Marketing Clutter Cleanup: Writing Habits to Break

Posted March 16, 2021 by Alyssa Stahr

Spring cleaning isn’t just for the household, and a new calendar year isn’t the only time we can start anew. Breaking bad habits can start today, and they can start with clutter cleanup to our writing. These five tips are a mix of pet peeves and habits that I’ve broken along my career, starting with a mindset switch.

Dump the Ego

Rejection letters, the editing process, the revisions: All of these that lend themselves to the writing process, craft, practice, whatever you want to call it can be blows to our psyche. Some writers are never satisfied with the final draft, never consider a writing project to be completely finished. Even I, who can be satisfied in the moment, will look back at something I wrote even just a short year ago and ask, “Whose shoddy work is this?” It’s our work, our words, our minds that we’re putting into the universe for (hopefully) millions of people to read. It’s humbling, and the ego is also a work in progress. Also a note for you editors out there: Yes, I know you’re used to finding mistakes. But, focusing on accentuating the positives, no matter if you’re editing the work of a seasoned professional or a new intern, can make a world of difference. 

Embrace Your Inner Casper 

Speaking of ego, I will never forget the pride that came with my first published byline. Yes, the one for my high school newspaper was amazing. But I’m talking about my first paid published byline. You mean to tell me I can actually get paid for all of this hard work I’ve put into school for the past 16+ years? It was highly satisfying. 

Fast-forward to the world of content marketing, social media, agencies, etc., where the collaborative writing process and farming out work is more commonplace. The fact of the matter is that more content is ghostwritten. It can be disheartening to write the best copy of your life or get a nationwide placement and have no one know that it came from your fingertips. But, let’s turn the lack of the byline into some positives. You’ve helped your client; maybe you received praise from your boss — after all someone out there knows you wrote it. And, you got paid — to write! It’s a tough, competitive field, and it’s a privilege that I certainly never take for granted. 

Don’t be Afraid of Paper

There was a time, OK my entire educational life, where I didn’t type. I wrote things down on paper. However, even now I’ve succumbed to the laptop, notes app and playing on my phone constantly when I’m even the slightest bit left with a yearning for entertainment. It’s sensory overload, and I am 99% sure that has lent itself to my insomnia. I dream headlines and even full blog outlines sometimes, and a clutter cleanup suggestion for myself in this blog is to have a notebook by my bed. I used to, and like most resolutions, it got tossed by the wayside. I use the notes app on my phone to write down nightly ideas, which forces me to turn the phone on and go down the rabbit hole of research, habits, deadline worry, etc. Full disclosure: I wrote the first draft of this blog on my notes app at 1 a.m. during an insomniac episode. But, having a notebook keeps me away from the phone. When I wake up, I find that writing down whenever inspiration strikes helps the words visually ooze out of my mind and onto the wait shelf for the morning.

Clean Up Your Act

Bad style and inconsistency errors are the biggest pet peeves of my job. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: My joy comes from the edit. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. But writing lends itself to the ego as mentioned above. It has its frustrations — constantly trying to be “fresh,” brainstorming new ideas daily, writer’s block, revision after revision. There are some days where writing just gets stale coming from my singular brain, but there is one thing that I can leave writing for: editing. And, with that comes an entirely new set of pet peeves. Misuse of the semicolon; not Googling people’s names and proper nouns; overuse of the exclamation point; using OK, ok, okay, Ok in the same document; and don’t even get me started on double spacing after a period. It’s archaic, people!!!!!! (See what I did there?) You could be the next great writer of our generation, but if your work is riddled with errors, inconsistencies and wrong punctuation, I’m automatically distracted away from the message and onto the mess.

Let Go of the Ego, Redux

Guess what? This isn’t creative writing 101. Save writing for yourself for journaling or your personal blog. You are a professional writer, writing for clients and the reader, and none of them is the same. Demographics, branding, style, voice and tons more all factor into your angle. Brainstorming sessions should highlight these facts, and your writing style should reflect who is on the other side of the screen more than yourself. With that being said, I believe that all writers still have an individual voice. Your personality can — and should — shine through in each word. Your education, including continuing education, and writing for fun can definitely help strengthen life on the professional side. After all, we writers love what we do for a reason. 

Tags: , ,


Let us know your pursuits. We’ll find the best way to get you there.