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I May Have a High IQ – But I’ve Been Really Dumb – How I Learned to ‘Smarten Up’ With My Writing

If I had to summarize my previous writing norms and attitudes, it would boil down to having the wrong outlook on writing.


     Here are some thoughts that could knock you off your recliner and out of your pantaloons — like it did for me.

I had to humble myself. That’s hard!

It’s not that I believe I’m such a fabulous writer. I realize I’m not. I’m just learning what being a great writer really is.

I don’t believe a writer EVER stops learning.

I was arrogant about it. That’s because I thought I could write anything, for anyone, and ‘get by’ with my first attempts and they would scoop it up like I had won the PrizeGrab’s biggest granddaddy win.

I had a writer’s first introduction to the world of writing:

REJECTION

     The more I got of these, the more humbled I was. Something was wrong. With my writing. Oh heavens’…..with ME!?

Wait……could it actually………be….…me?

Swallowing my pride, what was left of it, made me do some introspection.  Which I hate. To the max.

So I ‘introspected.’  And here’s my story.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Awhile back I thought I could write a great essay in an hour.  That’s fairly quick. Too quick. Any really smart person knows an hour is just the START of the DRAFT of an essay.

I didn’t know everything about my English college writing assignments many eons ago, but I knew how to read and absorb it enough to write something good enough to get great grades.

My instructors always thought my essays were more than just passable. I got A’s.

I got smug.

Then I made a change of careers from writing and English, to nursing. Many things led up to it, which I won’t go into here. They say ‘cut out what’s not important’ so that whole paragraph is a goner.

I breezed through nursing school. Yes, it was tough. I relished it.

I ate up the stress of test after test. Loved it. It was a challenge. With all the other extraneous things in life going on (divorce, feeding two kids, daycare, no car, no place to live, unbelievable lack of finances) I still came out on top.

But now I realize something. I’m dumb. Yep, you heard me right. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

No, I’m not putting myself down. Not really. I have a smidgen of self-esteem. Just enough but not too much. Not enough to make me a conceited jerk. But enough to get me through life in a positive way and still keep smiling.

Then, as ironical as it is, my career did an ‘about-face’ and went from nursing back to writing.

I can no longer run up and down halls, patient to patient. At least not in my wheelchair and while on oxygen. Duh. ‘nuther boring story.

With introspection (ugh!), continued learning, and putting great education from AWAI through their Accelerated and Fundraising programs I have turned my ‘dumbness’ into using my brain and heart.

Getting back to my subject (smack me! I get distracted all the time) the dumb I’m talking about was my previous outlook on writing.

Here’s what I’d do.

Cutting Corners

I cut corners wherever I could find them. If they say it takes 20 hours to write a great article for a blog, I thought I could do it in an hour.

See how ‘smart’ I was?

Why? Because I didn’t want to think…..tax my brain.

There I go – cutting corners again. Take your time, think about what you want to say way before you even set down to write it on paper or put fingers to the keyboard.

It takes time to focus your mind, figure out what you want to say before one word gets written.

Don’t be –

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Faking It

Sometimes I didn’t even know the subject or meat of the matter of what I needed to write. So I faked it.

I thought I could get by on pretty words, filler words, and make a great post. Just lots of words, one after another. Make a sentence. Make another one. There, I now have a 500 word article. Fine. Send’er in.

Wrong.

I once wrote for one of those content writing mills. They needed 5 articles a day, 500 words each, on luxury automobiles. They named each post already and had the specific car for each. All I had to do was write about each one.

What do I know about luxury cars?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Peanuts.

So I thought “easy peasy” – I’ll just look each one up and filler up.

I spent a total of five minutes on each car researching. I needed to spend at least an hour on each one.

Did I? Nope. Five minutes each, tops.

Did it show in my articles?

You bet it did. So each article had to be edited. Heavily. But because they needed them so fast they kept me on to write more for them.

Being Lazy

Remember I said they already titled each article? Their titles sucked. No pizzazz. I should have reworded them. Brainstormed. Offered alternatives. Did I? Nope.

Why?

Because I was lazy.

And that’s also dumb. I could have suggested better titles. I know how to write killer headlines. But I just wanted to get it done. The lazy way. I could have written the balls off those headlines.

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Focus!

Another way I’m dumb? My mind gets distracted. I’m didn’t prioritize my content. I was thinking about other things.

How am I going to make next month’s lease payment? My credit card bill. Medical bills insurance didn’t cover, losing my little dog, Radar, suddenly.

I spend more time thinking about those issues and having conversations in my head about “it’s not life of death”……”can’t get blood from a turnip” (oh, I say that in my mind but have learned to cut out the clichés so just pretend that little phrase isn’t here, okay?).

These inner arguments are always in the back of my mind. I try to push them so far back they’re in Venice Beach. Where I’d love to be again.

To write great content, you need to focus on your content. Sounds simple. It may be simple, but it’s still hard. My mind wanders. Wait, oh my article. No, my rent. My article. Bills. Wait again! Write the article! Darn it, SheilaBunn, focus!

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Not Prioritizing Others

My worst dumbness? By focusing on other things, I didn’t focus on others. My content needed to help others, to change them in some way, some positive way hopefully.

If I were really ‘smart’……I’d find a way to help others, even if my writing is about a snail’s sex life in winter. I sure dunno’ how I’d have done it, but I needed to find a way.

By not considering my readers, I’m committing not just dumbness, but selfishness.

Dumb, dumb, dumb

Don’t Be Selfish

There, I admit it. I’m selfish. I need to keep my concentration on my readers and what I can do for them.

Helping others needs to be a main priority. Stop thinking about me, me, me. My wants.   My needs. Me – all the time, me.

People, helping others, should be in my mind, not ‘me.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had another 750 words for this article, but I had to trimm’er down.  Another tip for free?  Get used to losing a lot of your writing through editing.  Don’t fall in love with everything you write.  Folks don’t need to hear it all.

I hope this does help someone to ‘not do as I do.’

Don’t be a smarty pants, like me.

 

 

 

 

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Gary Grimes

Founder and President at Copywriter Brands, LLC
A former journalist who sold out for the less romantic but more sustainable world of online marketing, Gary created Copywriter Brands, including StuffWritersLike.com, to help writers connect with each other and the people who hire us—but also to reclaim his love for journalism and storytelling.
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May 4, 2000
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