When I was a kid, I absolutely loved reading. Part of the reason is because books didn’t talk back; I didn’t have to explain to books why I had a difficult time talking as a result of stuttering. It was no surprise when I chose to pursue a career in writing; I didn’t have to talk to people, and I could always say what I wanted to, exactly how I wanted to say it.
It was to my surprise and dismay, however, when I came into adulthood and realized I actually did have to talk to people in order to get work. When I eventually started public speaking, it became abundantly clear just how valuable verbal communication is to your professional life.
No skill will serve you better in your career than being a confident communicator. As important as being able to talk to people is, however, today I want to focus on written communication. Writing often gets a bad wrap, but it doesn’t have to be the dreaded task many of us make it out to be.
Before I started speaking, I was a full-time marketing writer and spent my professional existence helping clients create the content experience that best described their brands. When I told people I was a writer, their response was always centered around how much the thought of writing—even just an email— was absolutely miserable to them. Then, they’d list all the reasons why they didn’t like it, and the main one would always be because they weren’t good at it.
I always found this curious because now more than ever, writing is pretty vital to your career. Think about it; we’re all writing all the time. How many emails do you compose in a day? How many do you read in a day? How much time do you spend in any chat software? When was the last time you wrote a performance review? Or had to do a written report on a project?
It’s safe to say, with the exception of being strong verbal communicators and being good at your actual job, writing is pretty high on the value scale. What’s fascinating is that we have so many ChatOps tools which make communication easier, yet the vast majority of them guide you to do the thing that you claim you’re no good at: writing.
This is why I believe writing is so valuable to your career: because we’re doing it constantly. To that end, it’s not serving you to continually tell yourself you’re a bad writer. How we approach conversations—whether they’re written or verbal— has the biggest influence in how they transpire. So, if we feel like we’re not good at writing or talking, we will then enter the conversations we have with a negative mindset.
How do we fix this? The only way to be more confident as a writer is to write. You don’t need to start a blog (though you could if you’d like) and you don’t need to spend an hour on every email you send. You can, however, take the opportunities you currently have to write as chances to focus on not only improvement but the way you’re communicating your points.
The next time you have to write an email or have a longer ChatOps conversation, try this: write how you would speak to that person if they were standing in front of you at that very moment. Keep in mind your audience and what they need to read to receive your message. Writing doesn’t have to be hard; it can and should be an extension of speech if you just reframe your feelings about it. In the end, that’s all you need to do to be a good writer: choose it.