Writing with confidence is easier said than done. For some of you, a lack of confidence in your writing is holding you back. You’ve become paralysed. You might get as far as writing something. But you sit on it. You wait. Convince yourself that you’ll edit it later. But, you don’t hit ‘Publish’. I know, because that’s the way I was when I started out on this journey. In this first ‘Writing with Confidence’ video, I look at one of the mental barriers some people have to overcome – memories of being taught English at school.
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Hey and welcome to Episode #2 of The Story Edge. Today is all about something that’s really close to my heart. It’s all about confidence. I’ve discovered through working with a number of clients and friends, that confidence is often the thing that holds people back more than anything. They might use time as an excuse, they can use all sorts of excuses, but the underlying problem is that they fundamentally lack confidence in their own ability to write and tell their story.
What are the things that actually hold us back? What are the things that make us lack that confidence? Today I want to talk about one of them, one real specific one. Let me share a quote from one of my teachers at school. It’s the only quote I can remember from my entire school career.
Here it goes, “Kevin tries hard, however, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” Like me to repeat that? “Kevin tries hard, however, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking at that and thinking, “Do you know what? That’s quite a passive aggressive way of saying, ‘Kevin’s a bit crap at art.'” Because that’s where it came from, my second year art teacher.
That was his way, on a report card, of informing me that I wasn’t very good at art. Now, I would like to deny that. I would like to say that that wasn’t the case, but it absolutely is. I am rubbish at drawing, painting, anything. It’s one of those things that I’ve tried so, so many times, but I just can’t do it. Here’s the thing, I spoke to a number of people who feel that way about writing.
They associate writing with English, okay, and they associate English with the subject at school. Therefore, the logic in their head goes something like this, “I didn’t enjoy English at school, I wasn’t very good at English at school, therefore, I can’t be a good writer. I just can’t write my story.” That’s wrong, it’s completely wrong.
It’s a barrier, an understandable one, to be fair, it’s understandable that you would feel that way, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Forget about writing at school, this is a different thing, this is a different thing entirely. Here’s one of the ways to overcome this.
A lot of people try and write in a really formal structure. They write in a totally different way to which they talk, so the way they talk doesn’t sound at all like the way they write. To reverse engineer that, what you need to do is just write the stuff in your head like you’re having a conversation with somebody, like you’re writing a script for a conversation. Just start writing as you would talk to people.
Another approach is just to write what you need to write, and then re-visit it. Look at it again, and then read it out loud. Read it to yourself. Now, you may feel like a bit of an idiot, as I do sometimes speaking to a camera, but hey, just do it. Just speak the words that you have written out loud and you will catch the unnatural sounding sentences, tones, or phrase, you’ll catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound natural at all. It’s a really simple exercise, but one that can be transformational for your writing.
Here’s what to do. Step one, just write down what you want to write down. Don’t edit it, don’t logically analyse it, just write it down. Then read it out loud to yourself, that’s step two. Read it out loud. Once you’ve read it out loud, you’ll identify bits of your writing that doesn’t sound natural, so just draw a line through it, score it out. Come back to it later on, edit it, and deliver it in a way that sounds like you’re just talking to someone.
That’s the most natural way to overcome this lack of confidence that you associate with your inability to write. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, that can all come later. Just get the words out of your head, down on paper, don’t over analyse them, don’t worry about them, just get them out, and then when you’re finished, just read it out loud.
You’ll naturally find the points in that conversation that just don’t work, that just don’t set naturally, and you can work on those. You can take those out. If it doesn’t sound right to you, it won’t sound right to your audience, so have the courage to just put a pen through things that don’t work, but to de-mystify the writing thing. What you’re taught at school in writing isn’t the way that you’re taught to communicate in real life, it’s not natural. Have confidence in yourself, deliver it in a way that’s authentically you, and have fun with writing.
I’ll be back again soon with Episode #3. Thanks for listening. (WATCHING even!)