How to get better at writing

Practice.

The end.

OK fine, I’ll say more.

But that is one of the biggest things if you want to improve your writing. It’s a muscle that needs to be strengthened. You get better at it the more you do.

I didn’t know it, but I was refining my skills

I’ve always said that one of the reasons I’m a good writer is that when I was 15, I kept a journal. For a good couple of years, I wrote a full page every day, religiously. I wrote whatever I wanted. There was a lot of teenage angst, a lot of hormonal ups and downs, plenty of sulking, and a good share of falling in and out of love. I’m sure now, in my 40s, most of it would seem ridiculous.

But the point isn’t what I wrote.

It’s THAT I wrote.

My brain got good at articulating thoughts and translating them into words and sentences. Connections were built. The pathways between my brain and my fingertips got strengthened.

Write Purposefully

In the last (nearly) decade of running my business, I’ve developed a refined skillset – one specifically around purposeful writing. Writing that sets out to achieve a certain purpose with a certain audience.

When I sit with a client who needs help with a document and we come up with the answers in minutes, they’re astounded. They can’t believe how good I am at it. How easy I made it look.  They think I’m some kind of magician.

I maintain it’s just because of the years of practice.

Refine your process

I’ve refined my practice down to starting with some very specific pieces of information.

Once I know those, it’s easy to get clarity about a document, make some key decisions about how to approach it, and create a quick plan. All of a sudden that document isn’t an elephant you have to eat. It’s a map to follow on the way to arriving at a destination you know have made clear.

As I use that process EVERY DAY, for years now, it’s become very easy. I’ve become very good at it.

It’s not that I’m some document-whisperer. I’m just very well-practiced.

No amount of writing training will wave a magic wand and make writing suddenly easy.

It can help you take some leaps and bounds towards that, raise your confidence, and give you tools to use.

Those things are all incredibly helpful.

And, you have to practice.

You can’t get better at writing without writing. #SorryNotSorry

What can you accomplish today?

Living with depression

I’ve lived with depression officially for 15 years but in truth probably closer to 20.

I’m all good with that. It’s part of me. We manage. I know how it works and what to watch for and what to do about it.

And when I’m having a low day/week/time, everything feels like too much.

Everywhere I look, there are things. Things I need to do. That I feel like I can’t do.

It makes me want to cry, sleep, eat and or drink myself sick. None of which are helpful, but some of which I still do sometimes.

The POWER to do ONE THING!

When I have the presence of mind, what I tell myself is to pick one thing.

Just one.

I’ll shower. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll do the dishes. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll pick up that thing off the floor that’s taunting me. Or I’ll drive to the supermarket and just get milk. Cos even though we really need a full grocery excursion, we can’t do without milk right now, so I’ll just get that. I don’t even need to put on a bra.

Just go.

Cos who the fuck cares what I look like? Only me.

These are the mind games I play with myself to survive the low times.

Pick. One. Thing.

Because one thing almost always leads to one more thing. And before you know it, you’ve adulted for a time. And the day passes. And tomorrow’s a new day.

So even if you’re not depressed, what’s one thing you can accomplish today? One simple thing? One thing you’ll be able to look back on as you go to sleep and pat yourself on the back and say, go you, you did that thing?

What can you accomplish today?

Things I have tried and failed

I consider myself to be successful.

We all have different definitions of success.

Defining success

Mine is that I live a self-determined life for me and my family.  I earn enough money for us to live a comfortable life and have great experiences. I have complete control of how much or how little I work, and how much time I have for my family.  I get to be fully ME everywhere I go.

Those are my definitions of success.

My journey

I don’t really consider myself an entrepreneur. I haven’t owned multiple businesses and I don’t have stories of huge failures I’ve come back from in my business.

But, to get to where I am today, there’s a shitload of things I’ve tried and failed, or tried and decided they’re not working, and therefore stopped.

It’s so easy to look at someone enjoying success and think they always get everything right. I soooooooo haven’t!

A business manager

I’ve hired and been left high and dry by not 1 but 2 business managers. No, I didn’t hire the right people. Yes, I learned some things. It was a fairly expensive lesson.

A social media manager

He didn’t have the skills he said he did. And he misrepresented the hours we worked. It was a bit scary giving someone that much access to my world and then realising they can’t be trusted.

Paying someone to write blogs for me

I mean, I’m a writer, DUH. But I was soooooo busy and never writing for me and I thought if I just gave someone the main points and they knew my brand voice it might work. It didn’t.

