I was an extremely anxious writer growing up for two reasons: my thoughts would race through my mind too fast for me to translate into complete sentences, and I never felt as if my work was truly done. I grew up learning and speaking two languages. As a kid, I would speak English at home with my family and Spanish at
school and with my friends. My thoughts would often get mixed up, making it especially difficult for me to convey what I was thinking, let alone on paper. Being able to write clearly and vulnerably for my academic and professional work in the same way that I wrote for fun was one of the many obstacles blocking my ability to reach my full potential as a storyteller. The following three exercises helped me grow out of these tendencies and made me feel more comfortable expressing myself through writing.
- Dedicate time to brainstorm – When I brainstorm, I write down every idea that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t seem relevant at the time. I often create a visual representation of my thoughts by grouping ideas together, linking them to one another, and expanding on each one by thinking through related concepts and processes. Once my thoughts are on paper, it becomes much easier to organize and restructure the content into writing.
- Go outside – Visually, outdoor spaces can alleviate stress. Nature can distract people from intrusive thoughts and interrupt spiraling tendencies that prevent them from being productive. When I feel stuck, I move my workstation outside. Nature calms me down and allows me to really focus.
- Collaborate with others – If I’m not confident in my writing, I send my work to a friend, family member, or co-worker to get an outside perspective. Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your work, and another set of eyes can help you identify areas for improvement.
These exercises may seem basic, but they are essential writing tools that will enhance your storytelling abilities. What are your best practices when it comes to writing? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
-Jenna Eisenberg, Research and Consulting Coordinator