Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Does Your Writing Lack the Conviction It Deserves?

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From Jeff: This is a guest post by Ben Reed. Ben is on staff at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN.  He writes on, leadership, church growth,  and social media on his blog, BenReed.net.  You can connect with him on Twitter @benreed and Facebook.
Writing with Conviction

Photo credit: Phineas H (Creative Commons)

Nobody wants to put blank, emotionless words on a screen. And nobody wants to read them.

We all want to write with conviction.

Right?

So why do we — communicators and poets and artists — lack the confidence in words to express the truth? Why does our writing often seem powerless?

Maybe we’re afraid.

Why we write

We write, because we’re compelled by a dream, inspired by the Muse to create great art.

To change — that’s why we write.

To connect with people’s hearts and compel their hands to move. To help the world see through new lenses. To captivate our audience with beauty.

The problem is we stumble over our own feet.

The words that should convey hope and meaning end up holding our writing hostage.

Our words don’t inspire change. In fact, they inspire very little.

It’s hard to have convictions

Writing with conviction is hard, but essential to making a difference with your words.

And if you want to start, there are certain oft-used phrases you should always avoid. Here are a few:

  1. “I was thinking about…”
  2. “Here are my thoughts on…”
  3. “In my opinion…”
  4. “The way I see it…”
  5. “I think…”

Of course you were thinking about it. Of course these are your thoughts. Of course it is your opinion. No need for the small talk. Just get on with the idea.

When you lead with one of these phrases, you rip the conviction right out of your idea.

When you tell me, “I think…” you diminish the impact of everything that follows.

“The way I see it…” makes me think nobody else sees that way.

If you want me to see it the way you see it, just start sharing the truth. Convince me you’re right, not because “it’s my opinion,” but because you really are right.

How to give your writing more power

It’s time that your writing had the potency it deserves.

Start by getting rid of the wimpy phrases. No more frail, weak words.

Instead of saying, “I was thinking about donuts the other day and how wonderful they are…” say, “Donuts are amazing, because of their sugary, fatty goodness.”

Instead of saying “here are my thoughts,” just say what you think.

Eliminate phrases like “I think” or “In my opinion” and just get on with it, already.

By getting rid of these subjective phrases, you change the force of a sentence. The challenge, then, is to use the blank space that follows to prove your point and drive home your idea.

Every reader has an opinion. They’re reading your work because they want yours. Or they’re waiting to be convinced.

There’s no point in telling them what they already know: that this is your opinion. And no need for the self-doubt.

So get on with it already. Take a minute and look through what you’ve written lately. Anytime you see one of the above phrases, delete it. And replace it with something more powerful, more confident.

And watch as the impact of your writing grows.

Do you write with conviction? What are some other phrases to avoid?

*Photo credit: Phineas H (Creative Commons)

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

    Sigh… I think I am guilty.  Oh, wait, let me rephrase that.  I am guilty.  Thanks.  Just went back and took the phrase “I believe” out of my most recent post. 

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Well done, Eileen…I like it!

  • http://www.caitlinmuir.com Caitlin Muir

    Spot on. 

    We’re addicted to commitment-phobia. Stuck in the Peter Pan mode of playing at writing, without ever rolling up our sleeves, growing up, and writing like adults with messages to tell the world. Instead, we play with our ideas like fairies, afraid that if people don’t applaud our writings, our Tinkerbell will die. 

    It’s time to grow up. Thanks for the swift kick in the pants. 

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      “We’re addicted to commitment-phobia.” Well said, Caitlin.

      I’m tired of fairy-ing around, too.

      It’s tough, though, I’ll confess. Positive comments feel great…negative comments still sting. 

      No more chasing shadows (ala, Peter Pan). They just flee when the lights come on.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      excellent. have you read http://goinswriter.com/commitment-phobia/ ?

      • http://www.caitlinmuir.com Caitlin Muir

        Just did. You’re right. There are some things that require the slow+steady pace. 

