You probably don’t want to hear this…I’m sure you don’t care what I have to say anyway…if you aren’t interested, go somewhere else…if you are here to learn something stick around, if not, take a hike…I don’t expect you to figure this out…This does require some intelligence to understand, so if you can’t be bothered, close your browser now and save my bandwidth…I’ve nothing important to say…I’m sure you know this already…like I have anything special to say about anything…I’m just a worthless nobody so why should you listen to me…I’m sure I’m wasting your time…
Have you read these lines? Have you seen them on blogs around the web? I have. I started collecting these self-sabotaging lines a couple months ago after running across a rash of negative self-talk writing.
You would expect that some of these came from highly personal bloggers babbling about their lives, mostly from young people who often seem to thrive on this self-doubt and negative speak. These didn’t come from personal blogs. These came from professional blogs. Most of these came from intelligent people writing on intelligent and thoughtful subjects, some even educational.
Whether conscious or unconscious, it slipped into their writing.
I wish I was kidding. I was reading an excellent technical explanation on a subject I’ve found challenging before, and I was getting it. It was so exciting. It clicked. The writing was solid, the explanation plain and simple, it made sense. I was thrilled, proud of myself, until I got to the last paragraph. It slapped me in the face, sinking my enthusiasm.
“I’m sure this is old news and you’ve had it explained better elsewhere, so I probably wasted your time, but I hope it helped.”
WHAT? Your words were beautiful, like poetry, helping me to understand a challenging subject that you pass off like the complex art of boiling water. You made it easy for me. I got it! Yet you think you didn’t do good enough? I wanted to cry.
Your blog exercise today is to check your self-sabotage writing at the door.
My goal with this exercise to to get you to think about what you write and how you write, and if it is truly reflective of you and your writing. When you stumble across it 10, 20, or even 40 years from now, I want you to find a measure of pride and pleasure in what you wrote.
Consider what you might think about yourself, or others will think about you, when they read your site in the future? If you don’t care, blog on. If you do, then take the appropriate steps to ensure you’ll be happy with your words years from now.
We all have self-doubt. Expressing it through your personal blog can often bring self-confidence as well as overcoming your doubts. Through expression, we often come to a greater realization of the power we have within us to do and be anything. So express yourself and show off your confidence.
In other words, kill all signs of self-sabotage writing.
We are more forgiving with personal blogs. We expect self-deprecation. When it comes to writing technical articles and covering technical topics, I think I speak for all of us by saying we have a measure of expectation when it comes to quality control.
We expect these articles to be:
- Spell-checked and edited for clarity
- Researched with links to supporting documentation
- Specific, to-the-point instructions and guides helping us understand the process
- Visually supported with images and video to provide multiple modes for learning
A technical article must be edited to showcase you as the expert, the one who knows it all, the one who is right and eager to present and defend his or her expertise. The last thing a reader wants to see your self-confidence flagging. They want – they need – you to be at your best so they have confidence in you as the instructor.
What isn’t fun to read in technical writing is the author telling me to “pay attention to what I’m saying here or take your eyes somewhere else and don’t waste my bandwidth.” Yikes! I wish I was making that up.
Negative rants in technical writing is unnecessary and accusatory. I feel like I’ve done something wrong before I’ve even finished reading the piece.
When I find the information I’ve been hunting for, even if I didn’t spot the signs of low self-esteem writing, it still sinks into my unconscious. I start doubting my ability to follow through on the instructions. I mess things up. I start thinking it’s me. What did I do wrong?
How to Write Like You Mean It
When we write, we like to believe that we are writing for ourselves, when in fact, most of the time we are writing either to ourselves or to someone else, consciously or unconsciously. When working on technical manuals like the WordPress Codex and the technical how to tips here on this site, I put myself before two audiences as I go through the process.
I begin by writing to me. I remember what it was like to learn how to do this the first time, and I make a note of all the things I wish I’d been told before I began that would have made the process easier. Writing from first hand experience, I figure if I suffered through this and that, you might, so how can I write this so you won’t suffer.
Then I reread the article with you, the user, in mind. What points are important for you to know before, during, and after to help you make this work. I simplify the language and clean out any personal references to leave behind solid instructions. I visualize you, the user, hunkered over your computer late at night, trying to figure out how to make all these complex looking bits of code do something you think should be easy but it turning into a late night bad comedy hour. The more I think about how you are probably doing this at the last minute before you go to bed because you have a few minutes to spare and you thought you could just whip through this, but you can’t, so here you are, a nagging headache of exhaustion and you give up and turn to the WordPress Codex for help. We’d better be able to help.
The last thing you want to read is how much I think you are wasting your time by reading this.
It’s your turn to do the same. Check your self-sabotage writing at the publish button. Go through your posts and make sure that all the signs of doubt in your abilities when offering expert advice and technique is gone.