Let your fingers sing

by little red pen

I’m pulling together a collection of writing tips for a client, a little toolbox of ideas and strategies to help them strengthen their writing. Number 10 is “Have courage”, and I’ve copied it below. Please tell me what you think about these thoughts. Does anything ring true? Miss the point? Touch a nerve? How do you take the leap into writing? How do you make your writing sing?

Your greatest enemy as a writer is fear. Fear will freeze your ability to get your ideas down on paper, will lock you into focusing on your anxieties and concerns rather than on what your readers need from you and what you want to give them. Fear will drown your writing in overly ornate phrases, jargon, complicated sentence structures, and obscure, opaque prose.

Fear springs from many sources. You may fear showing ignorance or confusion. You may fear alienating or angering your readers. You may fear being overwhelmed by too much material, too many ideas. You may fear striking empty ground, having nothing to say. None of this fear will do your writing any good.

So, what to do? First, take a big turn from self to others. Think about your readers more than yourself, think about what they need to know, how you want to engage them, educate them, entertain them, inspire them, get them thinking. Think about what they know and what they need to know. Think about how you can lead them through your document, and how you want them to feel at the end. Put your readers first in your writing heart and, with a bit of luck, the fear will fall away.

And then turn back to yourself with trust. Trust your knowledge, your wisdom. Trust your sense of what is needed. Trust your integrity and insight. Trust your ear, your ability to hear when your words are working for you, and when they aren’t. Draft and write and revise and revise again until you trust that your writing is shapely, elegant, clear. Until you trust that you’ve nailed it.