How to Stop Hating Writing (and Actually Get Kinda Good)

    by Shannon Johnson

    Date

    January 14, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    marketers-guide-to-writing-good-promo-image-3Words are hard for me. They've always been hard for me. Sometimes, I hate them because I can't seem to string them together in a way that makes sense and reads well and makes the reader feel something.

    I'm not the only one who feels this way -- I even bet there are plenty of times when you probably feel this way. That's because writing well doesn’t come easy for most. It doesn't even come easy for Corey Eridon, the Senior Editor of this blog -- and she's written hundreds of articles on this thing!

    According to Corey, "There are a million reasons we marketers find it hard to write: It’s not our job. We just don’t like it. We haven’t done it in forever. We’re better with numbers. The list goes on, but all these reasons are BS."

    She's convinced every marketer can write, which is why she recently wrote The Marketer's Pocket Guide to Writing Good -- a practical and inspirational guide to have handy when you're really struggling to complete one sentence after another. 

    Since Corey and I aren't the only marketers who struggle with writing, I thought I'd reach out to other marketers for their writing advice and stories about how they got past the hump of hating writing in order to actually get kinda good at it. 

    Check out their two cents below, and then grab your own copy of The Marketer's Pocket Guide to Writing Good. Oh, and then go write something!

    Corey Eridon, Senior Blog Editor at HubSpot, on Writing When You Hate Writing

    "I hated writing -- and still hate writing -- when I feel like I have to put on an affected persona. Whenever I'm feeling deep vitriol ... like, just unabashed hatred for something I'm writing ... I go into lose-the-bullshit mode. I stop trying to sound like someone else or freaking out about what I think readers and my boss want to hear from me. Not only is it way easier to write when you're being yourself, but you can also actually look yourself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, that thing you spent all your time on today wasn't a complete lie,' and be proud of what you put out at the end of the day." 

    Beth Dunn, User Experience Editor at HubSpot, on Persevering Till You Get to the 'Good Stuff'

    "Writer's block is a comforting lie we tell ourselves so we can stop writing and go do other, more pleasurable things. If your fingers still work, you can write. Sit down at the same time every day and start typing. Most of my pages start off with strings of nonsense words or lyrics to pop songs. That's okay. You're just getting the wheels greased, blowing the cobwebs out so the real words can come out. 

    "What you really want to write about that day probably won't show up until about the fourth or fifth paragraph at the soonest, so you have to push on through until you get to the good stuff. And there's no skipping ahead. That's not some nonsense rule teachers made up -- it's the physics of writing. It's a law of nature. It's science. You have to write the crappy first few hundred words before the relatively decent, not-too-bad, and hey-this-is-actually-kinda-promising words will feel it is safe to come out. Make them feel safe to come out by pouring out all of those ridiculous little sentences onto the page at your designated time every day. Good words are like children: They love ritual. Give it to them."

    Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, on Anticipating Reader Questions

    "A key to good writing is this: It anticipates reader questions. Good writing serves the reader, not the writer. It isn’t indulgent. 'The reader doesn’t turn the page because of a hunger to applaud,' said longtime writing teacher Don Murray. Rather, good writing anticipates what questions readers will have as they read a piece, and (before they ask them) it answers them." 

    Hannah Fleishman, Media Relations at HubSpot, on the Importance of Reading to Write Well

    "Read, read, and then read some more. You can't become a literary guru, a guest blogger, or even a caption writer if you don't read anything but emails. Weaving words together to create the perfect sounds to make a sentence will be a lot easier after you've seen someone else do it. Check out 'Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times.' It's full of writing quirks and rituals that help great authors get it all down on paper."  

    Dan Lyons, Marketing Fellow at HubSpot, on Practicing Writing Like You'd Practice the Piano

    "The only way to get better at writing is to write. You should do it every day. It's a lot like learning to play piano or any other instrument. You need to practice -- a lot and consistently. Over time, you'll get better at it." 

    Erik Devaney, Content Strategist at HubSpot, on Forgetting About Sounding Pretty at First

    "When it comes time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys), don't worry about sounding pretty: Just write! This is something I still struggle with. When I start writing, I always worry that the words aren't flowing as smoothly as they could be or that there's some better word or phrase out there that could more accurately convey what I'm trying to say. As a result, I get slowed down. What I've learned is that when you're writing a first draft, you should focus only on what you want to say, then you can go back and improve how you're saying it. Put another way: Always make sure you've finished building the house before you start decorating it."

    Matthew Bushery, Content Editor at HubSpot, on Embracing Mistakes

    "For me, it was simple: I learned mistakes are (a big) part of the game. It's very likely that you won't nail that piece of content you're producing on your first try (or maybe even the second or third) -- but that's okay! Practice truly does make perfect, and if you're willing to accept that you won't write at a Pulitzer-worthy level (at least for now), then you're on your way to becoming a solid writer. Once you've accepted this fact of life, then you can evaluate what writing of yours was good, what wasn't, and improve your work from there." 

