…from a Designer

Over the last 18 months I have been putting a lot of time into developing myself and my skills. I have always been something of an eternal student, and since I started working for myself the flames have further been fanned. The freedom in choosing what I wish to develop for myself and my business is a genuinely exciting prospect for me.

There are a variety of hobbies and business skills I have started or continued with, but the main focus of late has been writing. This stems from may love of reading and a serious book hoarding habit.

I often read a book and think “I want to write like that/a book about that/in a voice like that’. And for years I have wanted to write and illustrate a kids book.

But, despite a few ideas floating about in the sponge brain, I have never put anything to paper…until now.

As a visual designer it is often assumed, and you are often told, that you cannot do ‘The Words’. You are not to go near ‘The Words’. Like they are a holy grail eternally beyond our reach. That there is a magic password to get into the inner word circle. And you are denied you graphics type person.Step away and do not dare tweak. Edit at your peril. Suffer the consequences you visual wizard you.

However, I am a designer who also loves the words

Shock horror.

There is no reason I cannot like both worlds passionately. In fact, the writing has quite taken over for me lately.

I now class myself as something of a ‘Writer in Progress’ or ‘Writer Under Construction’. But I write. And I enjoy it. It has a certain cathartic energy to it. It gets the rumbling bumble of thoughts out of my head and onto paper. (Which is a good thing as 95% of things in there get forgotten within 60 seconds if not).

So how am I turning myself into a fully-fledged writer type, or at least a writer with a bit less construction and scaffolding?

Here are my tips

1. Join an accountability group

Whether it is a freebie such as Write52 set up by the genius that is Ed Callow, or a paid group such as Ignition by That Seems Important (run by the super glam and very wise Margo Arron), these groups are a great way to ensure you develop a regular writing practice and some great ideas to get going. Write 52 alone has encouraged me to try poetry, haikus, free writing, stream of consciousness and Q&A, in addition to getting me into a weekly blog habit.

Plus these groups provide you will a whole heap of supportive cheerleaders when you need reassurance that it is okay to just ‘word vomit’, to give you permission to write what you want (it seems many of us needed this), sounding boards and ear benders to regale with your content, and more experienced writers types to help guide your way.

Hopefully from these groups I will end up with some long term accountability partners too, providing some brains to prod when mine has gone to mush or imposter syndrome kicks my butt.​

2. Stalk those you admire

Network with copywriters (and I don’t mean at cheesy network events); find out how they learned their craft, the regular places they read about their craft, see who they engage with, the events they attend, follow their Twitter/LinkedIn/blogs, ask them the resources and tools they use and whatever else you can juice out of their fabulous fibres.

Look at their writing style, analyse why you find it engaging (equally look at those who don’t inspire you and carry out the same activity), ask their advice or even for feedback.

I have a number of blogs I regularly go to to check out their advice on all things blogging, writing, running a business, etc. Go check them out and follow on Twitter/LinkedIn.

Alice Hollis – So many tips for business and blogging which are practical and easy to implement. And a lovely lady too.
That.Content.Shed – great info on his website, and always lurking on Twitter with fabulous tips
Jo Watson – crackers, frank and sweary. This fine lady knows her stuff and provides humour in sharing it. And I hear something exciting and book like might be on the cards very soon…
Rose Crompton – some lovely tips on developing yourself, reflections on writing that make me chuckle and always there as a cheerleader for the #write52 crew.
Gem aka The 27th Chapter – such a breadth of info, from beautifully worded hard-hitting writing to some outright fun (who doesn’t need blog post about googly eyes).

And that is just the start – I spy a whole blog post on this alone.

3. Listen to podcasts 

I have been quite a late jumper onto the podcast bandwagon, only giving them a proper go in the last 18 months. I started with Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place and a podcast by one of my favourite bands, and as I enjoyed those so much I have gradually started to listen to industry podcasts.

My favourites so far are Being Freelance (podcast) and #HAMYAW (YouTube talk show) but I have also got All Good Copy and That Content Strategy on my shortlist to crack on with properly. It is a great way to receive recommendations from the top in their field, to gain inspiration and gather some tips and tricks.

