Yesterday, I discovered a hard truth. For a brief period of time, I'd lost my writing mojo. Truth be told, I didn't even know it. It took a pretty simple, straightforward post to bring me back into the land of obvious. It came from Jeff Haden's Owners Manual column on Inc.com (excellent column, to follow, by the way). The post was titled "10 Ways You Should Never Describe Yourself." According to Haden, the words "Passionate," "Unique," and "Motivated" should never show up in your professional bio. Uh-oh. Mine had all three. And I'd just published my website, with what I thought was an awesome bio!
I re-read it and discovered I was dead wrong. Not only was it boring, but when I asked myself these two questions, quoted from the same post,
"Do you use hacky clichés and overblown superlatives and breathless adjectives?"
"Do you write things about yourself you would never have the nerve to actually say?"
... my answer was yes. Here's just a sample of the old one:
"As the sole proprietor of Morris Media, I aim to provide quality content development, writing, project management and editing that satisfies your business’ editorial, marketing and/or advertising needs."
"I believe in applying the best in creativity, professionalism and a unique understanding of branding and editorial voice to every project. I pride myself in delivering quality projects on deadline and on budget. I bring a passion for high-quality, engaging writing and design to every project I undertake. I turn your communication goals into useful, reader-focused ideas and solutions."
How about now?
There's more, but I won't bore you with the rest.
The truth is, I spent a lot of time crafting this bio, and I was proud of it. The fact that it was probably at best, boring, and at worst, ineffective wasn't even on my radar screen.
Situations like this are scary for writers and editors who live to make good content. But I'm here to tell you it happens to all of us. Here's how to fix it:
1. Accept it.
The idea that your precious copy is less than stellar may come from a nagging voice inside your head or from an honest editor. Whatever the origin, accept the facts. Your work needs a re-do.
2. Figure out what's lacking.
Is your copy unexciting, riddled with overused words, jumbled, too descriptive or not descriptive enough? If your inner voice can't figure it out, send it to someone honest who can identify its weak spots.
3. Find some inspiration.
A freelance colleague of mine has a really well-written portfolio site. Her words really evoke who she is and what she does. Reading hers gave me unspoken permission to bring mine out of the depths of corporate speak and back into the world of unique work where it belongs. Read someone else whose work you know to be reliably good, then compare it to yours. You'll see what's lacking and discover how to fix it. You're a good writer! It's not like you don't know how to do this. You just forgot it temporarily, remember?
4. Fix it fast.
The quicker you revise what you've written, the better you'll feel. Trust me. I pondered my weak bio long enough to walk the dog, run a few errands and take a few meetings before changing it. I put it on my list to tackle this weekend, thinking I'd feel better. I didn't. It lingered until way after dinner. But once I changed it (late into the night), it felt like a weight had been lifted.
5. Use your instincts (and ask a friend).
Keep at it until you feel you've really gotten it right. If you're a seasoned writer, you can usually tell in the end when your revised copy has hit the mark and when it hasn't. If you're stil not sure, ask someone else to edit it again.
6. Prevent further mojo loss.
If you self-publish on blogs, websites or in other media, consider asking a trusted colleague to trade work with you frequently. You can help each other by giving a second eye to what you write when you're not sure if it's making the cut.
7. Check your pride at the door.
Never let ego get in the way of a re-write. Accept that your work will need it from time to time.
8. Don't be too hard on yourself.
The best writers have editors for a reason. Keep the good ones close and seek their help often.