“People jump to all kinds of conclusions about you when they read documents you have written. They decide, for instance, how smart, how creative, how well organized, how trustworthy, and how considerate you are. And once they have made up their minds, it is hard to get them to see you differently. Research in social psychology shows how sticky early impressions are. It takes serious work on the receiving end to undo them — work that your colleagues, customers, and partners may not have time (or feel motivated) to do.” — Barbara Wallraff, Improve Your Writing to Improve Your Credibility
The good news is that learning to write well has never been more approachable than it is today. Also, it’s never been easier to publish your words and have them reach thousands or even millions of people.
When I first started writing, I used an electric typewriter. I dreamed of publishing a book but felt overwhelmed by all of the gatekeepers (e.g., agents, editors, publishers). The whole process seemed so complex that I’m still left with a dozen drafts in varying stages of completion.
Today, you can crank out an article or story online, run it through Grammarly (my affiliate link), publish it, and have people all around the world reading your words within seconds. It’s magical!
Ok, maybe the process only seems magical to someone like me who wrote on a typewriter before the internet existed. But, do you know what is still magical?
The results — the impact that it can have on your life and the lives of others.
Anyone can be a writer, and everyone can benefit from making it a consistent habit.
Writing helps you professionally
There are many ways to reach an audience that wants to hear what you have to say. But, it’s hard to beat writing for the ease of creation and the reach it has for discovery and consumption.
Other methods such as videos and podcasting (which I do produce too) are definitely more time-consuming to create and publish. They are also more challenging for search and discovery. Text-based search engines, like Google, still dominate.
Writing also remains — for now — a human skill that AI has yet to master. So, take advantage of this opportunity and build an audience while you can!
“Many jobs require additional and very human qualities like communication, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, questioning, and dreaming. Collectively, we often refer to these qualities as ‘soft skills,’ but don’t let the name fool you; these soft skills are going to be hard currency in the job market as AI and technology take over some of the jobs that can be performed without people.” — Bernard Marr, 7 Job Skills Of The Future (That AIs And Robots Can't Do Better Than Humans)
What’s one of the best ways to showcase your communication skills, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, vision, and wisdom? Yeah, that would be writing.
When I work with my clients, I almost always recommend that they start a writing practice. Publishing your words of wisdom, expertise, and point of view helps the right people discover you.
While the 1% rule may be a little outdated, it is still quite true that a tiny percentage of the population are creators while the majority are consumers. Most people will never consistently produce well-written content that attracts an audience.
Yes, of course, many people post photos on Instagram, snarky tweets on Twitter, Facebook updates about their kids, and ask strange questions on Reddit. But, that’s not the same as writing a coherent article or intriguing story.
When you have a strong opinion and are brave enough to share it, you will stand out. You will attract the right people and push away the wrong ones.
I have connected with thousands of people over the years through my writing. It is the primary way that people discover me and my coaching practice. Writing and public speaking have both had a seriously positive impact on my professional life.
But don’t just take my word for it. I spoke with a few clients and friends who agreed to share their thoughts on how writing has changed their lives.
In the audio podcast for this newsletter (click play above), you can hear them talk about writing, why they do it, and how it has helped them personally and professionally.
Terri Rodriguez-Hong talks about how she has been writing articles every week on accessibility, design, investing in yourself, and having a strong mindset.
Christopher Schutt shares how writing has given him more confidence, expanded his network, and allows him to talk about issues he feels strongly about.
Anna Codina talks about how her writing powers her business as a freelance content strategist and gives her the flexibility to travel around the world and work with a variety of international clients.
Trip O’Dell shares how writing helped him refocus on what he cares most about in his career (e.g., accessibility, inclusive design, ethics in product design). Writing has also helped him get more attention online, book speaking opportunities, and clarify how he thinks about things.
Writing also helps you personally
Writing is useful on a personal level too. It’s an effective tool that extends the power of your mind.
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London
Our memory is imperfect. Our thinking is often frenetic and fragmented. Many of us become easily distracted.
Writing is the solution for all of this. It extends your memory and becomes a permanent store of your thoughts. It helps you work through issues and provides a structure for your thinking process. It helps you focus and refocus.
I’ve found that writing always helps me organize my thoughts. I can quickly stream words onto the page to ensure that I capture it all. Editing then takes that chaos and provides a coherent structure.
I’m sure you’ve experienced that feeling of a million ideas, issues, and problems swirling around in your brain. I know many people who have trouble falling asleep at night because their mind is racing.
The simple act of quickly capturing those thoughts in a paper notebook helps me fall asleep more easily in the evening. I know that I can’t make more progress or solve problems at bedtime. I know that I need to sleep. But, I can’t relax until those issues are written down, so I will remember to deal with them in the morning.
Then, morning journaling helps me focus my day. I harness my creativity before the tasks of the workday strip it away. I jot down what my goals are and what I want to accomplish. I capture random thoughts and feelings.
The writing activity is often cathartic. Research has found that writing can help you process traumatic, stressful, or emotional events, which improves your physical and psychological well-being.
In Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions (my affiliate link) by psychologist James W. Pennebaker, he shares research that writing can even boost your immune system. More studies have found that “emotional writing” can lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of depression, and elevate daily moods.
So, even if you’re not yet sold on my recommendation of writing to boost your career — perhaps because you’re a little nervous about putting yourself out there — writing for your eyes only can be very beneficial.
Your writing can help others
Finally, sharing your wisdom and advice can help others. For some people, that is the primary reason that they write. They want to help other people. They want to help them deal with issues, avoid mistakes, be successful, and perhaps even be happier.
Much of my writing is focused on “How to” information and strategies for tackling various issues. I enjoy helping you conquer problems at work, be more successful, let the world know that you exist, and regain your freedom so you can work and live on your own terms.
But, I also write about coping with personal issues too. I’ve shared a few stories from my childhood and earlier life that I hope can help others.
I’ve had people comment and message me privately. I have often been surprised to discover that a story has helped someone in an unexpected way.
Some examples from comments on my stories:
“Thank you for your reassurance. I always feel that I’m alone in going through this type of situation. I don’t want to feel that I’m the only one anymore.”
“I thought this is just me. Thank you. Very much.”
“Thank you for this. I have been doing something similar and it is nice to see it affirmed by someone who has already done it!!”
“Great article Larry – thank you. You’ve certainly been able to convey a different perspective on what has worked for me in the past without knowing why. I’m going to revisit some of your suggestions. The one benefit of getting older is that experience teaches us what has worked for before and what hasn’t. Your article has really helped with understanding the ‘why.’”
“Great article! Forwarded it to a friend who is also frightened of small talk and socializing.”
“Thank you, Larry, for making me feel vindicated and valued at the same time! Sometimes it is very difficult to live (and explain to people) the life of an introvert.”
If you’ve read this far, even if you don’t care about writing to help yourself professionally or personally, you may want to consider how your writing could help a fellow human being.
You never know how much your advice could benefit someone else. You never know how much your experience could help someone overcome their anxiety, fear, and shame.
Words are powerful.
A way to support my newsletter
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This week’s professional development challenge
This challenge helps you get more mileage out of your writing. As I know, creating content is hard work. So, you should leverage it across multiple platforms. You almost always get unique and additional engagement that is valuable for you.
Larry Cornett is a leadership coach and business advisor who runs a professional online community. He lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice that can help others take full control of their work and life. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.