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How to Write: a Guide for Visual Creatives

6 tips that will help you get over the fear of writing

Illustration: Rosie Barker

It’s an unspoken truth that designers aren’t keen writers. It’s almost as if all their creativity is being poured towards one direction only—the visual one—leaving them with no interest in the art of composing one word after another. That in itself is fair enough. After all, we’re not meant to pursue every form of creative outlet out there. However, things get complicated when we learn that it’s not a task avoided because of a dislike, but rather because of fear. And since our creative journey happens to include many situations in which we need to articulate ourselves in writing - our website, portfolio, CV and social media, to name a few - it can become an issue.

So, if being asked to write about yourself or your work makes you break into light sweat, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to share 6 tips that will help you when dealing with any copy-related task.

But before we dive in, a quick, very useful reminder: writing and design are more similar than you might think! These two disciplines ultimately have the same goal: to communicate a message and tell a story. In one you might be doing so by creating a layout and choosing the best type and color palette; and in the other by composing a paragraph that’s easy to read and makes sense.

Embracing this mindset can help eliminate the fear usually associated with writing, and as long as you’re able to acknowledge this, we guarantee that writing can become a skill you develop and weave into your creative life.

1. We are all writers

OK, so we’re not all published authors, that’s true. But we all engage with writing in our lives on a daily basis. Sending emails, texting family, commenting on a friend’s post on Instagram: these are all examples of writing. Don’t dismiss it as trivial, on the contrary, use it! Maybe your personal tone of voice is hiding there. Have a look at the way you write and take inspiration and guidance from there.

2. Can’t write? Talk!

If you struggle with the blank page and find yourself staring at the screen or notebook paralyzed with the idea of writing, here’s a fun trick for you to try. Get a good friend to sit with you, buy them a coffee, and just start chatting about whatever your writing task is about, making it into a conversation. You can either record your session and transcribe it later, or if your friend is up for it - have them write your words for you as you speak. This is a great little exercise to not only get some words on the paper without that dread, but also to make you realize how writing is very much within your reach as something you practice daily in talking.

3. Read aloud, edit, repeat

This is like a reverse exercise to the previous one: after putting things down in writing, you repeat them out loud. This is the best way to ensure your writing works and makes sense. While reading to yourself, it’s also easier to put yourself in the shoes of whomever your reader may be, and sensing to see if your writing fits your goal. Is everything clear? Does the order make sense? Who is my target audience and will they relate to what I’ve written? In the same way that you’d be your own critic for your designs and keep reviewing and perfecting them, do the same with your writing and edit and reiterate - write, read aloud, edit, read aloud, until you feel you have come to a good place.

4. Language is a form of personal style

No matter what your writing task is, you want to let your individual personality shine through in your text. It is your language that makes up your personal style and creates your tone of voice: choice of vocabulary, length of sentences and paragraphs, insertion of humor, etc. For example, using formal or complex jargon might seem like ‘the right thing to do’, but if that feels jarring, you might consider softening that and opting for other choice of words that feel more organic and true to you. When you’re feeling stuck and not sure how to approach a topic you need or want to write about, simply focus on getting the point across succinctly and in your own words. Authenticity will always feel right.

5. Simplicity for the win

It’s always better to have your text simplified rather than overly-complex. Eye-level, conversational copy, is so much easier to read and digest, and makes you accessible.

Try to avoid using extremely professional phrases that people outside your circle won’t understand. Same goes for buzzwords—just like trends, you shouldn't use them if they don’t work for you personally. Keep it concise and to the point, without repeating sentences or using synonyms just for the sake of sounding sophisticated.

6. It’s a work in progress

Luckily for us, most of the writing we’re doing nowadays is online, and therefore - editable. Whatever it is you are working on, remember that it represents you at this particular point in time. In the same way your portfolio is ever-changing and you’ll always be updating it, so is your writing. Don’t be afraid to make statements or have fun and experiment. Make whatever you are writing a true reflection of who you are and what you’re thinking at this exact moment in time. And when you change - that would change as well.


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