Writing articles is a useful skill and the ideal way for a traveller to provide updates from the road. It’s also the best way I know of organising my thoughts. Writing short articles teaches a valuable skill – how to select a universally valid point from an endless series of impressions, conversations and ideas.
Master the art of writing articles and the door to jobs in the media, PR, advertising (even politics) could open for you. If your future employers can look at your blog they might well be impressed for the simple reason that few people have blogs and those that do tend to be boring. It’s an easy way for people to see that you can communicate effectively.
Setting up a company blog is easy and it’s the best way for a firm to promote its boring website, but finding someone to write concise, clear articles every week is really hard. This is as true in London as it is in Lima and I’m sure companies in both places would profit from having a decent blog as it gives them something relevant to put on their dull Facebook page. It also means you can get a job doing this anywhere in the world.
On the one hand writing articles is easy – you just need to keep it simple, make one point which you back up with a few facts, figures, quotes and personal observations – but on the other hand most people can’t do it. Even though almost everyone can explain themselves verbally, when it comes to writing we tend to make it too complicated. When you’re sunk deeply into a job it is often easier to communicate with other experts rather than with someone on the outside (i.e. a future client).
But once you’re in the habit of writing blog articles you can knock them out pretty quickly (this one took me just over an hour). If you’re savvy on the social networks you can share them immediately, get some encouraging feedback – or an improved Google ranking to impress your future boss.
The problem with writing articles – and the main point of this article – is to explain how difficult it is to get back into it when you’ve dropped out of the habit.
I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and I was unable to sustain my daily writing routine. Today I decided that enough time has drifted by and I simply must get back into article-writing-mode. Actually, I decided to do this yesterday but I was unable to do anything as sloth had taken over and I decided to give myself another day off.
This morning I got down to it and spent an hour agonising over a short paragraph. At moments like this feelings of depression, failure and despair crowd into my consciousness and if it wasn’t for my experience –it can take up to a week to get back into a writing routine – I would just give up. With great difficulty I overcame my inner critic, my laziness and complacency and by lunchtime it was done.
I felt like I was trying to push a big rock down a hill: the initial force needed to move it just a few millimetres was more than I was capable. After a superhuman effort I dislodged it and soon enough it went crashing down the hillside and I had a warm feeling of satisfaction. In fact I wanted to write another and hence this article that you’re reading now.
Trouble is that few people ever cross that barrier of agonising-over-articles to churning them out quickly. I have spent much of my life not writing articles, or thinking about them for months and still not writing them. I’m sure that most people are in the same boat.
What is now crystal clear to me is that you can only get there by practice, practice and more practice – writing an article every day until you finally realise how easy it really is. The key is to start writing a first draft which you can then delete, dump, edit, change, rewrite – until you get it into a shape you like. Eventually you will get to that paradoxical moment when writing creative material becomes routine.
Most people only write one or two articles a year – if that – and they probably agonise over it and never want to repeat the experience. That’s why it is so hard to get people to contribute to the company blog or newsletter even though, as many bosses have told me, “everyone here can write”. Most people never reach that point where writing articles becomes easy.
For generations, writing articles has been the preserve of journalists as they had access to the only place where they were published – the newspapers. But in recent years blogs and social networks have swept away this dubious monopoly and now anyone can publish an article. And it turns out that writing an article isn’t such a mystery after all – in fact with a bit of practice and plenty of persistence anyone can do it.
Let me know how you get on.