Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Tips for People Who Hate to Write

Last time we talked about the reasons people don’t like to write.

Today, we’re going to talk about ways to help them.

  • Dictate into a recorder rather than typing. Maybe it’s the physical act of getting words out of your head and onto paper/screen that’s too intimidating. So just try doing it aloud. Countless famous writers in the history of the world have done this.
  • Imagine yourself talking to a friend, a client, or a student. Still having trouble getting the words to flow normally? Be conversational and try to think how you would tell this to someone who needs to know.
  • ACTUALLY talk to a friend, but record the session to transcribe later. (Bonus points if they can take dictation and do this for you.)
  • Take a notebook and go sit somewhere comfortable, away from the scary, empty computer screen. Sometimes just moving to a different, low-key environment helps creativity flow. Writers write in coffeehouses for a reason, you know, and it’s not just the copious amounts of caffeine. (Of course this assumes you’ll be able to read your handwriting later on)
  • Jot down notes to yourself in an email. This becomes no-pressure writing because you’re just electronically talking to yourself, but once you send the email, voila, you’ve got text that you can read and edit and tweak.
  • Get something, anything, down on the screen. Stilted phrases. Sentence fragments. Half-realized, wandering thoughts. Anything at all. Then walk away and don’t even look at it until tomorrow.
  • Then, after your writing has rested, go back and read your fragments, no matter how unstructured, and try to fill them out for people who don’t know as much as you do.
  • Ask a friend or family member to read your scribbles and make suggestions on how to fix them.
  • Pretend that everything is riding on this–your livelihood, your family, your home. If you don’t get this written, you’ll lose everything.The sun will cease to shine. Your life as you know it will end, so–you’ve GOT to do this.
  • Or, if that’s too much pressure (grin), Tell yourself that NOTHING is riding on this. You’re just idly passing the time, randomly putting words on a page just for the hell of it. No pressure.
  • Start a journal. I know. You’re having trouble writing the things you need to write and I’m suggesting a completely unnecessary journal of more writing. But, bear with me. Sometimes, all you need to do to be able to write is to PRACTICE writing. You know, somewhere it doesn’t matter in the least, and what you say doesn’t mean anything to anyone but you. The important thing is that you’ll start getting used to putting words on a page.
  • Start by describing something. What do you see outside your window? What color are the leaves? Really? Green? That’s the best you can do? What KIND of green? Are they all exactly the same color? Are they plush and healthy? Are they in direct sun so that they’re sparkling? Or in shadow? You can delete this later, but for now, just get your fingers and your brain moving.
  • Take typing lessons. Maybe part of your problem is that you don’t feel comfortable enough with a keyboard. Maybe you spend so much time hunt-and-pecking for the letters, your brain’s getting distracted by the mechanics of it. Try one of those typing-tutor programs. Even if you already know how to touch-type, you’ll improve your time and that never hurt anyone. Sometimes just getting used to hitting the keys is enough to segue from “asas asas adad adad afaf afaf agag agag” to real words.
  • Type randomly. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you have to write. If you truly can’t get started, just type random gibberish and work on moving toward full, random sentences, and then into sentences on a topic (any topic), and then, when you’re ready, about whatever you actually should be writing in the first place. (Just, um, don’t forget to delete the gibberish later on.)

Okay … I’m tapped out. What suggestions do YOU have for people who don’t like to write, but have to?

3 Comments on “Tips for People Who Hate to Write”

  1. Christine S.

    My issue is three fold. I do not have a lot of confidence in my writing skills. I’m what I would describe as above average, a B level (I can usually get my point across, minus that certain, je ne sais pas). This has never been enough for my perfectionist ways. I’m also an atrocious speller (note: I had to look use spell check in order to spell atrocious). Also, I have the grammar/punctuation skills of a forth grader. My writing flow is constantly disrupted by doubts of the appropriateness of a comma in a particular spot. What’s a 30 year old professional to do?


  2. There’s no denying that proof-reading and basic grammar skills are helpful to a writer, BUT they should never, ever stop you from writing in the first place. Getting words–no matter how badly spelled or how imperfectly punctuated–is the hardest part. You’re better off not letting yourself even THINK if that’s the correct spelling of atrocious until after you’ve said what you want to say. That’s what the proof-reading part is for. The actual writing part? You’ve got to just let it flow–you can dredge out the impurities later.


  3. Deb,

    I think your thoughts here are great and really get at the issues. However, it is hard for people to dismiss their own frustrations with spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.

    One of the things I’ve found to be helpful is to teach people how to write in three distinct stages:

    1. OK
    2. Get Help
    3. Make it Great

    The trick is not to skip any step. The first goal is just to write something OK. It shouldn’t be great…OK spelling…OK grammar…OK word choice.

    Next, get some help. Have someone read it aloud to you. Read it aloud to yourself (yes, you CAN help yourself on this).

    Finally, improve it. Make it a lot better…shoot, go ahead and make it great! Fix one thing…then fix another one.

    Keeping this in mind often makes all of the other good suggestions here work well.

    Blessings,

    Fred Lybrand
    http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com