Why Writing Is So Intimidating—And How To Make It Less Agonizing

I know business professionals who would sooner have a tooth pulled without anesthetic than write a blog post.Notebook showing fear of writing

Writing intimidates them. It intimidates a lot of people.

Why do many people break out in a cold sweat when asked to write something?

They get caught up in the perceived complexity of writing. In some cases the subject matter might be complex, but writing is a rather straightforward process.

Think of writing as what it is: communicating. Writing is simply putting words together to make a point or inform. Your ultimate goal is to be understood, so take the shortest, clearest path to getting there.

How can you simplify writing to make it less overwhelming for you and easier to grasp for your readers?

Don’t…

  • Try to include everything under the sun about a specific topic.
  • Use run-on sentences.
  • Use long words for the sake of looking smart or reaching a certain word count.
  • Rely completely on a spelling and grammar checking software to catch errors.

Do…

  • Make an outline to identify your main topic and key points before you start writing.
  • Reread what you wrote to make sure everything you’ve communicated is relevant to what you want readers to understand or serves to further a key point.
  • Remove anything that is off-topic or repetitive.
  • Proofread—or better yet, ask someone else to proofread—what you’ve written, so it’s free from embarrassing errors.

Most importantly, realize writing gets easier with practice. As with any skill where there’s room for improvement, you will get better with more effort and experience.

Also, realize you don’t have to do it alone. If you feel uncertain about the clarity and quality of your writing, ask for feedback from someone you trust, or hire a professional writer or editor to help you find your voice and communicate more clearly.

Writing may never be second nature to you, but it doesn’t have to be frightening.

What other writing tips would you give to folks who struggle putting their insight into words? I’d love to hear them, so please share them in a comment here!

 

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How Much Should You Pay For Content Writing?

Four Ways To Instantly Boost Your Self-Confidence

Is Your Business a Pain in the Neck?

Running a small business rocks in so many ways, but it can also be a pain in the neck…and the back. Literally. Endless Professional with neck painhours at the computer and nearly non-stop attention to your smartphone screen can put your body in a posture it’s not naturally designed to maintain for a prolonged amount of time. Eventually, that abuse leads to pain…which can thwart concentration, make us less productive, and make us cranky.

That’s not good for business.

Q&A about Posture and Productivity

I reached out to respected chiropractor Dr. Lee Lausch of proActive Pain Relief & Wellness in Lancaster County, PA for his insight on this topic…

Question: In your practice, what are the most common physical complaints you hear from professional people which are directly related to poor posture?

Dr. Lausch: The most common complaint related to poor posture is neck and upper back pain accompanied by headaches. This is due to the forward head posture that develops from computer overuse and phone overuse. For every inch that the head is forward of center, its like adding an extra 10-12 pounds of stress to the neck and upper back musculature and joints.

Question: What is the connection between those ailments and poor posture? Why does poor posture cause those problems?

Dr. Lausch: Poor posture is a synonym for bad biomechanics. So when the spine is out of alignment, it results in abnormal wear and tear on the body resulting in stress and pain.

Question: In addition to the physical symptoms, how does poor posture affect cognitive ability?

Dr. Lausch: This is a great question. Again, with bad biomechanics (a.k.a. poor posture), the result is abnormal stress. Ninety percent of the brain’s activity is spent making sure all of its parts are in the right place for optimal function. When the parts are NOT in the right position (poor posture), then the brain overworks trying to regain balance. This causes a drain on the brain!

Question: Do you see a correlation between the number of hours someone spends at a desk and their propensity to developing posture-related problems?

Dr. Lausch: Absolutely! We are designed to move. When we are sedentary and sitting behind a desk, we dramatically increase poor posture causing stress-related problems.

Question: What can people do on their own to improve and prevent the physical and cognitive effects of poor posture? What things should they keep top of mind so they can be more productive?

Dr. Lausch: Take breaks from sitting. Get up and move around even if it’s only 10-20 seconds at a time, but move frequently – at least 1-2 times during every hour of sitting. An effective exercise to combat forward head posture is squeeze the shoulder blades back and bend the head back-hold this squeeze for 3 seconds and repeat 4-5 times. This exercise should be done once for every 30 minutes of sitting.

Question: For people who seem unable to improve productivity-inhibiting posture on their own, What professional medical/alternative treatments are most effective?

