Tag Archives: confidence

A Weekend Call For Effective Communication

Last weekend I attended a business convention sponsored by ACN, a well established and successful network marketing powerhouse. I received notice of the convention by virtue of the fact that I am an ACN independent business owner. The convention took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was well worth the effort, despite residual interference by the massive snowstorm that earlier had swept through the region. The storm kept many from attending and caused great hardship on others to get there despite travel difficulties. I was impressed with Charlotte however, my first trip there, as a clean, upscale city, with quite a bit to offer its residents. ACN’s corporate headquarters is in nearby Concord and convention attendees were provided with the opportunity to tour the premises. I took the tour and found it to be most interesting.

One of the many fine speakers we heard was Larry Raskind, a special guest speaker with a well known, well respected reputation as a motivational speaker and network marketing guru who deservedly enjoys his excellent reputation. Raskind urged that the quality of your life would be determined by your ability to effectively communicate. You must work at your communication skills persistently to make them effective. Persistence defeats resistance. While formal education can make a living for you, self education can make you a fortune. This is a theme that I’ve used as the basis of this entire blog not to mention my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books as well as in print.

One major step towards effective communication is to improve your vocabulary. This is another topic covered in depth on this blog on more than one occasion. Words are like the colors on a painters palette, argued Raskind, giving you the option to paint effective word pictures as you speak and write. I couldn’t agree more. I have often said that you must find and use the right word to be able to write clearly.

The ability to effectively communicate should be part of your personal development continued Raskind. Building mental toughness should also be part of your regimen, which includes setting a goal of seeing your communication project through to the end. Your personal development journey will not be complete otherwise. Make this part of a three to five year plan in your long term vision towards improving your personal effectiveness.

Raskind also urged listeners to follow the philosophy of Jim Rohn, another well known, widely recognized and respected motivational speaker, and the author of many books, tapes, and video programs. He has helped to train both personal development trainers as well as executives from the country’s top corporations. One of Rohn’s keys to personal development is your attitude towards your business. As applied to clear writing, this means to have confidence in your writing, a subject on which I’ve also expounded. An upbeat attitude towards writing flows from having confidence in it. This in turn means practice, practice, and practice your writing. The more you write, the better and clearer your writing will become. Becoming an accomplished writer should be your goal. Once achieved, you will see huge dividends in terms of your personal development and success.

To tie all this together, effective communication is an integral part of your personal development. This in turn entails development of clear writing techniques. Clear writing is thus the means to an end, a very desirable end, i.e., your success.

Incidentally, for those of you interested in learning more about network marketing, I recommend “Your First Year In Network Marketing,” by Mark and Rene Yarnell, for follow up reading. They acclaim
network marketing as “the greatest opportunity in the history of capitalism.”

Copyright©2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Confidence Is At The Root Of The Power To Persuade

Last week this blog discussed the use of narrative and descriptive paragraphing to promote nutritional supplements.  The point to be made is that the power to persuade is of singular importance in most writing.  It is the one standout quality of all successful copy writing. Successful copy writing must:

           Start with a compelling idea.

Clearly state the idea.

      Be specific in the writing.

These admonitions undoubtedly apply to all writing.

I’m reminded of Thomas Paine’s little booklet, “Common sense,” which he published in early 1776.  It argued for separation of the American colonies from the British Crown because it made good sense to do so.  It became a runaway best seller, selling 100,000 copies in a short period of time, and was a strong part of the emotional run-up to the American Revolution.

Persuasive writing is a product of confidence in writing.  Confidence only comes from continued practice of writing coupled with extensive reading.  The two go hand-in-glove.

You must develop a belief in the strength of your writing to be good at it.  Belief is the core factor.

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 1770 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.

Thoughts are also things according to Napoleon Hill, author of the influential and best selling personal achievement book, Think and Grow Rich.  Hill postulated that thoughts can be very powerful things when mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for success.

I’m also reminded of Tim Gallwey’s best seller, The Inner Game of Tennis, which is largely about developing the ability to focus your attention on the task at hand.  It is more about solving life’s problems by learning the art of relaxed focus and attention to achieve peak mental performance, i.e., getting into a “zone”, than playing tennis.

         

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.

Years ago, a personal development writer named Dr. Maxwell Maltz created a program called psycho-cybernetics.  It was very popular and was followed by Tony Robbins, Sig Siglar, and others.  Maltz taught that to develop self-confidence, the following steps are important:

1.   Focus on a daily plan

2.   Use a graph or chart to monitor your progress

3.   Get feedback from others as to how well you’re going.

4.   Reward yourself as you make progress

5.   Avoid burnout – take a break to relax and reenergize yourself.

These steps can also be adapted to a writing improvement plan.  As urged in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com in print and on Kindle Books, an important part of the approach to clear writing is to develop confidence in your writing by writing- and reading- extensively.  This will help you to build a powerful vocabulary, probably the single most important step to writing with confidence. You can’t write clearly and with confidence unless you have an ample supply of words at your disposal.

