The Write Stuff

  • Published
  • By Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lee
  • 92nd Medical Support Squadron
My son is 4 years old and starting to write his name and other words. He gets so excited writing for the first time that you cannot help but smile at his sense of accomplishment. Seeing him so happy and triumphant, I wonder what changes between this stage and adulthood when people seem to loathe formal writing. As a commander, I am often asked what skills my Airmen can develop to help me. One key attribute I tell folks I value is the ability to write. Since this does not come easy for most of us, I am providing a few thoughts I find effective when facing a writing task, should it be awards, decorations, memorandums or newspaper articles.

First, you need to actually begin. Perhaps the biggest problem we all encounter with a formal writing task is procrastination. The actual task of writing is never as bad as we think it will be--it is just getting to the point of putting some words on the page. Most of us will look for anything else to do rather than the dreaded writing assignment. Is the garage clean? Do I have laundry to do? When was the last time I updated my file plan? Try to eliminate distractions that will divert your attention from what you must accomplish. If you simply start the process, you will find the anticipation was much worse than the task.

Next, talk to your neighbor. Despite what we were all taught in school, it is highly advisable to get the input of others for your writing project. I never turn in a final product without someone reading and re-reading my material. The insights they provide often make me look at the bullet, sentence or argument in a totally different manner. There is nothing wrong with having someone help you when writing, even though you may have gotten in trouble for this in school.

Make sure you read, read, read. Reading well-written material is something I fear is waning in today's age of text messaging and electronic communications. I highly encourage you to read books (fiction and non-fiction), magazine or journal articles to see the different ways people express themselves. By reading, you are not only keeping your brain engaged, you are subconsciously putting thoughts, sentence structures and proper grammar together. As some remember hearing in their youth, "Reading is fundamental."

Finally, save your finished products. After you complete a written product, do not forget to save it. When you get a new task to write something, go back and re-read your previous products before you start. In this way, I am like my son who likes to trace his letters before he writes on his own. I find this particularly useful when preparing performance reports and decorations since there is a methodical process you follow to structure great impact statements. By looking at your previous products you get yourself in a mind-set necessary to be successful.

I hope these thoughts can help you get over the intimidating wall we all face when writing. Written products are the way we ensure our Airmen get the credit, accolades, and career advancement they truly deserve. You can help your supervisor, subordinates, and commander by striving to improve your writing skills. However, I need to stop writing now since I have to clean up after my son for having "too much fun writing" and began to use the table as his writing pad.