        Keep writing, Jeff. You have no idea how many people you’re inspiring. 

  • http://twitter.com/shellyfaust Shelly Faust

    Great advice. Thank you. Moving forward, leaving self-doubt and wimpy phrases behind.  :)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Shelly. I’m leaving them, too!

  • http://twitter.com/croyseniles Christine Niles

    I’ve been working on this over the past few months.  The hardest thing for me is finding a balance between being too weak and yelling at people.  I particularly struggle with this when I write about things that outrage me and that should outrage others.  Yelling at people won’t work…I need to get better at compelling, motivating, and inspiring.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      You’re right, Christine. Courageous writing doesn’t have to be mean. It must be compelling, motivating, inspiring, and honest. 

      At times, it may outrage. But instead of creating outrage, I’d rather create the response that says, “Me too!”

      • http://twitter.com/croyseniles Christine Niles

        Thanks, Ben, for reframing this for me.  The more I think about it, the outrage seems to come out of frustration and helplessness.  Perhaps if I shift my focus to bringing readers along as I’m taking action, the “Me too” will come?

  • http://profiles.google.com/lialondon.g Lia London

    “The words that should convey hope and meaning end up holding our writing hostage.”  Love that line.  I’ve given the advice about not using wishy-washy sentence starters so many times over the years.  You’re dead on right about the impact it takes away from a statement.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Lia. I can only assume you have a beautiful message to share. Don’t let your words hold that message back!

  • Anonymous

    “Every reader has an opinion. They’re reading your work because they want yours. Or they’re waiting to be convinced.”

    Absolutely, Ben. 

    But do I believe it and put that out there whether in spoken or written words? Too often I preface my opinions in an asking-for-permission manner with the hope that they may be more easily and readily accepted, when instead I find that the opposite occurs. 

    Writing amplifies this. For the reader this wishy-washy-ness is more easily bared. But unlike once spoken, I can go back; edit, learn and refine. Gonna re-check those blog posts.

    And give my wimpy words a workout.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Good stuff, Garry. 

      If you’re confident that what you’re saying is the truth, then don’t leave any wiggle room. If you’re not confident that what you’re saying is the truth, then…why write it at all?!?

      Give those words a workout. Smack them around a little. Don’t let them muddy your message again!

      • Anonymous

        Operative word: confident.

        Thanks Ben. I’ll take ‘em out to the woodshed.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I used to write using phrases like “I think…” And you’re right. That doesn’t speak from a place of confidence. I think the reason we do it is our inner critic is scaring us. It’s making us question whether what we’re writing is truly good enough. 

    But here’s the thing… People want to learn what you have to teach them. Period. So teach them. But do it using a confident voice. Otherwise, it might sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      good call.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Can I quote you?

      ” I used to write using phrases like ‘I think…’ …a place of confidence. I think…” 

      No more “I think”s! Try it this way:

      “One reason we do it is our inner critic…” I like that much better, Ricardo. That’s more powerful and convicting and piercing.

      Use that confident voice, my friend. Use it well.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    Every blogger/writer goes through moments in time in which they don’t have faith in their words. The question is whether they let that become the norm or the rare exception.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      this is true. well said.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    Blogging forces you to cut down your content so you get your idea across in as few words as possible. Many, many of the things I cut out are what you mention above.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      You’re right, Grayson. But the problem is two-fold: 

      1. The frequency of the posts (for many, this is daily) cause us to slip in weak words and phrases. We just aren’t always as critical of our own writing because we’re more concerned about consistently posting content. 

      2. We don’t all have the luxury of an editor. In fact, very few people have editors for their blog. Which means weak words and phrases can slip through the cracks.

      Sounds like you’re on top of it, though. Keep up the good work then, Grayson!

