woman in front of laptopIt is common for writers to have doubts about their abilities. This, like the fear of imperfection, can stop people from launching their writing careers. The label of “bad writer” stops them in their tracks. Bad writing is fixable.

Stephen King disagrees with me. In On Writing, author Stephen King says that bad writers can’t become competent writers. I know many writers who disagree with this idea.

I think a bad writer can become competent with help. In fact, I’m going to eliminate the word “bad” as a category (even though I have seen some bad writing).

Because the writing is bad doesn’t mean the writer has no potential. I think a lot of people are discouraged about writing, and there are good reasons for this.

Bad Teachers

A lot of negative things can happen in the world of elementary education. Uninspired teachers may teach grammar in a way that makes it extremely boring for children. These lessons never teach the value of punctuation, spelling, and grammar. These fundamentals of writing aren’t presented as aids to communication.

You may remember, like I do, of staring at blackboards as teachers diagrammed sentences. It looked a little too much like math, which is not my strong point. (I’ve mastered writing but put me in front of a cash register to make change all day and I’d be lost.)

Instead of creating complex diagrams, imagine if a teacher said, “Do you want people to know what you mean? You must learn how to put commas in the right places.”

School systems also choose boring books for kids to read. Rarely do they ask them, “What authors do you like? What kinds of books do you like to read?” In my childhood, they seem to not know that the moment television entered the world, reading enjoyment faced an uphill battle.

Teachers gave uninspiring writing assignments. “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” is the standard cliché, but other assignments were just as bad.

In grading these assignments, teachers generally marked down for grammatical and other errors. They might note an outstanding essay but paid less attention to the work of a student who was sincerely struggling for self-expression.

If you were one of those students, the harsh red ink of your teacher’s comments may have convinced you—at a young and vulnerable age—that you were a bad writer.

teacher at blackboardHow to Overcome the Stigma

In all areas of life, we are often as good as we are told we are. If you sit down at your computer to write, and the first thing you see in your mind is those scrawled comments, you may think, “I can’t do this.”

Are you afflicted with imposter’s syndrome, of believing you don’t know enough to write knowledgeably? This self-doubt can shake even the most accomplished expert. There is always someone who knows more than you do.

Be much kinder to yourself than your teacher was. Think of writing as you think of exercise. If you are a runner, you’re not going to run a speedy mile your first time out. If you’re learning yoga, you start out learning how to correctly stretch your muscles. Weightlifters begin with very light weights.

You can do the same with writing. First, review the principles of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You can find Internet sites where experts explain them in ways that are interesting and clear.

Make lists of things you’d like to write about, just for fun. When you make this list, remember that no one needs to see what you write.

  • Write because you have something to say to yourself.
  • Write because you want to see what your thoughts look like when they’re written down.
  • Write because you will learn more about yourself this way.

Write every day, even for ten minutes. If you feel reluctant, say something like this to yourself, “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. This is for me.”

If you persist, in time you’ll have something you want to show to the world.

And remember, there are excellent editors who take a fresh look at your work and can polish it for the world.

Join me for a masterclass, Build Your Writing Skills, at this link. We’ll explore why building your writing skills makes a huge difference in your business. Register here or get the replay.

Pat Iyer grew up in a house with a dictionary that stayed on the dining room table so that anyone making grammatical errors could be and would be challenged. The Language Patrol never took a day off.