Make a list of all new words you encounter.  Learn what they mean and how to spell them.  Write something on a daily basis, even if it’s only a letter to yourself,  using as many of the new words in your writing as practicable.  Monitor your progress by keeping track of the words you use – you don’t need a graph or chart for this.  Then, have someone review what you have written.   If the reviewer is satisfied with your writing, the self- satisfaction from having successfully used one or more new words should be reward enough.   After your writing task is complete, relax and think about it.  Focus on what you have written.  The mind works best when relaxed.  Often, new thoughts will come to you.

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rightrs reserved.

     

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Poor Spelling Is Anathema To Clear Writing

Having all of the previous clear writing tips posted on this blog in mind, one clear writing technique not to be ignored is spelling.  No matter how hard you persevere  to develop your writing and no matter  good a writer you think you are or have become, if you don’t spell correctly readers will view you as an amateur, or worse.  Therefore this point must be made abolutely clear:

ELIMINATE ALL SPELLING ERRORS!

Misspelled words will cause all of your hard work to sink – fast.  So, be forewarned!  It is absolutely imperative to make sure your spelling is correct.  Misspelled words in particular are the bane of good writing; nothing will undermine your hard work and turn a reader off faster than a misspelled word, particularly if it’s a common one.  You must take the time to check the spelling of any word that looks suspicious to you.  Resorting to a dictionary for new or difficult words should be the first and ongoing choice.

Poor spelling, like other aspects of poor writing, can be overcome.  Don’t give up on correcting your spelling because you don’t believe it matters or because you believe the problem is too big to fix.  Make it a habit to check your spelling in everything you write.  Your goal shold be to establish yourself as a good speller.

You may not become a good speller overnight but if you persist every day in fixing spelling errors you will find that, in time, a habit of correct spelling can be established.    Start by putting a question mark over every word you are unsure about, and verify the spelling before considering your writing as complete.

Many writers shortcut the correct spelling of words either because they don’t know the correct spelling or are too lazy to find out. Spelling “nite” instead of “night,” and “thru” instead of “through” is the result of careless, sloppy, or lazy writing and is disfavored in good writing.  Don’t take any shortcuts with your spelling; they will stamp you as an amateur.

Another solution is to record all misspelled words on a separate sheet of paper; the act of writing down the correct spelling should in itself help you remember it.  Keep this paper handy for continued reference and add to it on a regular basis. But don’t just write the misspelled word down mechanically –  try to understand why the word was misspelled.  Try to link the word to something that you know, something that will help you to remember it.  Understand its meaning.  Refer to the list periodically to refresh yourself on the word.  This process will help to increase your vocabulary as well as correct your spelling.  Emphasize the letters that cause the misspelling by writing them in capitals or underlining them.

You can also master the intricacies of good spelling through visualization, a widely accepted practice.  Good golfers are said to visualize each shot before hitting it.  If it works in golf, it can work in spelling.  Teach yourself to picture the correct spelling of all misspelled words in your mind.  Concentrate on the correct spelling of these words to be sure you see every letter.  Then look away, spell the word, and look back for verification.  Repeat this procedure on a regular basis until you can instantly recognize the correct spelling of each previously misspelled word.  Be careful that you are not victimized  by having your eyes play tricks on you.  It is easy to visualize an arrangement of letters that is not there.

Another recommended method to correct poor spelling is to divide words  into syllables.  This will help in the visualization process.

Also, as I have suggested in regard to developing your vocabulary and a clear writing style, read extensively.  Make a note of all new words and practice spelling them.  Use them in your writing projects when the opportunity presents itself.

Watch for misleading resemblances between words.  Be on your guard and don’t misspell a word because it resembles another word in sound or appearance.  If you misspell one of two similar appearing words, focus your attention on one of the words and learn its spelling and its use thoroughly.  “Accept” (to take) and “except” (to exclude) are similar in sound but have vastly different meanings.  “Its” is a possessive pronoun while “it’s” is a contraction of it is.    “Affect” (to influence) and “effect” (to accomplish) are also easily confused.

Finally, there are many spelling rules, too many to repeat here.  But one of the most commonly used is to write “i” before “e” except after “c.”  So,  “believe” and “field”  are typical examples of the standard spelling while  “receive” and “ceiling” show the exception.  However, there are words such as “neighbor” and “weigh” where the rule doesn’t apply at all.

For those of you interested in the Civil War, check out my two articles on amazon.com, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union,” and “Bloody Shiloh and the Rise of U.S. Grant.”

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Clear Writing Requires Polishing of Every Writing Project

Happy new year to all of my readers and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

One of your new year’s resolutions should be to write every day.  That’s the quickest way to improve your writing.  It will help you write faster, better,  and with more confidence.

