UAE’s Month of Reading: Valuable lessons that business owners can learn from writers

Entrepreneurs, just like writers, often face mental blocks during which they need to step back to get a fresh perspective

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Writing and entrepreneurship are the two things I am passionate about in my life. Though they may sound like completely different career choices, there are many similarities between the two. There are also valuable lessons that I learned as an entrepreneur from my writing journey.

Though I have written a lot over the years, I often face situations when my mind turns completely blank and I wouldn’t know how to start writing an article. I’d have a writer's block for days. But then I remembered advice shared by a fellow writer, who once told me to just turn on my computer and just write.

Entrepreneurs often feel stuck not knowing where to start. My advice is to start small but just do it. We have a saying in Arabic that goes: Makkah wasn’t built in a day. A couple of my friends have great business ideas. But their fear of failure stops them from taking the first step. I distinctly remember one of them saying how she was afraid of never becoming a successful billionaire so she’d rather not start a business at all.

When I first started out, I made so many mistakes that make me cringe when I reflect on my journey. I lost money, didn’t delegate and wasted my time. But these mistakes offered valuable lessons. They redirected me to the right path and helped me grow. This brings us to the importance of editing and accepting it as a part of the process for writers and entrepreneurs.

As a writer, my work gets edited countless times. I would work on an article, leave it, come back to it, and maybe delete it altogether and re-write it all over again. What a reader would read in a few minutes or so would have gone through a lengthy process of writing, editing, and researching.

Depending on a piece I am writing, I sometimes ask a fellow editor or a writer to have a look and give me their input. Before publishing my first novel, I approached close friends and fellow writers to read it and share their feedback . Their insights gave me an inside track on what my readers may like or dislike.

A business is also a work in progress. You edit it as you go with the help of mentors, fellow entrepreneurs or business experts, who serve as your business’s editors. In an ever-changing market, you need to accept editing as part of your growth journey. Sometimes you need to take a break to come back stronger.

Just like writers, entrepreneurs often face mental blocks. When the Covid-19 crisis hit last year, I faced a number of these. I would sit in front of my computer, feel helpless and literally not know what to do.

As a writer I knew that the best thing to do when facing writer’s block is to do something completely different or nothing at all. That's what I did. I engaged in other hobbies, took a break from work and enjoyed days doing absolutely nothing. That distance away from work helped me see the big picture, provided me with mental space to be creative and helped me to come back stronger.

As we celebrate reading this month in the UAE, borrow lessons from writers. Don’t be afraid to take the first step. Just start. You may not get it completely right at the beginning but that is what the editing process is for. Edit as much as you need and remember to take a break whenever you feel stuck.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi