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Are You Too Scared to Write? Stop Thinking and Just Do It

Are You Too Scared to Write? Stop Thinking and Just Do It

    It has taken me over 15 years to get back to writing and start taking it seriously.

    I have been reading and writing since I was barely out of diapers. And yet I never dared to think of myself as a writer. “God, no I can’t be one of those,” I thought. I allowed my fears of writing to rule my life, to make me not even admit to myself that I was doing the same job that writers do.

    My fears took the form of excuses, but they still were fears in disguise. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being accused of
    impersonating someone I was not. Do you relate to any of these?

    Fear #1 – You are not good enough

    All of my life, I thought I was a mediocre writer – that my work was not worthy of being made public.

    For one, I wrote in a very ‘bloggish’ style. A conversational style that has been made popular by the likes of Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha , Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and David Nicholl’s One Day. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t find any books that would say to me “your style is valid too”; colloquial is good.

    Writing in a personal, conversational style where it feels like you are having an intimate conversation with your reader is not only perfectly valid but highly sought after. The stronger your voice is and the more opinionated you are, the more interesting writer you will become.

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    I wish somebody had told me 10 years ago. I wish somebody had told me to stop comparing my writing with others.

    What has been keeping you from calling yourself a writer?

    Is it a different sort of style, love of genre or form? Whatever it is, embrace it and work it.

    Writing is about voice, personality and delivery, not the placement of your em-dash. (Which I love to use by the way). People are looking for honesty, not perfect prose, which means you have all the creativity you need.

    Banish perfection and hone your craft. Remember imperfect is interesting. Doubt is good – it helps you steer in revision.

    Sit down, start writing and don’t think. That’s all you need to do to write. Don’t think – just write.

    Fear #2 – You have nothing to say

    Feed your brain. Read, observe, participate, live.

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    Record your ideas: a small writing pad and a small writing device are your best friend. You can lug them around and there is no excuse to be two feet away from one at any time. My best ideas come when I am doing the dishes or about to fall asleep. Both are not ideal. If I couldn’t touch some sort of notebook when I reached for it, I’d lose all sleep.

    Get rid of distraction: turn off the Internet, your phone, and TV. Disappear for a while in your writing. And you will amazed and how much work you can accomplish.

    You need what you need to know. You don’t need 50 personal and writing books to tell you that. They make you feel like you are not creative enough, organized enough, fit enough, clever enough. You are all those things. Have you lived a life? If so, that qualifies you to write.

    There is only one thing you need to write – you need to have a life. Write about what you have lived through – tell your own stories.

    Fear #3 – You don’t know where to begin

    It’s very simple. All you need are a few things:

    • A quiet place to sit.
    • A paper and pencil or computer.
    • Ability to be by yourself for a while.
    • Willingness to explore yourself.

    What you DON’T need:

    • An expensive education or writing degree.
    • Expensive stationary and office supplies etc.
    • Expensive computers and software.
    • Anything new.

    Fear #4 – You don’t have support

    Writing is a communal act – you don’t do it alone.

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    Don’t fret if your family gives you blank stares when you suddenly announce, “I want to write.” Don’t lose hope when your partner doesn’t break into a dance of joy upon hearing this good news.

    Don’t be offended if your friends nod their heads politely, while keeping an eye on their kids chasing each other at the park, or trying to kill someone. It’s very unlikely that you will find support among your family and friends – unless you are incredibly lucky. Give them time, let the news sink in, for both your sakes. Remember they are new at this too; they will eventually come around.

    Go on on an active hunt for like minded people.

    Have you been following any writers’ blogs? Read the ones that offer courage and inspiration to keep you going as you hone your craft. They will keep you motivated. Even better, start a blog of your own if you haven’t already.

    Go to the local library and find reading or writing groups. Join an online book group where all the “book obsessed” hang out. Attend live readings. If you are too shy to do these things, join anyway and lurk. Speak up when you have the courage. Don’t talk about your work for now – just listen.

    All in all, remember these 3 rules:

    1. Stop thinking.

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    2. Start writing.

    3. Don’t think about it.

    Be interesting and you will make your writing interesting. Write honestly and passionately and learn along the way. That’s how all the famous ones do it!

    Which fear of writing is stopping you from writing? Do share in the comments below.

    (Photo credit: An open old book by the candlelight via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Marya Jan

    Marya is a business strategist. She shares tips about life and success on Lifehack.

    16 Simple Rules to Live by for a Successful And Fulfilling Life 13 Ways to Be an Exceptional Teacher 7 Golden Rules of Writing and Editing: A Non-grammar-focused Guide to Irresistible Writing 30 Books You Need to Read if You Want to Make it Big Online 5 Ways Mommy Soloprofessionals Can Strive for Work-Life Balance

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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