Read, then write

Posted on February 08, 2021

We're BIG book fans at Clearbox, but the biggest fan of us all is undoubtedly Amy. 

Amy is an Account Executive at Clearbox, working on campaigns for Amazon, 3EN and some others we can't talk about just yet. She spends much of her day writing - be it press releases, media pitches, LinkedIn articles, Twitter captions...the list goes on. 

She's a big believer that to write well, you have to read well. Let her explain more...

You have to read before you can write

PR involves a lot of writing. Whether it’s short, snappy captions for social media, or longer thought leadership pieces that showcase the best of what your client can do, you simply have to get the content down on paper for anyone to hear about it. Not forgetting, of course, the humble press release amongst these literary endeavours. 

Writing is hard, though. As with any skill, it takes years and years of practice to hone the art, figure out what you want to say, and find your own personal style and tone. Even as an accomplished writer, I often find myself questioning what I’m doing or how my work sounds. I’m a nitpicker when it comes to proofreading, and I scrutinise everyone’s written content with an intensity that just isn’t necessary (I’m not good at spotting my own typos though…).

Whilst chilling out and letting the words come as they please is undoubtedly the best way forward, we’re all susceptible to editing as we go. If you don’t feel like your words have a natural flow, you’re going to be understandably frustrated. To qualm those fears and keep my writing skills sharp, then, I read. I read everything from literary fiction, mass market crime fiction (my current not-so-guilty pleasure), literary criticism, online news articles and blog entries - everything. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read if you want to be a better writer. You can attend as many writing workshops as you want, and have all the tools you’re supposed to need in your tool kit, and still not know what makes a good piece of work. 

You would be surprised how much good quality reading you can fit into your day, even if you don’t have time to sit down with a book in the evening. If you usually read the news in the morning, slow down a little bit as you do so. Consider why the journalist used a certain word and not another, think about who the audience is and what the piece is endeavouring to say. As you become a more critical thinker, you’ll subconsciously adapt a more thoughtful approach to how you create your own content. I really do think it’s as simple and as difficult as that.

If you really don’t have time, try listening to podcasts (the more scripted kind, preferably) or audiobooks. Do you enjoy the sentence flow or the cadences of the speech in a particular episode or chapter? Consider why that might be. What kind of punctuation is the host/author using? Do they draw your attention in with short sentences then provide more information in longer expositions? Do they use language or imagery that you particularly enjoy? If you want to write in a natural, candid manner, then listening is an incredible tool to help you accomplish your goal.

Even the most pragmatic, arguably boring writing requires some imagination, so consuming (and considering) as much written word as you can is extremely important. It’s easy for me to say, because I live and breathe books, but if you truly want to improve your writing skills, then you have to read. Simple, right?