My Simple System for Writing Conversationally and Avoiding Writer’s Block
How to stop overthinking so you can start actually creating content.
Writing conversationally sounds easy. Just “write like you talk” and you’ll be okay. Sounds simple until you actually sit in front of your computer and try to write something. Why? Because while many marketing experts instruct people to write conversationally, very few actually tell you exactly how to do it.
Let’s change that, shall we? Starting with a definition…
Conversational writing is relaxed and casual. It’s informal, and is quite similar to the way we might talk to a friend, family member, or professional colleague. “Write like you talk” is actually a pretty good starting spot.
Think of the difference between an email to a friend and a college textbook or professional contract. The email uses short sentences, lots of emotion, and may even include a few emoticons or sentence fragments. Additionally, conversational writing makes a few assumptions and cuts out a few details at times because friends often speak in a type of shorthand.
Contrast the type of emotional writing between friends with something more heavy and detailed. Rather than evoke a strong feeling of connection and emotion, formal writing gives you the sense you should be taking notes in order to better absorb the meaning.
You already know how to write conversationally. If you’re struggling, it’s simply because you need a little help to put the language you use with friends and family into a business or professional context. Don’t worry… I can help.
Writing conversationally means forgetting some of the rules you learned in school.
Remember the picky language arts teacher who covered your essays with red pencil? The one who insisted upon proper grammar, perfect spelling, and complete sentences? Forget nearly everything you learned in an effort to please her. She was teaching you formal writing and as we’ve already seen, conversational writing is entirely different.
Do you speak in formal sentences with proper nouns? Are you careful to make sure your participles never dangle dangerously? Me neither. Just like me, you likely speak in sentence fragments willed with pronouns and exclamations… and we create verbal lists with lots of hyperbole.
Real people simply don’t speak using perfect grammar. Rather than worrying about crafting a grammatically correct sentence, work on sharing meaning. Spend time getting the information correct and the emotions right. Focus on adding humor, spice, and energy to your words. Then… when you’ve got the feeling right… correct just enough grammar so no one gets lost or confused as they read. (Yes, this means punctuation. You can do it.)
Often, when we become frozen by grammar, we are actually masking a bit of writer’s block and using mechanics as a way to procrastinate.
Writer’s block. Procrastination. Never having time to sit down and get that blog post or article or video script done. We’ve all been there… and many of us hide behind a concern that our grammar or writing mechanics aren’t perfect, rather than dealing with the true issue.
I’m a writer by trade, and yet there are moments when bookkeeping and folding laundry are far more interesting than putting together my next article or post. The problem isn’t idea generation. I have lots of ideas. They pop into my mind while I’m waiting in line at the coffee shop or on my morning walk. I get great flashes of creativity during dinner with my family or when I’m chatting with a client about his project or her website.
When it’s time to write? Well… sometimes nothing happens. Let’s solve that problem, okay?
Make conversational writing an essential part of your work and encourage creativity in your life.
Writing is an essential part of any business in the online marketplace- even a business like yours. You might not offer writing services to clients in the same way I do, but you still have to communicate your ideas online in order to engage with clients and market your products and services. Writing is a vital part of your success… so you need to master this writer’s block thing.
Pro tip – – > Writers know that inspiration is a fickle master. It does not arrive on schedule. Writers also know that discipline is essential to the writing process, while inspiration is just optional.
My system for avoiding writer’s block is simple.
- Be real. Be yourself. Common wisdom tells us to write authentically with our audience in mind. What does that really mean? It means sharing information and opinions in a way that is true to my own beliefs and personality.
I’ve realized some of my challenges with writer’s block come from trying to water down my strong opinions to make them palatable to a general audience. I found freedom in my writing when I decided to share what I believe without reservation and use audience interest as a context for my ideas. I speak boldly in the areas of business, marketing, and writing, but filter my religious and political views because they are not relevant to the people who follow me.
- Write daily. Build a practice of writing. Train your mind and body to spend time expressing your ideas in writing
thesame way an athlete trains for peak performance or a musician practices to master a technique or intricate concerto.