Recent blogs have focused on the need to achieve mastery of your subject matter as part of the road to clear writing.  I have previously pointed out that  poor subject matter preparation will result in weak writing.  But even assuming you have written about a well-researched subject and know it like the back of your hand, your finished writing project must still be polished before it can be truly considered as “done.”

There are important polishing considerations to be kept in mind before you can consider any writing project as truly finished.  It is vital to polish your writing carefully and thoroughly so it flows as smoothly as possible.  No writing should be considered polished unless you have at least given consideration to the areas which follow below.

Highlight important information to0 help maintain readability.  Use extra white space, bullet points, capital letters, underlining, or italics to allow your reader to skim your writing.  But don’t overuse any of these items.  If you are truly knowledgeable about your subject, highlighting important information accurately will help to demonstrate your knowledge.

Be consistent throughout in whatever method you choose so your reader can recognize how you flag important information.

Make sure each paragraph covers what the heading indicates.  Otherwise, your writing will be jumpy and lack smoothness.

Explain all abbreviations and similar short-hand writing.  A sports fan will understand that the initials, “NCAA” stand for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  A reader who is not a sports fan will be in the dark.

Question the need for everything in the writing.  If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you can’t write it clearly.

Carefully review your document to determine if any important information is missing.

Maintain consistency in the document’s organization.  This will help the reader understand the different levels of information you have presented.  Typical organizational format includes document title, section headings, subsection headings, paragraph headings, and general text.

Before any writing is submitted to your reader, make sure you edit it thoroughly.   Careful spelling and punctuation review is an absolute, absolute must.  There is probably no other area which will stamp your writing as amateurish, or worse,  as poor spelling and poor punctuation.  These areas are important enough to warrant special consideration.

It is also important to make sure your draft is tight, i.e., uses the least number of words to get your thoughts across.  Make the tone of your writing easy to understand, conversational, and natural.  Don’t leave any gaps in your writing so that the reader must stop and wonder what you’re saying.

Once you know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing about, both of which have been recently covered in my blogs, you’re ready to take the next step: writing your first draft.

This should be your new year’s resolution, to write every day.  It will do wonders for your writing skills and enable you to do your part to help improve the economy in the process. It will help to increase your earnings potential, your chances of finding a job, or for job advancement if you’re already employed.  If you run a business, pass the word to your employees – improvement in their writing skills will help increase your sales. Pick a topic you’re familiar with or enjoy talking about and write about it!  Make it a daily habit.  You will find that the more you write, the easier it will become to write clearly.

.Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

                     

 

 

                   

 

 

                     

 

 

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Prepare A Comprehensive Outline For Best Writing Results

Last week’s post focused on organizing your thoughts to write better.  It dealt primarily with the preparation of a preliminary plan as the first step in organizing your thoughts before writing. Also discussed was the task of information gathering as being secondary to plan preparation.

 After gathering the information needed for your writing project, the next step is to prepare an outline.

Creation of a workable outline should begin with the big picture.  First, organize your thoughts and mentally plan your approach.  Make a note of all the ideas you generate about what you want to write.  Next, organize your ideas into a logical order.  Finally, add appropriate detail.  Much as in working a jigsaw puzzle, your reader will more easily absorb the details after seeing the big picture.  Draft an outline that is logical, cohesive, and flows smoothly.  You don’t want anyone reading a lot of pages before finally figuring out what you’re trying to say. 

In the process of preparing the outline, try to anticipate questions your reader may ask.  Organize your outline to respond to these questions.  Readers are often looking for answers, either by reading documents or visiting websites.  They want to know how to do something or to get the answer to a problem, and they want the answer as quickly and easily as possible under the circumstances.  So, keep these concerns in mind when preparing your outline.

There are three workable approaches to use in preparing an outline: traditional, the so-called “spinning wheel” method, and what may be called the “stream of consciousness” approach.  The first one envisions use of Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numbers, followed by small letters.  This traditional approach is best for presentation of material in an organized, logical fashion.  In adopting the traditional approach, the topic outline and the sentence outline are commonly used. The sentence outline requires use of complete sentences and appropriate punctuation.  Examples of both types, which I used to outline the subject “John Adams, An Unrecognized President”, appear in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” pp 23-28, which is available at amazon.com/kindle books as well as in print on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com.

Another approach to outlining, the “spinning wheel” concept, may be better suited for the development of ideas.  This approach starts with the “hub” of the wheel as the central idea of the writing, with subsidiary ideas flowing out from the hub as the wheel’s “spokes.”

There is a third approach, what I call “stream of consciousness” for lack of a better description, which I’ve used from time to time.   Sometimes, for whatever reason, it just seems easier to start writing.  Start with the main idea for the writing.  Then, as more ideas come along, begin to create an outline and rearrange your material.  Continue to write to fill in gaps in the material.  Feel free to use this approach as long as the end result is well organized and clearly written.