      • http://aparchedsoul.com Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

        Definitely agree. Those are good points. The frequency factor for sure. And I didn’t mean that I have it down pat. That’s certainly not the case. I always find it eye-opening to realize how much of what I said is not actually necessary to get my point across.

        Thanks again Ben. 

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    Seriously good article. Never thought about the way I do that. If I don’t believe in what I’m saying, how will my readers? 

    Thanks for the post.. 

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      You bet, Sundi Jo. Glad it was helpful!

  • http://www.robshep.com Rob Shepherd

    Nope. In my opinion I am a wimpy writer. This post was like steroids for me. I hope I can become a stronger writer because of it.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

    I think it has a lot to do with our desire for approval. Weak words are a way of hedging our bets. Writing with conviction requires us to be vulnerable. Thinking about why we write in the first place will have a tremendous impact.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Yes, I think I write with conviction. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      maybe

  • http://www.sugarpinerealty.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I am of the opinion that I like this post ;P

    In all seriousness, message taken :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I think I like it, too. ;)

  • http://www.justinhayslett.com/ Justin

    Great practical advice. 

    Writing with conviction. The best way…just had to catch myself from saying I think… 
    Let me start over. 

    One of the most amazing ways to impact lives is through writing. Martin Luther says, “You want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” 

    The key writing with conviction is having the conviction that your words can divinely illuminate off the page, plant itself in the heart, and result in lives utterly changed forever. 

    Think on that as your fingers caress the keyboard and you begin to type words that will potentially result in transformed lives and you won’t be able to not write with conviction.

    Thanks Ben for the article.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      love that Luther quote, Justin!

  • Bob Holmes

    Thanks Ben.
    I rewrote this post (1.5 hrs.) In light of what you’ve said. I trimmed it down to fighting weight. http://www.christtribe.com/how-to-read/
    I value your comments.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      just read it, Bob. very strong. great formatting, too. easy to scan. good flow.

      • Bob Holmes

        Jeff, Thanks for your comments.  You’re the best!

  • http://twitter.com/SpeakOfMarriage Lemuel Jones A.

    LOVE IT! This is confirmation to me. I’ve been battling with this very notion of “In my opinion” and have always felt queasy about it since, duh, I’m writing – whose else is it? Thanks for writing this post with conviction. :-) Off to go and edit my posts.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i have to catch myself saying this, as well.

  • http://marjoriepoff.tumblr.com Marjorie Poff

    Thank you for writing a convicting post.  I am going to be more thoughtful about the words I use before they are typed or come out of my mouth. 

  • http://FollowingJesusSucks.org Shon Ridenour

    I just wrote my most “convictions” oriented post yet, and it’s quickly becoming my most read post.  It’s about being addicted to feeling better. I’m positive that if I had used “I think” or “in my opinion,” etc. – I would have killed it – dead! No one would have cared. Writing AND living with conviction is absolutely necessary!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      link?

  • http://www.blogger.com/home Vinod Sailes

    The term ‘Conviction’ is generally applied to mean an unwaivering and static mental decision which ought to balance from every view point. That is to say, a person who is capable of providing a convinced reply would have balanced every angle to arriving at a fixed answer that would have done justice to both or even third party.

    However, conviction would need to be from a personal angle and not engaging different views of different people. A person of conviction would have a judgement which would promote equal justice to either of the parties.

    Conviction is developed through selfless and decisive approach to problems of every day life. It denotes to a great extent a peaceful solution acceptable to all which over which there ought to be no conflict.

    Conviction is very constructive and eruditious analysis of life related issues and problems which allow balancing the pros and cons of every angle prior to finalisation of one’s view.

  • Carol Ann DeSimine

    As an editor with a PR background who was taught to write tightly without useless phrases and words, I really dislike “in order to.” Just say “to” . . . And then there’s “unique” which is a very overused word. We’re all unique in some ways and yet we’re all the same in many ways, so “unique” to me really has no meaning. http://www.mybigeyemedia.com

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