Dr. Lausch: The best fix and or prevention of poor posture and the related problems is treatment from a structurally focused Doctor of Chiropractic. This would involve a biomechanical evaluation and a treatment plan that would include postural corrective exercises. In addition, a well-designed strength program is essential for optimal performance over the long haul. As we age, we lose strength and this contributes to bad posture. Offsetting strength decline dramatically increases overall health and well being.

_____________________

Pain can be a serious problem for your small business if you’re not able to keep up physically and mentally with the challenges you meet every day. This is a topic near and dear to me because – with a notable degree of adult scoliosis – I’m always looking for ways to keep pain at bay and keep my productivity optimal. While working to improve your posture can’t cure all ills, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Make it a priority – and don’t let your business be a pain in the neck.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your Business Communications’ Best Friends and Worst Enemies

As I’m brainstorming to prepare to present a coaching session on better business writing to the administrative staff of a local institution, I’m thinking about some of the common challenges that all of us face when communicating via the written word.
Whether you’re a business owner, marketing manager, CEO or administrative assistant, your communications to the outside world – and internally within your organization – should be as accurate and error-free as possible. Why? Oh, just those small considerations of demonstrating professionalism, building confidence in your capabilities, and projecting that you care.

Hey, we all make mistakes! But you can avoid some fatal writing errors if you keep in mind – and persevere over – the things that can be both your best friends and worst enemies when crafting business communications.

Time

The more you take when writing and proofreading what you wrote, the fewer spelling and grammatical errors you’ll make. The less you take when writing and proofreading what you wrote, the more likely it is that you’ll miss little mistakes that can make you look like a grade school dropout. Like it or not. It works that way.

Focus

Multitasking isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When you write emails, letters, or anything else, give them your full attention when you’re tending to them. Our brains, even the best and brightest of them, can’t do everything all at the same time. If you focus on the writing task at hand, you’ll make fewer errors.


Interest

This could be a tough one, but with the right frame of mind you can make it work for you. Your level of interest in what you’re writing will dictate the attention to detail you give it. Communicating isn’t always exciting or glamorous. It can be extraordinarily mundane. But try to frame specific writing tasks as part of a bigger picture – one that has the potential to strengthen relationships and make inroads to greater things. If you see purpose in what you’re writing, you’ll view it as less of a chore and be more naturally inclined to do it right.

Those three factors can either make or break the technical effectiveness of your business communications. They can even make an impact on the tone of what you write (perhaps the topic for a later post!). So, whenever possible, give your writing tasks and projects adequate time, uninterrupted focus and enthusiasm, so you can produce communications that will put your best foot forward and make a professional impression.

Time, focus or interest…which presents the biggest challenge to you when trying to communicate flawlessly?

 

September 11 and the Solopreneur

September 11, 2001 touched all of us. We all remember precisely where and when we first learned of the unfolding events of the day. Every year, the month/day 9/11 takes us back. We reflect. And then we move onward and get back to business. Business as usual.

But we can learn some lessons from 9/11 and instead strive to do business even better…

  • Don’t let adversity kill your spirit – Being in business for yourself will be incredibly difficult at times. Keep motivated by your vision of what you want for your business and keep working to achieve your goals.
  • Look for something positive in even the worst situations – There’s something to be learned and gained from any experience.
  • Helping others gives strength – Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you should only look out for Number 1. Coaching a new business owner (even a competitor), giving some free guidance to a client, referring a prospect to someone for services, etc. are ways to create good will and build relationships in a business environment that is sometimes “every man for himself.”
  • Evil exists, but good outweighs and outlasts it – Although you’ll occasionally cross paths with a client who doesn’t respect your time and talent or a malicious online discrediting by a jealous competitor, most others you encounter will be upstanding, ethical people. Don’t let bad experiences with one or two people lead you to believe that everyone aims to drag you down to lift themselves up.

And above all, exercise persistence and resilience for a brighter tomorrow!

What other lessons from 9/11 can we apply to living and working as solopreneurs?

 

2 Things You Need To Deliver In Every Customer Experience (the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!)

Communication and caring: If they’re MIA in customer interactions – especially the ones gone bad – kiss your credibility and your customer goodbye.  Lesson learned from my vacation experience with an airline that did it all wrong and an airline employee who did it all right.

Groggy, but excited to start our vacation, my family awakened at 3:30 a.m. last Saturday. We wanted to allow plenty of time to travel to the Baltimore/Washington airport, park the car, check our luggage, go through security and board our 8 a.m. flight to Texas.