    Rachel Sprung, Product Marketing Associate at HubSpot, on Writing Often and With Your Audience in Mind

    "Practice, practice, practice. The more you write, the more comfortable you will be. I started out writing very short blog posts to get used to writing and explaining concepts. Then, I went on to write more thorough posts after getting some practice. I also always hear Pamela Vaughan's voice in the back of my head saying, 'Why should this matter to the reader?' Thinking about that helps me relate the different ideas I'm writing about back to my audience."

    Lisa Toner, Inbound Marketing Content Specialist at HubSpot, on Adding Your Own Spin

    "When writing for business, don't try to copy what your competitors are doing. That will never be an enjoyable writing experience. You need to write with emotion and in your own voice. Even if the topic you need to write about is 'boring,' find a way to put your own spin on it. This will make you stand out from the others in your industry who are all doing the same thing, as well as build up your personal brand. The result is two-fold: You will start to enjoy writing, and your readers will be able to connect with you and your content on a much deeper level."

    Sarah Goliger, Paid Marketing Manager at HubSpot, on Not Over-Preparing

    "I find that if I spend too long planning out a blog post or short-form content piece, I get overwhelmed early on in the process. So what works best for me is to give it a little thought initially and then just dive in and start writing. I find that my thoughts tend to flow naturally once I just get started, and I can always go back and revise later, but this way, I've at least gotten past those early stumbling blocks."

    Niti Shah, Email Marketing at HubSpot, on Soliciting Help From Good Writers You Know

    "In order to get moving on my goal of becoming a better writer, I committed to writing one blog post a week for HubSpot. I worked out a schedule with the blogging team, which meant I was accountable for my work and couldn't just say 'Meh, I'll do it next week.' When I couldn't think about what to write about, needed some guidance in positioning a piece, or just wanted general advice on how to make my writing stronger, I reached out to my wonderfully resourceful, pro-blogger colleagues. It's a learning process, but remember, there are always people to help you improve your writing."

    Brittany Leaning, Social Media Manager at HubSpot, on Devising a Blogging Formula

    "The hardest part about writing, for me, is coming up with the storyline. That's why I use data. When you run a really great experiment and track all the results, a blog post will pretty much write itself. Try using the scientific method as your outline: Ask a question, come up with a hypothesis, share your process for experimentation, analyze your data, and draw a conclusion. Boom! Instant blog post."

    Jay Acunzo, Senior Content Strategist at HubSpot, on Writing Like You Speak

    "I stopped 'trying to write well' by some lofty, academic, pseudo-Shakespearean ideal and started to just write thoughts like I'd speak them out loud. Most people don't have problems thinking or speaking their thoughts, so why is it so horrifying to write them down? Stop 'trying' and just do it. The more you do it, the better you'll get. But just freaking do it! There is no magical secret!"

    Ginny Soskey, Staff Writer at HubSpot, on Finding Liberation in Breaking Rules

    "I took the rules of writing pretty seriously while in school. Once I learned that those rules don't always have to be followed to create engaging content, I started to love it. I could be friendly and informal! I could use curse words to make a point! I could end sentences in prepositions! I could start sentences with conjunctions! Without needing to follow certain rules to get a certain grade, I could spend more time on what I was trying to do all along: communicate something to someone else."

    John Bonini, Marketing Director at Impact Branding, on Having a Plan

    "The key to mastering anything comes down to preparation and repetition. Start writing. Right now. Do this every day. Great writers aren't great because it's easy -- they're great because they somehow manage to continually and consistently produce great work. 

    "Lastly, never start a new document without a plan. Having a detailed outline of what you want to say makes the process of articulating it that much easier." 

    Libbie Miller, Senior Content Strategist at Sitewire, on Writing Without Expectation

    "I think Golden Globe winner Alex Ebert sums it up nicely: 'Even the most deft pen is a clumsy tool, and yet we still try.' Once I got past my own insecurities and stopped trying to achieve first-pass perfection, I was able to let myself off the hook and just create. Just try without expectation and the rest will come."

    Ellie Mirman, Inbound Marketing Funnel Manager at HubSpot, on Seizing Those Bursts of Creative Energy

    "I never considered myself a 'writer' and I never considered writing one of my strengths, but now I love creating content. The key for me is to take advantage of the moments when I have bursts of creative energy. It's incredibly hard for me to sit down and write on demand. But every once in a while, I'll have a burst of creative energy and want to get some ideas -- or blog posts -- down. And no matter how brief that moment, I take advantage of it. At this point, I've probably drafted more blog articles while waiting at the airport than sitting at a desk."

    Still not motivated? Grab your own copy of The Marketer's Pocket Guide to Writing Good or check out all the helpful blogging content that's part of our 30-Day Blog Challenge.

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    Written by Shannon Johnson

    Shannon is a content strategist at HubSpot, which basically means she holds hands and sings Kumbaya with clever people to create marketing resources you might actually wanna read.

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