Writing Tips for Non-Writers
Why is writing important?
Because writing – and language and in general – is how we communicate with each other. We might use it to tell a compelling story or convey our values.
The right language can help your business or personal brand stand out.
Today, we’ll get Coach Anthem’s top 3 tips on improving writing skills and how the right words can elevate your strategy for marketing, communications, proposals, presentations, and more.
Press PLAY in the video below.
Hi, everyone. I am Anthem Salgado, Business Coach at Art of Hustle, and today, I have a special tip for everybody out there for whom language is very important, and that should be 100% of you, okay? If you think about language, it is something that is central to our existence, to our civilization, right? We write to express poetry. We also write declarations of war. We also write treaties of peace. We write contracts. We have verbal agreements. We have all kinds of things that are communicated through language. Language is very important. They’re important to your resume writing, your cover letter writing, the writing that shows up on your website, the writing that shows up in your proposals. You can’t escape the importance of language, so today, I’m going to share with you some language tips that should be applicable to just about everybody.
“Mind your voice.”
And very specifically, I have three that I’d like to share with you, and the first one is mind your voice. Mind your voice. There are different voices in which you can write, and there’s different approaches to how people talk about this. I have a very specific tip around that that I’d like to share with you. Number two is write more than necessary. I’m going to tell you why that’s important. And number three, I’m going to also share with you why it’s important to … When, at what point, and also the fact that it is important, at some point, potentially, for you to bring on an outside professional, should it be necessary. So, let’s go over each of these tips in more detail, so that you understand what I’m getting at here.
“Language is interpreted through the brain differently depending on how it is expressed…”
The first tip is mind your voice, right? Now, of course, there’s your … You know about code switching. You know how language changes from situation to situation, okay? You know that, so I’m not going to get into that. That’s an easy one, I think. What I do want to share with you is something a little bit more interesting, complicated, nuanced, which is brain function. Language is interpreted through the brain differently depending on how it is expressed, so there’s the language you hear. There’s the language you speak. There’s the language you write. There’s the language you read. These all connect with different parts of the brain, which is why you have the phenomenon where some people can read a language but can’t speak it or some people can speak a language but can’t read it, et cetera, et cetera. You know, when you’re fortunate enough to have fluency and literacy, sometimes we take it for granted, and we think to ourselves, “These are all part of the same function inside of the brain,” but they’re actually not. They’re very, very, very different.
“Use your natural voice.”
So what I’ll find often happens with my clients and with a lot of people that I work with is when they go to start writing, they’ll start to engage their writerly brain, and then, that’s where the writer’s block comes up, because they’re like, “How do these words fit together? What am I trying to say?” All of a sudden, they start to stumble, and it’s very weird and unfortunate that that happens, but it is also perfectly natural, and absolutely normal. So how are we going to remedy that? What I like to advise people to do, especially when they’re writing things like a biography, or a proposal, or they’re just trying to convey some basic ideas, literally speak it out loud. Use your natural voice.
“Leave the keyboard out of it.”
For example, pretend you are in an interview setting, not necessarily a job interview setting, but an interview setting where someone is in real space and time, sitting across the chair from you, and they ask you a question, literally how would you explain it? Now, here’s the mistake a lot of people will do. I’ll give them that visualization. I’ll give them that writing exercise, and they’ll say, “Okay, I think I understand it,” and then they go right back to the keyboard. What I’m going to tell you to do is leave the keyboard alone. This is an exercise, and a powerful one at that. Leave the keyboard out of it. Literally answer the question. And what I think would happen, for most people, is that they would have the ability to answer that question in real time if they were forced to, right? It might not be the prettiest answer in the world, but you would kind of stumble through it, and stumble through it, and stumble through it until you started to get to the idea.
“Your verbal brain and your writerly brain are two different things…”
My point is, you get to that idea a lot faster verbally, in many instances, than if you were to just tap away at the keys forever and ever and ever and ever, okay? So just speak it verbally, and then as you arrive at your “Ah ha!”s, the little gems, the little highlights, then that’s what you capture on the keyboard or on pen and paper. Get what I’m saying? So, your verbal brain and your writerly brain are two different things, but to get them to connect, I would suggest, especially if you get writer’s block very easily, or if you have a hard time articulating yourself, speak the answer verbally first, and then capture it on paper. That’s what I would say, and you’d be very surprised. It works wonders.
“Tip number two is always write more than necessary.”
Now, tip number two is always write more than necessary. Write more than necessary. Now, here’s a thing that I’m going to share with you. Again, going back to functions, right? And structures. The computer in particular, I learned this a long time ago from another teacher, the computer, and the laptop, and the mobile phone, these are essentially editing machines. Their best use is for editing, not necessarily content creation. So if you want to write more than necessary, probably one of the best ways to ensure that you do that is to go analog, straight pen to paper, okay? If you go into the computer, that has these amazing capabilities, such as deleting, cutting, copying, pasting, then that’s where you’re going to get stuck.
We all have an editor that lives inside of our brains, right? In our minds, and that editor will be encouraged to come out if you use the tool that the editor is used to using, right? So computers are exactly for that, so if you go ahead and get started on writing, and you use a computer, your editing mind will come out, and what does the editor do? It wants to shuffle, it wants to rearrange, it wants to cut and splice, and basically, it wants to stop you from content creating. You get what I’m saying?