Despite our punctuality, below is the situation we found upon arrival to the United Airlines check-in area.

A rocky customer experience

Worried? Sure we were. But we figured if things were going to get a little tight, eventually a United representative would call out our flight and expedite our visit to the desk so we could get on our way. So we waited.

And waited…

And waited.

The line hardly budged after an hour, and not a single United rep ventured anywhere close to our neck of the woods to pull people to the front for any soon-departing flights. Nor did anyone offer any explanation whatsoever about the problem in progress.

Getting desperate, we decided to try our luck at the curbside check –in. The line there was also long, but it had to be moving faster than the stagnant one we were standing in. It was. And even more promising was when the attendant asked for everyone in line with an 8 a.m. flight to go inside the airport. FINALLY, they were going to put us through baggage check and send us onward!

So inside we went…only to find what we did before. A long line with no official airport peeps providing any direction. We went back out to the curbside check-in attendant to politely ask what we were supposed to do.

His response, “Go to the back of the line.”

Our observation, “But we were already there, and our flight is leaving in 20 minutes.”

His response, “Not my problem.” (Truth. He really did say that!)

So there we were again…in the same line where we had originally been. Sadly, it still had not moved. In fact, it had grown longer since our first go at it.

As before, no United reps or other airport staff walked to our end of the earth to provide assistance or insight into to what was happening – or not happening as it were.

No communication (not even by email on my smart phone). No information. No alternatives.

Clearly we were going to miss our flight and had no choice but to wait with the other hundreds of people who needed to have their departure plans amended.

Eventually, after about two hours, an announcement aired over the P.A. system indicating that United had delays due to “airport conditions.” Oddly, the same BWI “airport conditions” didn’t seem to be affecting the flight schedules of the Delta passengers who we enviously allowed to cross through to get to their check-in desk. The relief on their faces was insuppressible as they realized they didn’t have to stand in our line!

After another hour, we decided to take our chances and join a few other United passengers in a separate line that we self-proclaimed as the “we missed our flight because of your ‘airport conditions’ so you need to make us a priority” section. Finally, around 10:30 a.m., we were at the desk.

Exhausted and frustrated with no high expectations for anything resembling satisfactory service, we met customer service rep Myra. Myra greeted us with a smile, compassion and a willingness to do whatever she could to get our vacation started as smoothly as possible considering the present circumstances. For two arduous hours, she scoured through the reservation system and talked us through the process as she searched to find suitable flights at BWI and nearby airports that would accommodate our party of 5. Although she surely was feeling stressed and at the end of her rope, Myra never took it out on us. No aggravated tone, no apathy. Just stellar customer service in a situation that seemed completely unsalvageable.

Despite Myra’s best attempts, we had to begin our vacation a day late and from an airport that was an additional hour away from home. Sensitive to the inconvenience we were experiencing, she secured reservations at a Washington DC hotel that was within 5 minutes of Reagan International airport and changed our return flights so that we arrived ½ hour earlier there than we would have at BWI.

Did that make it all better? No. But because of her positive attitude and hard work to make things as right as possible, Myra succeeded in diffusing much of our distress and disappointment.

Will we fly United again? Not sure that we will. But then again, I’m not sure that we won’t. And United has Myra and Myra alone to thank for us not completely wiping them from our list of carrier options. What a difference communication and caring can make – even in the most challenging situations.

Your turn! What customer experience have you had that got turned around (good or bad) by a solitary someone or something?

Social Media Reminder: Perception, People & Patience

Social media seems like such a natural fit for some small businesses. Coffee shops, gyms, photographers…they’ve got plenty to share – and show – to get fans and followers interacting.

But what if your business isn’t all that terribly “sexy”?

Social Media Today’s blog post, Six Social Media Tips for Business Owners in Boring Industries, gives some really helpful tips on what to consider – and what to do – if you’re thinking no one would ever want to engage with you and your brand online.

A couple of takeaways and additional thoughts on the topic…

  • So what’s a sexy business anyway? Exactly! Sexy is in the eye of the beholder, so don’t crown yourself the King or Queen of Boring Businessville. There are people out there who will find what you have to share interesting. Just be sure you’re doing your part to provide content that is helpful to them –and on a consistent basis.
  • People do business with people. That’s where I really believe solopreneurs and small business owners – regardless of industry – have the advantage in social media. You can more easily build relationships and establish yourself as a trusted advisor. Your fans and followers feel more connected to you through your sense of humor, sharing of expertise and however else you demonstrate the unique you online. The key is to be real. Relax a little and make social media about making conversations.

