Charity Digital – Themes – How to Create a Culture of Writing

Writing matters. Whether you’re writing internal strategies read by ten people or social media captions read by a million people, the quality and clarity of your language is essential.

Accurate writing captures people’s attention and drives them to action. Clumsy handwriting leaves people cold.

If you want a team full of strong writers, you need to create a culture that supports, recognizes, and celebrates great writing. Here’s how.

Create a space for writing

To become a better writer, you must write more. But many of us struggle to find the time between endless meetings and small but urgent tasks.

Writing is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

We often think that we need big chunks of time to progress in our writing. We don’t.

“Research shows that [people] who write daily publish far more than those who write in large blocks of time,” says Robert Boice in How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure, a book that studies writing habits.

Make it regular

Writing little and often is the best way to create a routine, build confidence and make writing part of our identity.

Boice’s study of top academics found that the most productive writers took time out to write each day.

If writing every day isn’t realistic for you, try once a week.

Write fast, edit slow

Write more words, write them faster, and no matter what, don’t worry about their quality. You can edit later.

Enter a state of flow. It helps keep your inner critic at bay.

John Swartzwlder, a legendary Simpsons writer, shares this tip:

“Since writing is very difficult and rewriting is relatively easy and quite fun, I always write my scripts as fast as possible, on day one, if possible, inserting some shitty jokes and model dialogues. Then the next day when I wake up, the script is written. It’s ugly, but it’s a script. The hard part is done. All I have to do from then on is fix it. So I took a really hard job, writing, and turned it into an easy job, rewriting, overnight.

Discuss good writing

“Speak out loud about writing,” says Nick Parker, writer and founder of language strategy agency That Explains Things. “Writing is such a solitary and personal act. Making it more common and shareable is the key. Create a “bring and share one thing” meeting, for thirty minutes each week.

“Staff can share examples of good things they’ve seen and say why they like them. It’s especially important to share good things, because writing is one of those things where it’s much easier to criticize than to praise.

You can also set up a dedicated group chat or Slack channel for people to share great writing examples. Don’t just look at other charities, include branded texts, news articles, literary fiction…anything that shows the art of writing.

Fuel the imagination

Use writing prompts to fuel people’s imaginations.

Whether you’re writing together in a meeting room or at home at your own pace, encourage the whole team to take on the same creative challenge.

  • If your charity supports older people, you can ask everyone to write a speech in the tone of voice of a young child.
  • If you work for an environmental charity, you can write an appeal from the perspective of a bog, a tree, or a blade of grass.
  • If you work on justice reform, you could write a story about a world without prisons

Flip the script to write outside of your usual topic, format, and tone of voice.

Creativity often strikes when you step out of your comfort zone.

Give people flexibility

To develop a writing habit, you need to show up for a regular practice. It means sitting down to write once a week, or once a day, and doing it whether you feel like it or not.

But when you’re delivering writing work — like writing copy for a new website, annual report, or social media campaign — it pays to be flexible. Give yourself and your team permission to do the writing in a way that suits them.

“Writing doesn’t always happen near a pen or keyboard,” says Laura Sugden Clarke, Senior Concept Writer. “It’s just a fact. So taking a long shower to think things through, going for a long walk, or sitting down with another writer and sifting through ideas on a cake is all about writing. Everything counts. It’s work. Just make sure you have some sort of device nearby so you can keep track of anything that comes up.

Read, read, read

You won’t become a successful writer without being a reader.

Schedule time to read in your calendar. Whether you think of it as ongoing professional development or a break from your main job, reading at scale is one of the best investments you can make in your own writing.

Read in your own field of work and far beyond.

Treat reading like food for your writing brain. You won’t produce great writing without it.

“Read, read, read,” said William Faulkner. “Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You will absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll know it. If not, throw it out the window.

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