“We all have an editor that lives inside of our brains…”
So here’s my advice. Write more than necessary, but you can’t write more than necessary if the tool itself is preventing you from doing so, because you’re encouraging your editing mind to enter the space too soon. It’s two different functions, right? You content create and then you edit, but if you try to edit and content create at the same time, the analogy that I always like to share is it’s like trying to grow a tree from seedling phase, and just as it’s starting to come out of the ground, you say to yourself, “Oh, let’s prune this.” Well, what happens if you try to prune a tree just as it’s starting to come out of the ground? You know the answer. You kill it. You basically kill it, and that’s basically what happens when people run into creative and/or writer’s block, right? Again, more difficulty for you.
So what I always encourage is grow a full tree, let it get hairy, let it get out of control, let it just explode into madness, and then you have a lot to work with, right? After you have like, say, 1,000 words, it’s easier to cut down to the best 500 words, but if every time you get a couple hundred words, your editing mind comes in and starts trimming, and shaping, and cutting, then you never get past a couple hundred words, and then people say, “Oh, I’m stuck. I don’t know what’s happening.” Well now you know what’s happening. You’re inviting your editor into the process too soon. You should do a full explosion of content creation first, and then invite your editing mind into the process afterwards, all right? Sometimes, one of the best ways to do that is just go straight pen to paper, or if you’re realistic about the type of discipline that you have, just write to a certain word count, just go crazy first, again, write more than necessary, and treat that like its own process, like its own phase, and then go back into editing, right?
“…One of the best ways to do that is just go straight pen to paper.”
Now, tip number three that I was going to give you is feel free to invite a professional into your process, okay? Let’s pretend that you just followed tips one and two. You’ll now have a lot of work, right? For someone to edit, whether that’s you or somebody else, and what I always say is don’t be afraid to admit where your area of genius is, right? Some people are never going to be strong writers. And I’m an okay writer. You know what I mean? I’m okay. I think I’m pretty good, but I’m not a professional writer. That’s not my title. That’s not why people hire me necessarily, right? I think I’m proficient, you know? At some point, I might need an editor to help me out with some of my own stuff, right? You might need an editor as well, and there’s no shame in bringing in an outside expert to help you get across to the finish line. That’s what I’m saying.
Sometimes, we live in a world where there’s this concept of self-made, or being self-sufficient, self-this, self-that. So much self, especially in American culture. Everyone wants to be like, alone, “I did this. I made this by myself.” But I think that’s a myth, you know? We need each other. There are people who are smarter than you. There are people who are more skilled than you, just as you might be smarter or more skilled than somebody else in some particular arena, and it’s important to know where you function best, because if you end up trying to be an expert writer on top of being an expert whatever else that you’re trying to be expert at, you might end up needing more time than there is in any lifetime, realistically, right? So that’s why we work with people.
“There’s no shame in bringing in an outside expert to help you get across to the finish line.”
That’s why we hire when necessary. That’s why we recruit resources, because again, if you try to do everything yourself, you probably could do it. I believe that, but I don’t think you’d live long enough to be able to reach expert level in every single facet, so look around your community. Look around your neighborhood. Look around your network. Who can help you get your work across the finish line? You know, raise your hand. Ask for help. So that’s what I would say.
Let’s review, okay? From the very top. Language is very important, right? We use it to communicate just about everything, okay? Especially in the professional environment, in the business environment, right? Now, when you’re going to start working on any kind of language, whether it’s your biography, or your CV, or your cover letter, or again, a proposal, anything like that, follow these three tips. Number one … I almost already forgot it. Number one, mind your voice, right? Trust your conversational voice. The truth of the matter is, you could probably riff and freestyle a sentence a lot faster than you would type out the perfect sentence. So feel free, literally, to talk to yourself, to speak out loud. Don’t be embarrassed. Sometimes, we get so stuck in our heads, and we have this ridiculous sense of shame, we don’t use our tools and best practices to their best capabilities. There’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself.
“Trust your conversational voice.”
In fact, think about it. I’m talking to myself right now as I’m recording this. It’s all good. Look, talk to yourself. Verbalize it, vocalize it, literally out loud, right? As a workshop facilitator, and as someone who gives presentations, this is also how I practice things. Again, out loud, engage the body, engage your tool, the thing that you’re used to using when utilizing language, when trying to convey an idea, okay? So, go ahead and speak that out loud and then capture it on paper.
The second tip I had for you is write more than necessary. Again, going back to the tree analogy, don’t trim too soon. You’ll kill what you’re trying to create. Chill. It’s a multiphase, multistep process, and step number one is to create more than necessary. Write more than necessary. And number three, of course, is hire a professional or recruit a professional. Look around your community, your network, your neighborhood. See who can help you. Don’t get stuck in this idea that you’re a go-it-alone superhero, okay? Like, it’s great that you’re really independent and you can do a lot of things on your own. It’s nice to reach for that, but at the same time, it could also be a hindrance if you’re taking too long to produce something that could be produced much faster with help, so those are my three tips, and I hope everybody enjoys that.
Once again, my name is Anthem Salgado, Business Coach at Art of Hustle. If anybody needs other advice, or help, or you might be ready to think about receiving a mentor or thinking partner, strategic thinking partner, for your business processes, particularly those of you who identify as a small business, or self-employed, or running a small organization, then please consider calling me, writing me, inviting me to a dialogue, and we can talk more about what that might look like, and whether I might be the right person to help you. Okay? Thank you so much. Everybody have a good day.
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