10 Ways to Avoid Writing Insecurity

Writing Insecurity

Face it. There are few things as intimidating as the blinding white of a blank page.

It makes no difference if it’s an empty sheet lying on our desk, or a blank screen, aiming between our eyes. Defeating “nothing” by subjecting it to “something” with our words is what gives a writer breath.

Whether to pay our bills or please our muse, eventually words must spill. Here are ten tips to help plow past writing insecurity.

1. Appreciate your unique perspective.

No one sees the world exactly like you, and no one can articulate it in quite the same way. The oldest stories are told and then retold, not because they invent new things to say, but because inside a timeless message, each storyteller may weave a million individual moments.

2. Writing is conversation.

The more we speak, the more we understand the fundamentals. Writing is no different. Most of the time, our brains operate on the surface, doing only what must be done. We may adopt the push and pull of conversation to push our voice further. Writing, much like a good discussion, can help us dig a little deeper.

3. Allow your influences to shape your voice, not drown it.

Creativity is borrowed. None of us formed our thoughts in a vacuum, and all of us were subject to a myriad of different models. Inspiration lives inside us, and our subconscious never forgets. We need not copy our heroes, their hand is always there to guide us.

4. Believe.

You can do it! Fear is a set of handcuffs, keeping our fingers from flight. If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will either.

5. Ignore the rules.

Rules can be intimidating; intimidation a shortcut to insecurity. You may not know precisely when to use a comma and when to use parentheses, but that decision will never equal the importance of a good idea. We first need broad strokes to lend foundation. We wash our world in red, blue, yellow, and green. Chartreuse and vermillion come later.

6. Write for someone specific.

Nothing will crystallize your voice, like scribbling for a single set of eyes. It doesn’t matter who it is, and it doesn’t have to be the same person twice. Write as though you are speaking to them. Design your jokes to make them smile, your words to feel them near.

7. Write without pause, return later.

Alone with our thoughts, it is easy to think the worst, but we should never allow them to slow us down. When our inner whisper begins to shout, we must lower our nose and keep on going. Once drained, leave. Return later, and you’ll likely be surprised at what you’ve written.

8. Take pride.

Our words are simply a more permanent version of our thought. Be proud of who you are, and know that what you write is a reflection of you.

9. Even Stephen King writes with his door closed.

No one gets it right the first time through. Just start. Even if the world will be watching once you are finished, no one is watching you now. Close the door, breathe the silence, and let what’s inside you come out to play.

10. Dip your toe, then jump… the water’s fine.

The first keystroke is always the hardest, but begetting something from nothing is what separates us from the lower species (well, that and opposable thumbs). Pushing past our fear and into uncertainty, is when we’re most likely to find ourselves.

About the Author: Keep up with the writing exploits of Sean Platt at Writer Dad.

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Comments

  1. I think anyone can be a pretty decent copywriter when they have a good coach, great resources (like copyblogger), true passion for the product and genuine respect for the prospect.

    Thank you Sean for some great reminders.

  2. That is awesome. Opposable thumbs, that is a great one. I try to field a combo of just about everything listed here. It makes writing easier for me because I get to be the me I am best at. Fear of doing something wrong is much easier to own up to after it is done than the fear of doing absolutely nothing when you have a chance to do something.

    Like my brothers always said, do first and plead for forgiveness later.

  3. You know, I’m frankly amazed at how we seem to be hitting near the same mark with some of our posts … must be a confluence of ideas. I don’t pretend to have your experience, but I think I’m contributing to the discussion!

    Great post on taking the leap and ‘just doing it.’ Often, the difference between the winner and loser is that the winner actually tried. I was at a meeting last Thursday, and a marketer was giving away some free items — some t-shirts and a gadget worth nearly $200. I didn’t personally participate, and I was astonished that for each of the questions he threw out, only two people out of the 40 or so in the room tried to guess at each. It was a low pressure situation, and they had everything to gain be being close to a number — no one there knew the answers. But the people who won were the people who actually tried.

    Heidi

  4. It’s all about building momentum. Once comfortable and set with that first idea, first sentence, the rest can seem to just breeze by.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  5. Tip # 4 (Believe) is probably the most important rule of all. I’ve known too many possible writers who were crippled by a lack of belief that they 1) were good, 2) had something other people would want to read. Some of the best writers I know decided to continue on, despite not having any readers. They were surprised to find that people were interested in what they had to say, which buoyed them on to more successes and more readers.

  6. Sean,

    What a great set of reminders. I am very new to the writing scene so am chock full of insecurities. Think I may very well print this out and hang it over my desk to force a brief review before I sit down to the dreaded blank screen.

  7. Awesome post! I would like to share something with regards to this; another way to get started is to answer questions like who, where, when, how, why and what. This may not apply for every situation but if I can’t think of anything else this is what I do. If I’m writing a review I’d answer questions like who is the creator? how can it help the reader? Where can the reader find more information? and then I’ll expand on the answers.

  8. Great post, some of these tips are extremely useful. I am a big fan of writing without pause and then returning later to edit, because it really helps to just let it flow.

