Write Your Way to a Better Year, a Better You

The timing could not be more perfect for me to publish this article. Over the week, my eyelids were peeled wide open. Opened like thrown-wide open ceiling-to-floor French Curtains.

Over the course of my freelance writing career, I’ve been called all sorts of names. I’ve been “advised” not to make a living out of writing CRAP, I’ve been told that I’ve shamelessly abandoned the Queen English’s because I spell (most of the time) and use American spelling (Malaysia was a British Colony, we should be proud to have English as a part of our syllabus, unlike many other the poor unfortunate NON-colonized nations in the world) in my daily writings. These non-former-colonies, apparently dare retain and expand their own national languages. How dare they? #sarcasm #nohateplease

I’ve also been told that my writing was amateur. I’ve also been told that I tried too hard, was OTT, and used bombastic words without knowing their real meanings.

But that’s not the worst of them all. I’m sure we’ve all been told we’re horrible human beings. No? Just me? Fine. #lol

The funny thing is that people always came to me to help them write something knowing my flaws. It can be something as simple as an email or a long-ass legal letter evicting their tenants. On one dreary evening when the words weren’t coming to me, the requester asked me, “Why are you taking more than 15 minutes? I thought you write well?”

A shocked and indignant gasp escaped my pursed lips along with a deep, penetrative, accusing glare. What am I, J.K. Rowling? Gosh, Humans.

There are, of course, templates for everything on the internet these days but my opinion is to use them sparingly and only as reference points. Some of them use too many forced words and generic sentences. If you look carefully, the paragraphs reek of copy-paste action.

My favorite articles are often ones that had little pieces of themselves in it. If they don’t reveal anything about themselves within the first, say….3 paragraphs, my cursor is already hovering over the ‘X’ button.

This is not to say that everything has to be a bare-all. What’s important is that there is a piece of you in whatever it is that you’re producing.

Haters are everywhere…because that’s how they derive joy from their everyday lives. #sad If you’re someone new to writing or someone’s just stomped on your gut with criticisms, then I hope you hear this loud and clear.

It’s OK.

In any profession, be it creative or otherwise, people are going to hate you for something. In fact, they’ll find something to hate you for because they just don’t like the color of your lipstick. Or the fact that your car is newer. That’s the way the world works.

The sooner you are OK with that, the better.

Credit: Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’m the kind of bookworm-nerd you hate when you’re browsing through your phone waiting for your number to be called in the bank because I’m that person sitting next to you thoughtfully and wisely thumbing through National Geographic, Bloomberg Businesweek or Readers’ Digest. What a snob.

What they don’t know is that this person, albeit me, is also the kind of person who reads maps, terms and conditions, and user manuals. I sometimes read the back of shampoo bottles in the toilet. Despicable.

The point is, I have been making a living out of writing for nearly 2 decades and I’m still waiting for a REFRESHING insult to be thrown in my face. At first insulted, I’ve learned to pick my battles because I can’t fight them all. Do I even want to?

One of my favorite actors is Benedict Cumberbatch and yet, some people think he has the face of a horse. Maybe you’re not a fan either, but I suspect he couldn’t give a rat’s ass what animal-face he has and is laser-focused on putting one foot in front of the other in pursuits that move him forward in life.

And I think that’s what we should all do because if you write like a blogger, someone from print is going to hate you. If you write for print, someone from marketing is going to hate you. If you write for marketing, journalists are going to hate you. If you’re a journalist, politicians are going to hate you. And if you’re a politician…well, a large percentage of people are hating you right now.

So, in a world where things are sometimes very, very subjective and filled with variables, it’s better not to take things personally.

Trying to make the first draft perfect is another mistake. No first draft is going to make it to print and any writer can tell you that. If you pore over every single word the first round of writing, it’s either going to take forever, or it’s not going to make it.

Every writer has his or her style of writing. Some like to start off with a drawing or chart, others prefer a list. I prefer to write whatever comes to mind on the first draft. Looking over the words, again and again, will only delay my thought-process and I want everything to come out the way it is, misspellings and all. There’s always the delete button, proofreading, editing and, honestly speaking, Grammarly. #sheepishsmile

Yes, not everyone has the luxury of having a proofreader and an eagle-eyed editor to sift through every faux pas and grammatical error you make, but with the awesome online tools that we have today, you can later catch some of them pretty easily…BUT later on.

