Today’s Friday Food for Thought is called "Yes You Can" and is inspired by the many people out there who claim-and are convinced-they cannot write.
Let me start by saying: Yes. You Can! If you can read and understand these lines, you have the tools to write your own.
So why do so many of us struggle with putting pen to paper?
Yes, I struggle too, But before delving into my personal journey, here are some of the reasons mentioned by clients and friends when asked if and, if so, why they shy away from writing:
"I hated writing at school. I’m just really bad at it.”
"I’m just not confident enough – and I question every word I write.”
"Growing up, I was constantly told I was useless at writing.”
“It takes me ages to come up with decent sentences. Wish it were easier…”
“My teachers always told me to stick with numbers.…”
“Other people are so much better than me. It’s really intimidating.”
"I want to, but it feels so daunting."
"I’d love to write, but I just don’t have the discipline for it.”
“I never know what to write about.”
“I am incapable of finding the words to write.”
"I wish I knew how!"
"I have plenty of ideas. But I can't even string a decent sentence together.."
- Some of us have been told we cannot write.
- Some of us believe we cannot write.
- Some of us lack the discipline to write.
- Some of us don’t have the confidence to write.
- Some of us feel we have nothing to say.
And some of us suffer from a crippling blend of perfectionism and fear of failure, That was I – and occasionally still is. With a mixed linguistic background, I was quick to pick up multiple languages, but also painfully aware of my shortcomings in all of them. Added pressure came from being told I was “good at languages”.
How to live up to expectations? What if I make mistakes? What if I'm not good enough? What if people discover my weaknesses? What if I sound silly and inept?
So many debilitating “what ifs” to stop me in my tracks - and provide ample excuse to play safe and stay away from creative writing, or any other writing for that matter.
Yet the desire to be creative with words was always there – and grew stronger with time, essentially forcing me to face-and conquer-my negative what ifs.
Moving Forward Step by Step
The fact that I am writing this blog is proof that what you are about to read enabled me to take the plunge and enjoy sharing what I write. Whatever it is that’s stopping you, whether it’s perfectionism, lack of confidence, lack of discipline, long harboured beliefs or fear of failure, I hope you’ll find it useful too:
The first step to beating those toxic “what ifs” was acceptance. I had to accept that the only obstacle between me and creative writing/blogging was I; so, clearly, it was up to me to make change happen.
Step number two was to issue-and adhere to-a strict, self-imposed ban on making excuses for not writing. Farewell to all the ifs and buts.
Step number three proved to be the most challenging. It involved giving a positive spin to my negative “what ifs”. Since the occasional “what if” still pays my mind an unannounced visit, I keep the following list of counter-phrases and vows displayed on my desk:
Walking the Talk
Step number four is where I am today. I am walking the talk. Sometimes I do well, and sometimes I mess up. And that’s OK. I understand that I cannot please all. Provided I am not out to offend anyone, that’s OK, too.
And I will journey on, celebrating the small wins and learning from my falls, slips and mishaps on the way.
Some Practical Suggestions
For those of you whose struggle with writing is chiefly a practical one and manifests itself in not knowing how or where to begin, here are three suggestions to help you get started:
1. REMEMBER that something is always better than nothing. So, whenever you have an idea, thought or creative concept, be sure to record it in whichever manner* suits you. When doing so, focus on content, not on words or sentences. This is how you can build your unique source and reservoir of content that will greatly facilitate the process of writing.
*There are many ways to record content besides writing. Since most of us never leave the house without our smartphones, consider using yours as a “dictaphone” for content generating.
2. WHEN you start writing, resort to your reservoir for ideas and content. You will be amazed at how much of the work you have already accomplished.
3. THERE IS no such thing as perfection, which means searching for the perfect sentence is a futile exercise. Therefore, rather than staring at your computer screen or at a blank sheet of paper for hours on end, get writing! When doing so, don’t succumb to the urge to rewrite every sentence. Reviewing and editing starts once you have finished writing. That will be soon enough.
Enough said, except to encourage you to get writing. Because:
- If you want to you can.
- If you have to you can.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe and well.