  9. I think the best one is that writing is a conversation. Too many times people sound like they are just writing like a robot. Whether you know what that means or not, it basically means you’re writing a quick post like the Associated Press does. When you’re writing a blog you wanna be talking with the people that are reading your posts.

  10. Good work Sean. You are indeed a writer. :)

  11. Great tips for tackling road blocks. There’s IS nothing worse than a blank page staring me down with it’s saucy little deadline to accompany it.

    While we’re slowly trying to shape our brand here at http://www.shapeourbrand.com, the work is still managing to pile up regardless of the fact that we are STILL an agency without a name and in need of input. Because we can’t do it ALL by ourselves… or at least we don’t want to. These tips will definitely assist me in my drowning times of need while we build our exciting new agency from the ground up.

  12. “1. Appreciate your unique perspective.”

    It’s so easy to feel like you could never add a new thought to the seemingly endless amount of ‘repackaged’ ideas. And yet, as you so eloquently pointed out, we all have our unique perspectives to save the day. No two people ever see things from exactly the same angle. So it is very important that we remain confident when we post our perspectives on subjects that have been previously promoted.

    Excellent, excellent post, Sean. Another great addition to the archives of copyblogger! Eric.

  13. Awesome post! My favorite tip is tip #7 because this is something I’ve had to train myself to do–keep going. I agree with you completely when you mention that you will be surprised with what you have written upon returning to your work. Thanks for sharing this, and all of the other great tips!

  14. It’s always a pleasure to see your feed in my mailbox.

    The points are valid. New writers should be encouraged to print this out and tape it near the computer screen.

    I’ve incorporated many of these steps and I know they work.

    Isn’t it great that we have these forums to provide support to our brethren?

    Cheers

    George

  15. Valeria: My absolute pleasure. I think the same can be said for any kind of writing, not just copywriting. As long as we can pull that which is inside us out, our words will be gilded with honesty. Honest language is what touches people the most.

    Sal: Absolutely right, Sal. There is no worse fear than that of regret. I don’t know the exact quote, but Twain said something about regretting those things not done far more than anything else.

    Heidi: There is never any harm in trying. We do much more damage to ourselves by allowing our fear to swallow us.

    Craig: Dripping the first drops of ink onto the page is definitely the hardest. You are correct. After that, it gets much easier.

    Erik: That’s so true. Once we get past that first stage of confidence, it is far easier to take our writing to the next level. Blogging gave that to me almost immediately. I was writing for almost a year, but the immediate feedback of a comment section gave me the belief in myself that I hadn’t realized I’d needed.

    Beth: That would be an honor.

    Mano: Addressing the five W’s is always a good tactic. Even when writing material that isn’t fact based, the five W’s are essential to the core of writing.

    Conrad: I can’t always do that, but some of my best work has definitely been done with a long pause in the middle. This particular post was written in a single sitting with a single edit, but that is rare. I also had a prompt, which I believe made things easier.

    Franklin: I do not like robot writing. When I cannot feel the mind behind the words, I find little value in reading them.

    Brian: Thank you. It is one of the finest titles I’ve ever had.

    Shape Our Brand: I hope these tips help.

    Eric: Thanks, Eric. We’ve all heard the same jokes and the same stories, but no two people tell a story the same way. We all have our favorite story tellers. It is an individual voice we long to hear, whether we realize it or not. Quentin Tarantino takes old ideas and puts his unique voice behind each character. That’s why he’s so successful. It isn’t because he’s giving the world new ideas, it’s because he’s giving the world his unique brand.

    MLRebecca: A couple of weeks ago, I packaged my first forty posts in an ebook. Before making it available for download, I reread them. I could not believe how surprised I was by some of the entries. I wrote them, yet had no memory. If anything, this is an indication of how deep our minds can go. We should use this knowledge to push our thought. Taking a pause, and then returning, might twist our topic into a place it wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

    Tumblemoose: A high compliment indeed. Thank you. These forums are blood for a beating heart. They have quickly elevated my confidence. Skill trails confidence, often by only a beat.

  16. I found “6. Write for someone specific” particularly interesting.

    I’ve never thought of using this technique before. I do wonder if it could bolster better writing.

  17. It is so true that writing is about conversation! And when you can hear the writer’s voice coming through, that is what really draws you in!

    Momma
    Feature blogger at Engineer a Debt Free Life (lots of frugal tips, freebies, bargains, and recipes) at http://www.engineeradebtfreelife.com

  18. Great tips, Sean, all of them. I am a particular advocate of Number 7. The most IMPORTANT part is to Just. Start. Writing. Prime that pump. I find that just writing stream of thought ramblings helps to cleanse the system of all the clutter, which allows me to get to stuff of real worth. Even if all you write on your paper or screen is “I suck, I suck, I suck, I suck”, eventually more words will come to you. You might even surprise yourself.

  19. digging the post, especially “7. Write without pause, return later.” i believe Peter Stone revealed his biggest copywriting secret as, “Edit later.”