And if nothing else it can give you a sense of company when you are working home alone.

4. Join a professional association

The one of choice for me was ProCopywriters. I am not a copywriter, but they do include those of us that do other types of writing for a living. They offer free webinars which have been great in expanding my knowledge of big players in copywriting, resources that I can take advantage of, and more. I have also signed up to CopyCon2020 after hearing glorious things about it in 2019.

5. Take advantage of free challenges

There are many free challenges regularly publicised on LinkedIn and Facebook, especially at this time of year as everyone sets their business intentions and makes resolutions for the new year. They are in anything and everything from creating content calendars, to perfecting your pitch and supercharging your website.

I have completed 3 myself in the last month and sat on the sidelines for 2 others. These challenges have really awakened me to some quite fundamental tips for my messaging and business promotion. I have since signed up to a paid mastermind mentor group for the one which I got the most benefit from.

Here are some crackers:

Lisa Barry and her Mission Led Content Challenge – (the group that I am now a paid member to). The 5 day challenge really opened my eyes to how to put myself out there, and be ‘courageously visible’ (Lisa’s mantra). If you feel like you are not selling your message in the right way, and you get all the icky feels about your website, go check her out. She will help you align your message.

Time Clare’s 100 Day Writing Challenge – a podcast, with writing exercises, only 10-20 minutes a day to commit. What’s not to like? A group of us have got together over on Twitter and are going to start this on 1st Feb – if you want to join, drop me a message.

6. Read widely

Not just books about the craft, though I do highly recommend those, but anything and everything. You can never expect to be a writer if you do not read widely.

Take in different prose, voices, viewpoints, lengths, cultures, translations, fiction, non-fiction, and even languages if your skills allow.

Reading is part of writing, writing is part of reading. You cannot and should not see them as separate entities.

Sounds obvious to many, but there are a surprising amount of people who ‘want to write a book’ one day but rarely actually pick up a book themselves, or only stick to one genre.​

7. Familiarise yourself with Content Design principles

This has single-handedly had a huge influence on my writing and drastically increased my awareness in how I am writing and has provided a surge in my confidence to write.

I never thought that I could be a writer of any kind, I was and still am a visual designer after all. And I have never been one for flouncy language. But working within content design principles has given me the confidence to write in my own voice, and to start putting it out there.

8. Give yourself permission to just write

This has been huge for me. A significant learning point I have taken from Ignition (see point 1).

Your writing doesn’t always have to have purpose, or for you to know where it’s going. If something is in you – get it out. It doesn’t have to be published, or ever have eyes on it. Get it all down. You can edit later.

It sounds daft to say we need permission to do this, but we often do. There are so many other things in life we feel we should be doing, but by giving yourself this permission, it makes you realise you are allowed to set time aside to just do the thing you want to do. To explore your thoughts, reflect, craft a story – whatever it is you want to write about.

As a result I have 4 different documents now in progress and open on my computer at all times:

  • A business related book.
  • A memoir of sorts.
  • A freewriting exercise. A first line came to me and I just wrote. I have no idea where this is going or whether it will ever get past the first chapter I have written. But I’m doing it.
  • Kids book ideas.

In summary, the best recommendation is to just get involved. Find what works for you. And practice, practice, practice.

Whether it is Twitter groups, Slack groups, Medium articles, journals, indie mags, guest blogs, giving feedback, taking feedback, trying a co-working space or event, collaborating, guesting on a podcast, joining Facebook or accountability groups, attending conference days, being part of mastermind groups… the opportunities are endless. Just dip your toe in and see what inspires you.

I still have to try some of these things myself, but from the contacts I have made, these have all been recommended. I have a Trello board of resources and ideas both tried and yet to be tried, and it is certainly needed to track everything.

In the words of my sister whenever we go shopping and she makes me try on every possible outfit despite my pleas of just wanting wine, cake and sleep “Try it, you never know”.