints for objectivity’s sake.
- To get a general idea of a website’s reliability, try checking it with a tool like Web of Trust. While not definitive, Web of Trust’s reliability ratings can help weed out questionable sources.
When evaluating potential sources, keep an eye out for these red flags:
- Frequent misspellings and grammatical errors
- Outdated information
- Publications with no information about their fact-checking procedures
- Sales pitches, thinly-veiled or otherwise
Mix It Up
From performance anxiety to decision paralysis, there are many factors which can contribute to writer’s block. If you’re experiencing a case of writer’s block, a change of scenery may be in order.
YouTube can be a wonderful remedy for creative paralysis, particularly since it presents content in a visual and oral format. Watching and listening as another person explains a topic can act as a sort of bait-and-switch for your brain: if you’re not explicitly focusing on written words, the thought loop responsible for writer’s block can be bypassed altogether.
For more inspiration, try browsing through some swipe files, as mentioned in our previous post on writing for 21st century attention spans:
Or, if you’d like some inspiration that’s a bit more custom-tailored to your topic, let Portent’s content idea generator provide you with catchy, thought-provoking titles:
Quit the Judgment
When we try to write, we’re frequently more paralyzed by our own self-judgment than we are by external criticism.
It’s difficult to write creatively when you’re constantly shooting down your own ideas, so you’ll need to figure out a way to get past that.
In my case, writing in Word often feels too formal and constrained for effective brainstorming, so I’ll open Google Docs or Notepad and jot down some ideas there. Your solution doesn’t have to look the same—maybe you like writing by hand, or maybe you’d prefer to verbally bounce ideas off your significant other, roommate or cat (no judgment, remember?).
The point is, criticizing your writing before it’s even written is nonproductive, and the faster you find a way to silence your inner critic, the sooner you’ll be able to get some words on the page.
Above all, cut yourself some slack and realize that writing is a skill. Even if it feels clunky and awkward at first, you can (and will) improve with time and practice.
Do you have any tricks for tackling intimidating writing assignments in the workplace? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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