Too chicken to write?

Writing can be terrifying. It exposes you. It puts your intellect, education, personality, logic, even your family background – everything about you – on display.

Scary critter at shop outside Hill City, S.D., November 2013. (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

Big chicken at shop outside Hill City, S.D., November 2013. (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

No wonder so many people would rather sit in a locked outhouse full of spiders during an earthquake than write. Then along comes the boss, saying, “We need a report” or “Would you send an email?” What’s a chicken to do?

Yes, a writing chicken can simply suck it up and peck it out. But life is full of little tortures, and it doesn’t need another one. The idea is to take writing out of the list of them.

In 12 years of teaching journalism students, I’ve realized fear of writing grows from one source: lack of confidence. Writing performance improves substantially, even in just a couple of months, when the student taps into his or her inner writer, learning to trust instincts and believe in abilities.

That inner writer may have cold feet for several reasons:

  • The harsh criticism of a teacher
  • The feeling of having nothing meaningful to say
  • The suspicion of not being smart enough or good enough

See what I mean? All of these reek of battered self-confidence.

So how does a chicken writer begin to tackle that report or email? Through a new way of thinking about writing.

Build it one step at a time.

  • Writing conveys meaning. That’s your ultimate goal – transfer of information. Decide what you want to convey, and who will read it, before starting to write. Write it down, and put the points in order. Benefit: Creating a roadmap to follow to a conclusion, making it easier to stay on track.
  • Do enough research; gather enough facts. How much? Aim at having some left over when the writing is finished. Benefit: Less worry about what to say, because it’s there in the notes.
  • Worry about the grammar but don’t obsess over it. Grammar clarifies meaning. It’s important. Get the meaning down first, then work on the grammar. Remember that a computer’s spell-checker or grammar-checker doesn’t catch everything. Human help may be in order. Call on a trusted person to proofread the writing. Benefit: Rehearsing before formally raising the curtain on the writing.
  • Be willing to revise. Few writers set the words in stone – ever. Benefit: The writing becomes better, the ideas sharper.
  • Give yourself credit. Benefit: You’ll begin to focus on replicating what’s right about your writing instead of dwelling on what’s wrong.

It’s true that the more you write, the better you get at it. So grab those opportunities, as scary as they may be, to lose your chicken feathers.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. awrestlingwriter
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 18:28:25

    Writing can be extremely terrifying. Thus why I keep most of it to myself!
    I was wondering if I could include some of your words in a book I’m working on where real people who write share about writing. It’s to inspire people to write.
    Your name, age and location would be included and all credit would go to you for your words.
    All good if you’re not interested. Just thought I’d check.
    JD

    Reply

    • Holly Ocasio Rizzo
      Jun 10, 2014 @ 19:33:56

      Please tell me more about your book first. When do you expect to publish it? Will it be a traditional book, ebook or other format? How/where will you be marketing it? Feel free to email me (address is on the right-hand side of the screen.) Thank you for the contact! — Holly

      Reply

      • awrestlingwriter
        Jun 10, 2014 @ 19:36:14

        The dream is to publish by the end of the year. To have a print book with glossy colour pages. May not be feasible though. At least it will be written though. I may go with ebook first. Probably self-publishing but will check out options. There are 96 people included so far, so hopefully they’ll all buy one and help me market it. I met these people through blogging so the goal is to market it through blogging. Really, it’s for me to put on my bookshelf and inspire me, and to inspire all people who want to write.

      • Holly Ocasio Rizzo
        Jun 10, 2014 @ 19:48:29

        Sounds like you’ve been working hard on this! Let me think about it for a day or so. It might make sense for me to contribute something original to you, a fresh version of this post if you’d like.

        Just got back from a quick visit to your blog — love the ocean photos and your philanthropy.

      • awrestlingwriter
        Jun 10, 2014 @ 19:55:46

        It’s a lot of fun! Love hearing people takes on writing.

        What I’d really like to include is copied and pasted below. This is what would fit with the rest of the book and the target audience.

        But all good. Have a think, and totally understand if you decline.

        Alternatively, there are some writing questions you may like to answer and anything that resonates with me will go in the book.

        Writing can be terrifying. It exposes you. It can put your intellect, education, personality, logic, even your family background – everything about you – on display.

        Fear of writing grows from one source: lack of confidence. Writing performance improves substantially, even in just a couple of months, when the student taps into his or her inner writer, learning to trust instincts and believe in abilities.
        That inner writer may have cold feet for several reasons:
        • The harsh criticism of a teacher
        • The feeling of having nothing meaningful to say
        • The suspicion of not being smart enough or good enough

        The more you write, the better you get at it. So grab those opportunities to write, as scary as they may be. Tap into your inner writer, learn to trust your instincts and believe in your abilities.

      • Holly Ocasio Rizzo
        Jun 12, 2014 @ 18:29:43

        Hi! That bit is totally OK with me — I’m flattered that you asked, and I’m happy to contribute!

        Do you mind sharing your real name? Don’t be shy …

        Take care,

        Holly

  2. awrestlingwriter
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 19:21:00

    Yay! Thank-you so so much! I’m so glad! My name is Juni Desiree Hoel. But I go by my nickname JD. Can I grab your name, age and location for the book?

    Reply

  3. awrestlingwriter
    Jun 16, 2014 @ 22:39:16

    Hey, just putting your words in the book now. Is this name okay to use: Holly Ocasio Rizzo. Did you want to include your age? All good if you don’t want to. I’ll just say you’re from USA.

    Reply

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