And if you do that, guess what? When your followers need the types of products or service you provide, they will have you top of mind as the business they want to do business with.

Building momentum on social media takes time. Some types of businesses will need to put in more of it than others before they see results. But the keys to getting there are the same for everyone.

You need patience and follow through.

Building relationships offline doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t expect it to happen quickly online either.  On any social media platform, you need to earn trust and respect for your business.

 

That means:

  • Be present – don’t build a profile and let it sit idle.
  • Be responsive – reply to comments, questions and problems that your followers post on your social media platforms.
  • Reciprocate – show support to other businesses that have liked and commented on your posts or tweets; interact with their social media pages.

 

Your turn: If you’re in a business that may not seem overly exciting, how have you used social media to generate interest and engagement?

 

2 Tips for Gracefully Declining an Opportunity – Cut the cord without burning bridges!

As solopreneurs, there is only so much work that we can handle independently at any given time. Certainly there will be “lean” times when you might need to grab almost any project that crosses your path, but hopefully you’ll find more occasions that require you to carefully consider whether or not opportunities will be worth your time and effort.

You need to be selective. And that means you’ll need to periodically turn prospective clients away. In those instances, your approach matters. Although you’re cutting the cord, you don’t want to burn any bridges!

2 ways to say “No” and preserve goodwill

  • Focus on the fit of the project, not the fit of the client – Honesty is generally the best policy, but even if you’re turning the work down because of the quality of the client, I don’t advise saying that out loud. Instead, zero in on how the particular project isn’t something that would be a good fit for you. Perhaps you’re only taking on work in specific industries, or you’re accepting projects only if they meet a minimum revenue threshold, or you can’t take it on because of your current workload.  With that approach, you won’t hurt your prospect’s feelings when delivering the disappointing news. Who knows…they might even refer someone to you who does have a project that matches your criteria.

 

  • Give them alternatives – If you won’t be doing business with them, share the contact information for alternative providers who can serve their needs. Then be sure to give those providers a heads up so they know you’ve referred someone to them – that way they can be prepared in advance to evaluate the opportunity. Sharing options with clients who you’re setting free generates goodwill all around. The customers will be impressed with your helpfulness, and the businesses you’ve referred them to will appreciate your willingness to direct opportunities their way.

 

Even though you’ll be disappointing a client by declining to work with them, you can still leave them with a positive impression of you and your business. It’s all in your approach. Be respectful of all prospects and be appreciative of all opportunities.

Your turn! What has worked best for you – or hasn’t worked well at all – when turning down business opportunities? 

 

Thrill Ride: Adrenaline Rush of Being a Solopreneur

Earlier this week, I experienced a blast from the past. This video on Facebook is particularly nostalgic for me because I’ve always lived less than a two-hour drive from Hershey, PA (a.k.a. The Sweetest Place on Earth). Being “Hersheypark Happy” as a kid was all about the euphoria that came from riding the loop of the Super Dooper Looper roller coaster and losing your lunch on the Rotor (Sadly, both the lunch AND the Rotor are no longer with us).

Although more tame, being a solopreneur has its thrills, too, doesn’t it? And it should! What’s the point of being in business if you’re not getting a rush of adrenaline every now and then from what you do?

I get mine when…

  • a new prospective client calls me.
  • a new prospective client emails me.
  • a new prospective client contacts me via social media.
  • a long-time prospect does one of the above to move forward on a project.
  • one of my blog posts really resonates with my audience.
  • I start a new project.
  • I get an ongoing project.
  • a client expresses delight over my work.
  • a client becomes a repeat client.
  • I connect – really connect – with other professionals whom I’ve met via social media and in person.
  • I prepare a proposal.
  • I prepare an invoice.
  • I receive a payment.
  • I get the opportunity to meet new prospects face to face.
  • I get the opportunity to talk with other solopreneurs to share challenges and best practices.
  • I keep in mind how fortunate I am to have such an amazingly flexible schedule and the support of family, friends, clients and colleagues.

Yeah, definitely not the dips, turns and upside down adventure that is the Super Dooper Looper, but these are the simple things that get me up and motivated every morning.

Now you! What about being in business for yourself gives you a thrill? Please share what gives you your entrepreneurial adrenaline rush!