Too Much Writing Can Make You A Worse Writer

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If you’re not careful, writing too much might make you a worse writer.

I don’t mean in the sense of the mechanics of writing.

We all know practice makes perfect when it comes to eliminating missed commas, smoothing out awkward cadence and unlearning misused words.

No – I’m talking about the terrible thing that happens when you fill your time so full of writing that it pushes out other critical parts of becoming a better writer.

Like learning.

I’ll admit it – in the frenzy that is trying to keep up with publishing schedules, market my business in new ways, stay in shape (which you think would be easier working from home) and maintain some sort of life away from the gym and the keyboard, I’ve spent markedly less time actually learning, testing and growing in my knowledge.

I’m not a martyr – just a guy who has taken on too much.

Has my work been worse?

That’s hard to say – though engagement numbers seem to have dipped.

And if I’m honest, I sometimes feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the idea barrel or looking for a fresh coat of paint on an old bit of knowledge.

To be healthy, growing and in love with what I do, I’m planning to try a few things:

First, I’m going to take more breaks. Go on vacation. Walk away from the keyboard. Put a gap in the ol’ publishing schedule. Come up for air, and stop feeling like I *must* publish.

Second, I’m going to schedule learning. All I really mean is set aside (and protect) time that’s purely for reading, testing and going on mental adventures. I need new experiences, new theories, new challenges and new ways of testing my mettle so that I can share them with my audience.

And finally, I’m throwing in some fun. Virtually 100% of my writing work right now is for profit. But while I do love writing website copy, landing pages and the odd blog post, I’ve got all sorts of passion projects (web comics, humor pieces and more) that I’ve back-benched in the name of making money.

I plan to dig some of those out.

Now I ask – not as an obligatory ending to my blog post, but because I’m seriously interested – for other career copywriters, what do you do to make sure you stay sharp?

Drop me a comment, or just shoot me a line @JoelKlettke.
I’m more interested in your insights than your vanity social metrics :)

People Only Know What You Tell ‘Em.

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There’s a pretty simple philosophy that I think more freelancers (and business people in general) would be wise to adopt: People only know what you tell ’em.

If that sounds sinister, it shouldn’t. I’m not suggesting you start lying to people or withholding crucial information.

I’m also not saying you should start blabbering your head off and tell people everything you think they should know.

There’s a balance.

But something both those just starting out and those who have been at it a long time forget is that people make a judgement call on your character, value, rates or talents based on the information available to them.

For example, new copywriters often feel sheepish charging more than a couple bucks for their work.

“I don’t have the experience to justify it,” they tell me.
“I launched my business this year,” they write on their websites.
“I’m new to all of this,” they confess in meetings.

Stop that.

Don’t tell someone you just opened shop, and they might never know.

Stay mum on the fact that you’ve never worked on this type of project before, and they’ll never second-guess your ability.

Never lie. 
But never sell yourself short or talk yourself out of a job.

Get over the irrational idea that people can read your mind. Stop broadcasting your insecurities to clients. Stop apologizing.

And screw paying your dues.

If you’re a one-year writer with a ten-year talent, there’s no reason to start from the bottom.

Because your client really doesn’t care how long you’ve been doing this – until you tell them.

And they don’t mind that you’ve never handled a project like theirs – until you make them nervous about it.

All they care about is whether or not you can do the job. That’s the only thing you need to prove:

“I can handle this.”

And as long as you actually CAN handle it, the rest is superfluous.

Sometimes, that means convincing yourself, too.

Present yourself like the consummate professional.
Design a brand that has no business looking as polished as it does.

Walk into that meeting like you’ve done this a thousand times, and show off your talents like you’re the best damn “________” they’ve ever come across.

Because until you prove them wrong, you are.

People only know what you tell ’em – so tell ’em something good.