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.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Link Love Part 3: And The Rest* | Landguppy Productions

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