There’s a lot that’s been made about the future of writing. We’ve come a long way from the days of quill and ink (sorry, Game of Throners).
And given that the way we communicate evolves minute-to-minute, the need for compelling content is huge.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Journalism is constantly changing, and your father’s newspaper is pushing up daisies. The way we access, absorb and share news can come just as effectively through a meme as it once did through a paragraph. For example, what’s a more memorable snapshot of Brian Williams? This? Or this?
But the power of the written (or typed) word remains. Onscreen or on paper, the way we describe our brands and connect with others will always – in some way – stay rooted in language. That’s because, in our line of work, there are two constant truths. People always want the news. And people love a good story.
Part of my job is to play up both sides; fortunately, I’m twisted enough to enjoy the challenge. Some of the best writers can be on top of their craft and while always finding ways to improve. Here are a couple of musings to think about along the way.
Less Is More
I’m not saying that 140 characters are all you need. However, it’s amazing how we can often say more with less. One of my favorite anecdotes for this goes back to h-h-h-high school, where my class would be tasked with cutting an essay’s word count in half. Writing is about getting your big thoughts down on paper first, then going back to reorganize. Most of us in communications don’t have time for that two-step process. But the key is to think about what’s most important before putting pen to paper.
Do You Really Talk Like That?
Admit it – we are all guilty of falling into the comfortable abyss of PR Speak. After all, who doesn’t want to see the below attached form to ladder up the request by EOD, ASAP in the a.m.? Consider this challenge: the next time you write an e-mail, take a moment to read it aloud. If you’d say it that way, hit send. But I’ll bet you change a couple of things first.
True originality exists, but almost all great ideas start with inspiration from another source. The more we see, read and learn, the more we subconsciously adopt and strengthen our own voice. The same principle applies to music or art. If you’re immersed in certain bands or visual artists, you may already have elements of their work in yours. Writing is no different. Pick a couple of bloggers or writers you admire and follow them often. Or, for the voracious writing geeks – and believe me, I’m one of them – check out Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Yes, that Stephen King.
Trust Your First Draft
Don’t spend all day dissecting your work. Sometimes the first draft – the one that comes from your gut – has some of the best gems that no amount of editing or reworking can improve. It’s the little things that can make a difference. For example, spotting the difference between “let’s eat grandma” and “let’s eat, grandma” is important.* But if you’re spending time on whether to call her “grandma,” “grandmother,” or even “grandmama,” you’re better off wrapping things up. Speaking of which, I should take my own advice. Happy writing.