A virtual assistant

I think I’ve tried 3. Holy fuck trying to save time by outsourcing stuff is SO TIME CONSUMING! I found the right one eventually. But they weren’t as virtual as I thought they’d be. *hiyeee Ninja*

My first Google Adwords campaign

I went with a big, recognisable brand. Thought that meant they’d do a good job.  They didn’t. It was expensive, they didn’t listen, and they got me exactly zero results. They hooked me into a contract and wouldn’t give me any information about my own campaigns. Fuck all of that. If you need a great digital marketing team, talk to Adhesion[link]. I’ve never looked back.

At least 2 websites (Maybe 4)

I think this is just normal. Any website needs regular updating. I’ve never had one I’ve been happy with for more than 2 years, and some MUCH shorter than that. They can be fucking expensive. But as long as you’re learning each time, meh, that’s business I reckon.

5 collaborations

I get so excited about the possibility of working with other amazing people. Luckily my business doesn’t depend on it. I can do my own thing really well, and the idea of collaborating is just the cream on top. Because of this, and because I’m a get-shit-done no-mucking-around ACHIEVER, none of these have played out the way I’d hoped. Honestly, I’m all good with that. Things work out when they should. And again, I’ve learned so much.

A CFO

Finances are the bane of my life. They’re not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve had therapy, 2 different accountants, different arrangements with an accountant, tried 6 different versions of having a CFO or financial controller. So far, the only things that has really worked is freaking blood sweat and tears, keeping myself FULLY and PAINFULLY informed about my financial situation as regularly as I’ve been able to manage.  I’m getting there. It seems like there’s no such thing (yet, in my world) as handing this responsibility over to someone else.  Uggh.

A business mentor – She had one way of coaching/mentoring, and it didn’t work for me.

A sales coach – She didn’t live up to her own sales pitch.

A technical writing qualification – I knew more than the tutor.

Saying yes to everything

*laughs maniacally*  I actually think this was a useful and legitimate philosophy in the first few years of my business. It got me here. I learned sooooooo much. I grew. And now I’ve grown to the point that saying yes to everything is not only DUMB, it’s wrong. For me, my family, and my clients.  I am no longer a yes-girl.

I’m sure there are more.

I just thought maybe you might need some reassurance that it’s ok if you’ve tried something and it didn’t work out. There’s no shame in that.

Or maybe there’s a dead horse you’re currently flogging and it’s time to stop. Chalk that one up to experience and learning, and move on from it.

Hugs!

Sell them what they want, so you can give them what they need

OK, I need to take you on a little bit of a journey to explain what I mean here, so bear with me.

I have a background as an educator. I trained as a high school English teacher. I started teaching at universities at 21 years old.  I worked in indigenous tertiary education for 7 years.

I now train adults for a living.

Trainer. Teacher. Educator. Facilitator.

In the education sector we have strong feelings about all these words.

In the school of education, we frown on the word ‘train’ because there’s a history of seeing teaching as a vocation rather than a profession.

In indigenous education we prefer the word ‘facilitate’ because it rejects the ‘empty vessel’ pedagogy that has such close links with colonisation.

When teaching adults, we are less likely to use the word ‘teach’ for similar reasons – working with adults requires a more co-constructive, facilitative approach than a teacher-student model.

And yet.

I make good money as a corporate trainer because that is what companies are looking for. When adult participants come into a room with me they want me to teach them things. They are looking to me to have the expertise I can pass on to them.

But here’s the curveball: in a lot of ways, what I’m delivering to people when I train, teach, educate, or facilitate, is CONNECTION.

I teach people how to connect with other humans, because that is the foundation for all the other things we want to achieve.

Want to write better documents (Business Writing)? Connect with your readers.

Want to teach people better in the workplace (Train the Trainer)? Connect with your trainee.

Want to work better with other cultures (Cultural Competency)? Build a connection with those people.

You won’t hear me distil it like that in a training room.

So what does this have to do with marketing? And writing?

When we name a product or service, it’s natural to come at it from our own position:

  • What do I call this thing?
  • What is it, from my professional perspective, that I’m providing?
  • What words are acceptable in my industry?
  • What words will my peers see value and credibility in?

But that’s a mistake.

We also name our products and services based on the outcomes we know they’ll provide to people.

That’s also a mistake.

Because, ask any trainer or consultant and they’ll tell you:

What these people need is X, but they think they need Y. 

If I try to sell them X, they’re not interested.

But if I sell them Y, they’ll buy it, and that gets me in the door so that I can give them X.

If I only deliver Y they won’t be anywhere near as satisfied as if I give them X.

In a nutshell?

Ask yourself what your market is looking for.

What do they think they need?

And then label your product or service as that.