  20. Bamboo: Writing for someone specific always helps me. Most often it’s my wife, but it really could be anyone. If I’m trying to be funny, I find myself writing for my sister. Fixing in on your audience, sharpens the voice for sure.

    Momma: We don’t want to read from a robot, but we are always drawn to the human experience.

    Blogger Dad: I’ve actually written that sentence before. You’re right. It does get better. I love revisiting something I’d left behind, especially if it was something I was super unhappy with. Chances are, even if I don’t care for the material as a whole, there is a piece of it which speaks straight from my heart.

    Mark: If we spend our time editing, we’re not spending it writing. The best way to silence our inner critic is to walk away. He’s usually to embarrassed to speak once we return to the words.

  21. This is great and it’s going on my wall. I always use an standard outline for my how-to and review sites so I remember to cover all the points.

  22. That is a good post :)

  23. Great post, Sean! I can especially relate to #7. When writing the first draft, I just write like hell, nevermind typo, spelling and grammatical errors. I give it a rest and then get back to it and read it with fresh eyes. I can then craft it to a better piece.

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. Thanks for this, Sean! All that insecurity stuff never seems to really go away, although it does gradually get easier to ignore.

  25. Another one in addition to writing to someone else is to BE someone else. Go inside your reader’s head and swim up alongside their ongoing internal dialogue. You’ll know what to write then.

    If you’re thinking about yourself and your ability, you run the risk of being self-conscious which just means you’re too conscious of yourself. Be other-conscious.

    It comes down to preparation. If you don’t know what to write, you’re a long way from having done the research you should have.

  26. >>2. Writing is conversation.
    >>The more we speak, the more we understand the fundamentals. Writing is no different.

    How true. My first 10 were difficult. My next 20 worse still, as I started exhausting my resources. But after that it started to get easier. Somehow I always managed to find new inspiration and resources.

  27. Great points, especially number 7 – nothing happens, nothing until we stuck our butts in a chair, put our fingers on a keyboard and write. That’s the first step.

    Thanks,
    Anne Wayman, now blogging at http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

  28. Great post. I know I often freeze up when I’m staring at the page. I just start writing and then go back and review. There is always the naggy question of ‘will it be any good’ but there is only one way to learn the answer to that question, and that’s by hitting publish!

  29. Paul: I’m honored to be there. Thanks.

    Online Godfather: Thanks.

    Cedric Solidon: I’m writing more and more that way, and I’m finding that my quality is climbing.

    Sonia: That’s the truth. It doesn’t go away, but we get better at turning our backs to it.

    Louis: That’s a great suggestion, and one I’ve not yet heard. That would, I’m sure, be quite a help to my fiction writing. I tend to only write in alternative versions of myself, rather than someone altogether outside myself. Thanks.

    Calvin: That’s true – it does get worse before it gets better. It’s when we hit that first threshold of internal confidence that everything changes.

    Anne: No one can write for us (well they can, but it’s kind of expensive). It’s up to us do get the deed done.

    Neil: We’ll never feel the cool of the water if we never leave the diving board.

  30. Good guidelines. Ever heard of Sondra Perl? Check this out.

  31. I enjoyed your post Sean. It’s a good reminder that we all have to conquer lingering self-doubt every time we sit down to write.

  32. I love seeing your name under that Copyblogger header. Brian should have you over for coffee more often.

    Numbers 8 and 10 echo my own perspective on writing perfectly. Write quality content or choose another profession and take chances. Life’s too short to sit with your toes in the pool.

    Thanks for another spectacular post Sean. I’m off to find a box of tissues. Proud of you, man. :)

  33. It’s all too easy to second guess yourself when starting any kind of project, but particularly with creative pursuits. That’s because they need something personal, some grain of self that can lead to all kinds of questioning and self-doubt.

    You worry about the right or wrong way to go about it, you doubt whether what you write is good enough, if it gets across what you intended to get across or if people will connect with it or criticise it.

    Learning how to overcome all that and go ahead with a quiet sense of confidence can be tricky, and these are great guidelines for getting going in spite of any fears and doubts.

  34. Isaac: I have not, but I will. Thank you.

    Maria: Once we slaughter the fellow, it’s smooth sailing.

    Jamie: Me too. If I had to pick one, it’s number eight all the way. It’s ridiculous what some people are willing to put out. Not everyone needs to be a brilliant writer, but we can all afford to take the time to put our words together with pride.

    Steve: Thanks, Steve. There is no right way to go about it. Words spill from everyone differently. Once we realize that, it’s a bit easier to gain momentum.

  35. 11. Cheat. Let someone else do the work while you take the credit.

  36. 12. Stop reading somebody’s tips and “how-to”s and start writing your posts :-)

  37. Interesting, this is good for those who enjoy writing article cause that will indirectly encouraging them to start thinking “how do i create good article”

  38. Awesome post about breaking free from the chains of writing insecurity!

  39. Such a good post! I can relate especially well to #4,5,6 & 7! But even the rest are amazing. Had a wonderful time scanning this and then reading it again to really understand the depth of each point.

    Thank you for this one Sean.