How writing is like swimming

Writing well matters 
Words are how we share information, motivate people, and get things done. It doesn’t matter what your job is, some of the time you have to write. If you can write well, you will achieve greater success.

As you look at the year ahead, you may have targeted writing as an area you want to improve. There are lots of online courses, night courses, and custom workshops designed to meet those needs. There are plenty of good books on writing also.

I’d like to tell you about an alternative I’ve decided to offer–personal coaching on how to write well. Although I’d been exploring the idea of creating a course or reference book, I’ve decided to begin elsewhere. I came to this decision after several months of thinking about how the skill of writing is learned.

Lessons from sport 
When it comes to learning how to write well, we’d do well to follow lessons from sports training. A swimmer doesn’t expect to show up at a race and win without having trained for the event.

A writer should also not expect to perform well without regular training and it’s not enough to show up for practices. The practice needs to be deliberate. An athlete identifies their strengths and weaknesses, sets clear goals for gradual improvement, assesses their ongoing performance, and keeps building their skills.

This requires effort and focus on performing the skill. It also requires keen observation of the skill being performed, and a wealth of strategies for improvement, not to mention encouragement and other sources of motivation.

A person can perform the skill and observe their own performance. They can even encourage themselves or seek encouragement from others. All of this is true. But having a coach lets a person focus more on the skill building side of things. This leads to bigger improvements sooner. That’s why almost every high-performing athlete has an experienced coach.

Deliberate practice in business writing 
We learn to write with clarity and persuasion the same way a swimmer learns to perform well. You can read dozens of books, attend workshops, and target writing as a skill you want to improve.

Until you engage in deliberate practice, your writing is unlikely to improve very much. This means understanding your strengths and weaknesses, having a specific plan for improving, and getting feedback on your performance.

The best immediate returns 
One challenge of using a textbook or course is the complexity of the skills included. There’s grammar and spelling, sentence length and paragraph construction, research and review strategies, style and tone. The list goes on.

It can be overwhelming to work on all the skills involved in writing at the same time. Besides, it’s more effective to focus on the skills that will give the best immediate returns. That varies, depending on your job and interests, as well as your stage of development.

Which skills should you improve now? 
The process of building stronger writing skills starts with an accurate personal assessment, not only of what you might improve, but also of what you’re doing well. That’s where a coach is especially helpful. An independent and objective observer can tell you things no one else will. Together, you can zero in on what will be most helpful now.

For example, you may want to build skills for:

  • Organizing your thoughts before you begin
  • Finishing the first draft
  • Deciding which information can be left out
  • Using the correct punctuation
  • Making technical information easy to understand
  • Persuading people to take action
  • Several of the above concerns or others not listed

Building skills deliberately 
By working with a coach, you can receive immediate and clear feedback, gradually increase the level of challenge, and reach your writing goals more quickly. Learning to write well takes time. There is no way to change that, but spending that time well is a matter of choice.

If you’d like to know more, please send me an email at The first consultation is free.

© Debbie Bateman 2018. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

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