Use the outline to prepare appropriate paragraph headings and subheadings.  As you are developing your outline, create as many topic headings as appears necessary for the material.  Don’t skimp in this area.  The creation of topic headings goes hand-in-glove with the preparation of your outline.

Create crisp, sharp paragraph headings and subheadings to help your reader focus on the content of each paragraph.  Arrange the paragraphs as necessary to provide a logical flow of information.  Keep in mind that short sections are better.  A long, dense paragraph is a daunting and discouraging sight.  But if your writing is presented in short, manageable, bite-sized pieces of approximately fifty to seventy five words, it will be easier to digest because the entire content of each section can be more easily captured in the heading.

Also, short sections make the document more visually appealing so it appears easier to understand.  A long section will increase the difficulty of preparing a meaningful summary of its heading.  Short sections will provide the opportunity to write more headings to go with them and should also help you to organize your writing more effectively.  In this scenario, brevity is a prince, verbosity a pauper.

Boldface the section headings to create a roadmap for quick and easy reference to your document. 

Use common sense in preparing paragraph headings.  They should not be so long as to overwhelm the reader.  On the other hand, overly broad headings such as “General” and “Scope” are not useful and are not recommended.

Once your outline is complete, you will find that the preparation of your first draft will be a much easier task.

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

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Correct Diction Is Essential For Clear Writing Success

Many wannabe writers fail to grasp the importance of correct diction, learning how to use words properly, in achieving the goal of clear writing.  But this is a very important technique to embrace if you really want to become a good writer.  Although I have recently written on this subject, it is important enough to bear repeating.

The choice of clear and effective words is defined as diction. It covers many facets, including conciseness, which in turn encompasses finding and using the exact word.  Diction is a subject treated at length in my eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindlebooks.

Being concise in the use of words is no great secret.  Even as far back as 1733 when Ben Franklin began publishing his Poor Richard’s Almanac, it was evident that word economy played a big part in its success.  Some of Poor Richard’s sayings such as “Hunger never saw bad bread,” and “Light purse, heavy heart,” reflected Franklin’s efforts to not just economize on words but to set forth a kernel of truth for everyday guidance.  I’m sure the success of the Almanac was not just happenstance but came about largely due to Franklin’s efforts to polish everything he wrote, a subject also covered in my eBook.

Learning correct diction is closely aligned with the task of building an effective vocabulary.  The two go hand in glove.  Words are the basic building blocks in any writing and should fit together like bricks in a wall.  Properly used words should allow your sentences to flow smoothly like an unobstructed stream of water.  Acquiring correct diction is basically a two-step process. You must first acquire a workable vocabulary, then learn how to write with these words.  Nothing will make your writing come alive faster than use of the right words in the right places.  Precise word usage will elevate you in the eyes of the reader and help convince the reader that you’re an accomplished writer.

Faulty diction takes many forms.  One of the biggest pitfalls is lack of conciseness.  Leading from your longest and strongest suit is a traditional opening lead when playing bridge.  The same thought applies to writing.   Capturing the reader’s interest from the outset is most important.  Therefore, begin writing with a strong opening paragraph, appropriately captioned.  This approach will capture the reader’s attention and less likely result in reader distraction.  After getting the reader’s attention, the next challenge is to hold it.

The best way to do this is to avoid the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea. Tautology, the needless repetition of an idea in different words, is a fancy word for it, but it’s nothing more than sloppy writing.  Dense, wordy paragraphs and long, rambling, disorganized writing is certain to cause reader discontent and exasperation.  Such writing amounts to pomposity, which will turn your reader off.  Use familiar words.  Write in a    conversational and welcoming tone, not stilted or artificial.

Be attentive to every word you write.  Much of the force of your presentation will spring from its conciseness.  Use words judiciously, economically and at a level the reader can understand.  Don’t make the reader grope for a meaning – it may be an unintended meaning.  Less is usually more.  Try to accomplish this result by “squeezing” your writing until all needless words have been eliminated.  Question the need for everything that appears in your writing.  Due diligence on the issue of wordiness will put  you squarely on the road to writing concisely.

Patriotism aside, there is no finer example of  the power of  concise, effective writing than the following timeless words from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That to  secure these rights, governments are instituted  among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These memorable words, expressing the maximum in political sentiment in the minimum amount of space, the embodiment of   powerful but utter simplicity yet profound in their implication, earned Jefferson a well deserved lasting place in American history.  He truly was a gifted writer.

Start writing today to erase all of those self doubts you may have about writing.  If you spend 30 minutes every day writing something, you will soon see imporovement in  your writing skills.

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

 

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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 amazon.com/kindle 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.

 

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