Confidence – The Vital Ingredient Needed For Clear Writing

The development of confidence in your writing is a theme that I’ve written about often in this blog.  But it’s important enough to bear repeating.   Without it, your writing is doomed to failure.

“I’m not a good writer!” is an all too familiar and often heard personal lament.  It’s a symptom of the writer who lacks confidence.    I heard it from a family member just recently.  For those of you who believe they fit into that category, i.e., those who don’t believe they are good writers but want to be, my eBook “The Art of Clear Writing” (available at books) can help.  It provides an organized guide to clear writing fundamentals and sets forth down-to-earth, well-established writing guidelines and techniques that have worked for others, not hard and fast rules that must be committed to memory and followed at all costs.  Chapter I deals entirely with developing confidence in your writing.

The underlying proposition of this eBook is that clear writing is an art form – it can be learned.  Anybody can write well – but you need the desire and dedication to do it.  If you’re willing to put in the time and learn the skills, the satisfaction and rewards will come.  These guidelines and techniques are capable of being learned through application and practice, and should result in a marked improvement in your writing.  Even if writing is not your strong suit, you can still learn and significantly improve your writing ability by following the suggestions in this eBook.

As a practicing trial attorney, dealing with the exacting requirements of legal writing over the years enabled me to hone my writing ability to the point where I became an effective writer.  So, unless you are involved in circumstances that require you to write continuously, you will have to dedicate yourself to the task of writing on a virtual daily basis to achieve noticeable results.

Following the guidelines and techniques discussed in my eBook is therefore only a beginning, a light iluminating the right direction.  First, you must make up your mind that you’re going to write well. Then you must put in the time and make the effort to learn.  Practice, practice, practice your writing.  Follow the guidelines and techniques repeatedly until skill is achieved.  A now and then approach will have little effect.  Perseverance and tenacity are required, particularly if writing is not your strong suit.  This effort should remain a continuous and ongoing task.  Poet and playwright Robert Browning summed it up nicely: “Art’s long, though time is short.” (See: The Ring and the Book [1868-1869], IX, Juris Doctor Johnannes-Baptista Bottinius, as shown in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Fourteenth Ed., 1968, Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited,note p. 88).

Also bear in mind that writing, any writing, is a form of salesmanship, i.e., you are selling yourself.  It is a basic sales truism that people will buy from you if they trust you.  That truism applies to writing as well.  Whatever your purpose in writing may be, whether you’re applying for a job, selling a product or service, writing personal or business letters, writing a company manual, or even preparing something as basic as an inter-office memo, the reader must trust you for your writing to be successful.  Achieving this trust will depend on the respect and credibility emanating from your writing.  If the reader believes you to be a credible writer and trusts you, you’ve gone a long way toward accomplishing your primary writing goal of selling the reader on whatever you’re writing about.  Attracting that trust can be achieved only if you dedicate yourself to improving your writing skills.  If you write well, you can do well.  It’s as simple as that.

Where do you start?  Begin with a positive attitude toward what you’re doing, whether writing or speaking.  John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and a prominent lawyer by trade, successfully argued to the jury during the Boston Massacre trial of 1790 that “facts are stubborn things” and cannot be changed no matter how strong are your passions.  Adams strongly believed in the rule of law and that the British soldiers he defended (successfully, it should  be added), who were accused of murder when they fired their muskets into an angry mob, were innocent.

Clear writing thus depends to a large extent on the power of belief, belief that comes from having confidence in your writing.  When you have that confidence, it will show – the reader can see it.  To obtain confidence you must master what can best be described as the “inner game” of writing, overcoming mental blocks to clear writing.  As with other challenges in life, you must develop the right mental attitude.  In other words, you can’t write clearly if you are nagged by anxiety and self doubt about your writing.  Persistence and determination to write well are omnipotent.  However, don’t expect to get that confidence overnight – it’s not like waving a magic wand over your writing and confidence will show up.  But it will show up if you work at it.  Just keep the faith and it will happen.

Remember, even lawyers and judges, with all their education, are still striving to improve their writing.  So, it’s not too late for you.  Like I always say, better late than never!

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.



Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

2 responses to “Confidence – The Vital Ingredient Needed For Clear Writing

  1. I think it takes more than just confidence.

    Let me give you an analogy: if you’ve only been told how to play soccer — someone tells you all of the strategies, and what to do — and have never actually played, then the first time you actually step on the field, no matter how confident you are, you won’t be any good. Sure, you may know the theory behind what to do, but you’ve never touched a ball in your life.

    This is the same way with writing education. We tell kids what to do, but we never show them how to write. We give them some practice, but our critique of their work is not sufficient. To get better writers, we need to teach kids how to write by showing them how to write.

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