Writing is hard. I’ll admit it’s not easy and it’s painful trying to get the words just right.

Years ago, at a migrant student leadership conference I was nominated by my peers to represent them and I wrote a speech. It was the first time that I had written anything coherent. I ended up winning the nomination, long hair and all, and sat on a board with the state superintendent. It built confidence.

At Skagit Valley College, I would write agendas and minutes for our club, and petitions for the college president. Through time I got better at writing, but form follows function, and apparently everyone understood my minutes. It built confidence.

After Oregon State University I felt really prepared for the real world. After all, it’s a bachelor’s in political science. But then in the summer of 2003 I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, began drafting my articles for an international audience and it looked as if a pig died on my papers when they were returned from the director’s office with the words, “incomprehensible, irresponsible…” This builds confidence.

In the Army, we have a saying. It’s called KISS or keep it simple stupid. It’s really quite remarkable. That whatever is written should be understood by everyone on the team.

I’ve found through the years that the more I write, the more I read, the more I observe other writers work, the more I understand what mattes and what doesn’t. It doesn’t just take practice, or commitment, it takes the courage to put yourself out there. Fear of writing and putting yourself out there for criticism is the number one deterrent for becoming a better writer.

When I’m stuck writing, I don’t Google it, or get back on Instagram, but remember the sage advice, “paint the picture.”