Strategies for becoming a successful writer

Many people experience writing challenges, but there are techniques and strategies that can help you overcome them

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The task of assembling words on a page that tell a coherent and engaging story can invoke fear in the heart of research students, nurses and academics. Despite the number of people who experience challenges in writing, it is often not discussed, in case it is perceived as a weakness.

Using strategies to overcome these challenges can be an important step in supporting people to disseminate their ideas to a wider audience and facilitating productivity and career progression.

Have a clear grasp of the end goal

The first step is to understand what you are trying to write and why. A clear grasp of the end goal helps you to focus. Finding examples of similar papers from the journal you are writing for will provide a structure and scaffold. Similarly, samples of comparable grant applications or policy documents can be beneficial.

Finding a mentor can provide guidance and help shape the work. Seeking out someone with expertise in the kind of writing you are trying to undertake can be invaluable.

Research supervisors can provide content and professional expertise. If support around the use of language, sentence construction and word choice is needed, engaging a writing expert could add value.

A major impediment to writing is getting those first words on the page. The key to successful writing is creating time and space to just write. Actively turning off electronic alerts, closing email, silencing the phone and closing the door can create that space.

Working with others can reduce feelings of isolation and generate group energy

Scheduling time in your diary, as you would any other task, can help to create a reminder of the legitimacy of the task and its importance.

'Shut up and Write sessions’, where people come together (virtually or in person) to spend time to write can also be powerful. Working with others can reduce any feelings of isolation and generate energy from the group productivity.

The only way that words on the page will become eloquent prose is to start writing and then review, rewrite, edit, seek feedback and revise. Like the Iceberg Illusion, we read the end product and seldom see the hours of work that precede polished writing.

To discuss writing for Nurse Researcher contact me at ehalcomb@uow.edu.au

Elizabeth HalcombElizabeth Halcomb, @LizHalcomb, is professor of primary healthcare nursing, School of Nursing, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia and editor of Nurse Researcher