And even then, even after your third and fourth reading, after thinking that you’ve ironed out all the creases, errors still manage to slip through tiny cracks. Never underestimate the importance and power of a good editor…simply because it’s hard for writers to see their own mistakes.

There’s always room for improvement. Never, not even for one minute, think that you’re the best writer out there. Never. There’s always someone with a bigger vocabulary, more years of experience, a glossier CV, a longer list of testimonials, and a funkier way to write.

People buy into you because of your writing style and effectiveness in conveying the message, not your best-ness. There’s no such thing. Same goes for the word ‘best-ness’.

“Sure, it might be ego bait, but when you start asking yourself ‘who has my NEXT customer as their CURRENT customer?’ you’ll find willing collaborators who have the power to grow your business,” — Andrew Davis, akadrewdavis.com

When your well is a little dry, there’s water somewhere else so, tap into it. One day, their taps will run dry and you should be there for them. What I am trying to say is to collaborate with others of like-mind. Create a team. Promote, complete and market each other. If not for the online connections I had during my early days, I would have nothing. Like cheesecake, kindness is very addictive and satisfying.

No one is the best at anything unless they know how to value others and even then…

Writing for no one. This may be a personal preference but I write best when I imagine myself writing for no one. No one is paying me. I’m just tapping away on my keyboard, letting the words flow and my imagination fly. Composers do the same thing. They close the door to their studio, sip on a glass of wine and let their emotions do the sketching, tapping, and writing.

If you’re always conscious about yourself — of every comma and dot — there’s going to be a wall between you and the reader.

If you’d like to be an indie author, the pros and cons of being an indie author are nicely listed here by Joanna Penn. I’ve yet to successfully go that route but one day, I might. As you will see in the list, included in the list of cons is a budget, a lot of help and time. None of which, suffice to say, I have right now.

Of course, with the kind of technology we have today, we hardly have to wait weeks before someone sees our draft. Collaborating with others is also instantaneous in this amazing world of the internet. A bigger, more robust online community for writers and bloggers is a huge bonus. Writers who know the struggle will always reach out a hand towards those who are up-and-coming simply because they’ve been there. Helping others can only enhance our own experience one way or the other.

Don’t Write for Everyone — When you’re starting out as a writer or content creator, you’d try to cast as wide a net as possible. You want to make as many people interested with one throw. But it’s a common mistake in content writing: being too generic and trying to appeal to too many people at the same time.

For a start, try different topics from differing angles. This helps you narrow down what works for you and THAT would be your niche. I know the itch to create catch-all content is hard to ignore but don’t scratch it.

There’s No ONE Way to Do Things, Including Writing — This rule applies not just to writing but across all aspects of our lives.

During a TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson reveals that a belief that there’s only ONE solution, ONE answer could lead to an academic burnout. Students are consistently grilled with the right answer and when sitting down in front of their desks, the pressure piles on. You are either right or wrong.

People then believe that there’s only one way to write, one way to paint, one way to think, one way to behave, and one way to look.

Writing is a creative process. Hence, there’s no right way to do it. It’s a multiple-forked road out there and thinking differently from the pack actually makes one more successful. Sir Robinson calls this ‘Divergent Thinking’. This streamlines your thoughts and helps you come up with good and bad ideas instead of zooming in on an ideal.

Conclusion — Learn, ask and accept criticisms. This is an important way to grow and improve yourself. Not letting other people’s negative input affect your work is important, but so is sifting through them and finding out if others with differing opinions have a point. If they do, listen and apply to self.

What’s important is to not let criticisms stop you in your track.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original

If you get negative feedback, reflect, review and then hold your head up high with new thoughts and ideas. Always move forward and stop once in a while to think if there are new horizons to explore.

Then you put one foot in front of the other, furtively but courageously navigate through paths you’ve probably never been on before. Never let one tree ruin the entire forest. When you’re feeling discouraged, listen to your critics but remember your supporters and loved ones. Feed only the side of your mind that you wish will come out on top.

Know your worth, grow a thicker skin, pick your battles and write on!

Happy writing, writers and may 2019 be amazing,
Marsha

p.s. I’ve recently inherited a hand-me-down drawing tablet from my son (who upgraded his) and I am thinking of so many possibilities yet have so few capabilities. Time for YouTube.

Note: This article was first published here