Are you a writer?
Your first gut reaction might be, “Heck, no!”
But I’d like you to challenge that. If you are a scrapbooker, you are a writer.
If you are a blogger, you are a writer.
If you write tweets, emails, or Facebook status updates, YOU ARE A WRITER.
In fact, I’d argue that — even with the advent of YouTube, video chatting, and podcasts — at no time in history has the power of the written word been greater.
Most of us write something for public consumption each and every day — and we’re being judged on the content, style, and strength of our writing.
That might be a tad scary for those of us who don’t consider ourselves to be particularly fluent with the written word. You might think that writers are born, not made. Or that you flunked 12th grade English with Miss Haywood and so there’s no way in heck you could be a writer. Or that you have abysmal spelling and questionable grammar, so what’s the point?
But stay with me here… you can become a better writer, no matter where you’re coming from. And I believe that as scrapbookers, it’s our duty to become the best writers we can. If our goal is to share stories and document memories, we need to be comfortable and fluent with the written word. Period.
Sound tough and uncomfortable and decidedly un-fun? It doesn’t have to be! All it requires is a little effort on your part. No, I won’t suggest you go back and assume your seat in the third row in Miss Haywood’s class (that’s where I sat, right next to the door, next to Mike Jolls and Neel Chatterjee — which might have been part of the problem! They were pretty funny guys).
Nope, no grammar lessons or spelling quizzes. In fact, there are LOTS of ways to become better at writing, and I’m going to share some of them here (they won’t hurt, I promise!):
1. Do more of it. It’s inevitable; studies show that the more we do of something, the greater the chance ofcoming up with something worth keeping. That doesn’t mean that if you take 1000 photos or write 1000 blog posts, that every one will be a keeper. But it does meant that the greater the output, the greater the chance that you’ll find something in your body of work that is not just okay, but pretty darned good.
(I believe it was the poet William Carlos Williams, when asked how he could possibly write a poem every day, responded, “I have very low standards.” He went on to win the National Book Award for poetry. Not too shabby.)
2. Find a role model. Do you love Cathy Zielske‘s wry humor and to-the-point observations? Or do you prefer the Seth Godin school of one-liners? Or are you more philosophical, long-winded, short-winded, bullet-listed, or flowery? Doesn’t matter how you want to write, find a model and follow them. Read what they write and read it again and read it every day until you start hearing their voices in your head and suddenly something close to what they might write comes out of your fingers one day, and you say, “Gosh, that was kind of cool.”
3. Experiment. Maybe you think you’re a short and to the point gal. Great. But just as I’m encouraging people in this month’s Scrapbooking Outside the Box, you need to push the limits every so often. Try a stream-of-consciousness approach if you’re usually a list-maker. Try writing a page if you’re a Twitter-type. Try deleting all adjectives and adverbs if you’re usually a flowery, descriptive writer. Try new things. Take what works and leave what doesn’t. Just the process of trying new things will expand your horizons and give you more tools in your tool box.
4. Read a book. There are tons of books on writing. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. The absolute most clear and concise guide on good structure for your writing.
- If You Can Talk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman. If you think you can’t write, start here. The author teaches how to use your conversation skills to improve your writing and storytelling abilities.
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The queen of “getting it on the page,” Lamott will inspire you and let you know that even talented, experienced writers feel angst on a daily (if not hourly) basis.
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. A Zen approach to writing, including embracing the beginner’s mind.
5. Take a Class. As you already know, I’m a huge proponent of online learning. And there are a TON of fantastic classes online for anyone who wants to increase their comfort with the written word. Even though I’ve written several books, thousands of articles, and have made my living as a writer for almost a decade and a half, I still take classes to refine my craft and push my boundaries (see #3 above).
The class I’m in the middle of right now is Write Like Freddy from Danny Iny, a popular blogger and super-cool guy (he sent me brownies a few months ago!). He’s known as the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging” and is also the author of Engagement from Scratch, which is on my bedside table.
The class is aimed at people who want to increase their blog readership and make money from their website, but I think it’s applicable to ANY type of public writing you do, whether it’s a Facebook update or an Amazon review or journaling on a scrapbook page.Here are a few of the things I’m learning, that are directly related to scrapbooking:
- How to come up with a winning angle for your post (journaling)
- How to make sure you don’t run out of ideas.
- How to choose a headlines (title) for your post (page) that will make people read your post (journaling)
And as far as getting more traffic to my blog… wow! TONS of stuff. Watch this space as I put what I’m learning to work!
So, is there at least one item up above that you can put to use to increase your writing skills? Tell me below in the comments what you’re going to do TODAY (okay, this week) to be a better writer. I wanna know!
P.S. Danny is so cool that he has offered to put on a free class on how to build traffic to your blog. To join us for this one-hour online training session next Tuesday, May 8 at 1PM eastern, sign up here. You MUST pre-register! Join us for an hour of strategies on how to build your blog readership!