When I wrote my first personal reference letter of recommendation I didn't know where to start. It was pretty challenging...and now that I'm older you'd think writing reference letters comes easier. Well, it does - sometimes.
Other times my computer screen is the equivalent of a gigantic blank page that gets bigger as the minutes go by. And when I'm in my worst state of "I don't know what to write" frame of mind minutes seem like hours. Now, I'm not talking about writing a 1500 word article or anything daunting like that, but a simple 3 - 4 paragraph letter.
I've discovered that no matter how much I improve as a writer, there are times when I struggle to write even simple things when I can't give it 100% of my attention, which seems to be pretty often these days. So, to compensate I collect letters, flyers, newspaper inserts, magazine articles, etc and put them in what I call a "swap file" - physical paper as well as e-documents that I store in my computer.
And when I start writing something from scratch I'll pull them out and scan the headlines and content for to trigger new ideas. This process works well for me and sometimes I amaze myself. For example, I recently leafed through some flyers about healthcare and an article about resume writing and ended up writing a dynamite personal recommendation letter for a friend.
What does creativity have to do with reference letters? Everything! I don't know about you but the last thing I want to do is give a boring letter of recommendation to a friend who's competing with scores of others for a few job openings. If I did that I they'd be better off without my letter.
Another thing that I do to improve my letter writing skills is gather and collect writing tools, templates and forms. In total, they inspire and help me save lots of time while achieving outstanding results.
So, if you need to write a reference letter for a friend do them a favor...write something interesting that can help them distinguish themselves from people they may find themselves competing against. The alternative is to not write anything at all, but what kind of friend would you be if you did that?