January is a month where New Year’s resolutions flourish—or flop. New diet and exercise routines reign supreme. For PR pros, writing should not get lost in the shuffle.
There’s always something to learn, especially given the countless centuries of writing tradition.
Writing is like golf: You’ll never be perfect. The fun (or frustration) lies in the pursuit of perfection that never comes. To quote novelist Margaret Atwood, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
Therefore, the first step is recognizing you should improve. We all should—there are no exceptions, no matter how many paragraphs and pages you’ve written.
So, what comes next?
Read, read, and read more
It’s impossible to improve as a content creator if you don’t expose yourself to other writers. Reading others lets you decide what works, what doesn’t and what you can adopt into your work.
All the best writers were influenced by those who came before. They learned from the past to find their voice. As Stephen King put it, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot.”
Use what you read
Allow reading to inform your writing. Pick up unique fragments here and there, and make them yours.
Discover synonyms to replace words that you overuse. Figure out how others use tools like em dashes. Then, use the occasional em dash to replace redundant commas. Go back through your grammar or spelling mistakes and figure out how others avoid them.
Try this morning exercise: Read an editorial from The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. Identify one sentence that resonated with you from a prose perspective. Then add it to your arsenal—in your words, of course.
Don’t obsess, write!
King’s advice is twofold: Read and write. Put pen to paper, even if it means throwing ink at the wall. Content creators often stumble into writer’s block because they don’t transfer their thoughts into a cold, hard draft soon enough. Even if it’s a very, very rough draft, use the word vomit to your advantage.
It’s much easier to turn something into something good than it is to turn nothing into something. You can overcome writer’s block by entering the editing phase sooner—that is, avoiding a delay before creating your initial draft.
The key is not obsessing over the outcome; learn to trust (if not love) the drafting and editing processes. The outcome will take care of itself. John Steinbeck put it like this: “Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”
Let’s say you’re drafting an important work email. Don’t wait!
Make it a habit to start writing within five seconds of clicking the Compose button. Get all your thoughts down, then hone each into a cohesive final product. Once the substance is cohesive, take pleasure in fine-tuning the style. Surprise yourself like à la Steinbeck.
In 2023, read, write, rinse, repeat. Step by step, the results will speak for themselves.
Luka Ladan APR is president and CEO, Zenica Public Relations