I write every day – even when I’m busy or not feeling well. I write while on vacation and during quiet weekend moments. Not everything I write is work-related or suitable for publication as an article or blog post. That’s not the point, really. I journal, collect random thoughts, and push myself to write even when it feels awkward or burdensome or boring. I’ve made writing a part of my normal routine, and therefore blank screens don’t intimidate me. They are part of the regular rhythm of my life.
- Explore creativity in multiple avenues. Cultivate a childlike joy in creativity. Try painting, crafting, and cooking. Explore creative pursuits that feel a little foreign to you. Embrace playing with your children or learning a skill under the direction of an elderly family member. These efforts will improve your writing.
My writing improves when I make time for creative activities that have nothing to do with language. I quilt and knit and crochet, finding pleasure in selecting colors and creating something useful from bits of this or that. Cooking is always a creative adventure in my home… putting together flavors and trying new recipes and techniques. This creative activity isn’t really about talent (trust me) it’s about inviting creativity to a regular adventure in my life. This has made my writing richer, more emotive, and frankly… more fun.
- Capture random thoughts, ideas, and experiences. All you need is a simple notebook or an app on your phone and a willingness to collect source material for your writing. Curate the little bursts of inspiration as they happen, saving them for the future.
Remember those random thoughts and ideas that pop into my head when I least expect them? I carry a small notebook with me and jot them down as I move through my day. Sometimes I record a simple word or phrase. I might make a little sketch or write down a reference. Other times, I put together a quick outline for a story or article. I record anything that moves me emotionally, too… the beauty of a tree on my morning walk or the laughter of children playing in my neighbor’s yard. When it’s time to write, this notebook becomes a treasure box of stories, anecdotes, and ideas I can use in my writing.
Write quickly and conversationally. Save editing for later.
My favorite tip for writing conversationally is a bit counterintuitive, but super effective: write as quickly as you can. Just write… type, scribble, whatever. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write in a sprint with no reading, no stopping, and no second-guessing your word choices.
Sometimes I even turn my monitor off and just type so I can’t look at what I’ve written and start editing. Turning off the monitor is the only way to keep my fingers off of the backspace key some days.
Writing quickly works well because our brains aren’t formal. They are conversational. The faster you write, the more you silence the analytical part of your mind and engage the creative part. You tap into the feelings, senses, excitement, and grand ideas you want to share and communicate. You step away from the inner critic with the grammar guide and red pencil.
Okay, you might be feeling a bit nervous right now. Relax my friend… I said WRITE. I didn’t say PUBLISH. Of course, you will do some editing. You’ll just do it later- after you get the words on the page or the screen.
After you edit (but before you publish) read your writing aloud and listen to your words with a critical ear.
This is the conversational writing test. Did you really write like you talk? The only way to know for sure is to “speak” what you’ve written and evaluate it. Read your writing to yourself… but don’t whisper. Go off to a private room and use your normal speaking voice. Pretend you’re talking to a friend at your favorite coffee shop over a caramel macchiato if it helps… and listen for these cues:
- Do you stumble over words as you read? Your writing might need a little more editing in those spots. Take a look.
- Do you need to breathe in the middle of a sentence? Break that bad boy into two or even three lovely little sentences (or fragments).
- Does your voice get soft or hesitant in spots? That’s a clue that you really wouldn’t say that thing in that way in person. Take a minute to change it up.
I believe the only way to truly “write like you talk” is to listen to your own voice reading your words. If the article sounds flat or boring to YOU- or like you’re giving a speech to a group of your retired college professors- you aren’t actually writing conversationally just yet.
Writing conversationally takes practice. Challenge yourself to push past writer’s block and get down to business.
Becoming a comfortable, fluid writer requires consistent practice over time. Make simply spending a few minutes each day with a journal a prioritized part of your normal routine. Not only will you build an essential skill needed to succeed in business, you’ll gain clarity around your ideas and confidence as you communicate them to others- both in person and online.
While client work and operational tasks feel incredibly valuable, they are actually less important than the work we do strategically inside our businesses.