It is possible to learn how to write to inspire
Some of you’ve heard me talking about this recently at a couple of events, so I thought it would be helpful to share this quick guide. As always, none of this is rocket science but it does take a bit of practice. So if you want to write in a way that inspires your readers, here are 5 1/2 things to work on:
1. Write about what you’re passionate about. And let your passion shine through
For most of us that should be easy. We’re small business owners, living the dream and doing what we love. So why doesn’t it happen?
Well firstly, many of us feel constrained and inhibited by what we learnt at school. We were taught it has to be formal. Remember those rules; never start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, so), sign off using ‘yours sincerely’ and don’t use contractions ( cannot not can’t). And (did you see what I did there) if you’ve spent time in a corporate position or profession, the importance of formal writing was probably drummed in to you even more.
The result is that there’s a great big swathe of us who have formal writing as our default setting. It feels professional and right and you feel like you have to be professional when you write for your business. I get it. I’m half lawyer remember and formal is my middle name.
It’s also sometimes a bit of a confidence thing. The formality of our professional self is a mask and to drop it and be the new, reinvented, passionate you, can be nerve wracking. I get that too. There’s no easy fix, you just have to take a leap of faith and give it a go.
Good news alert
You’re allowed to be informal!! In fact, it’s really important that you are (unless your target audience is terribly formal) . You want your writing to feel conversational and warm, and when we talk, we break all sorts of grammar rules.
Know your rules of grammar and then feel free to play around with them. I love using “and” at the beginning of a sentence, and it often gives back some of the rhythm you lose when you use short sentences. And as I’m always saying, use the word “you” instead of phrases like “our clients” and it automatically helps.
If you struggle with being informal and finding your passion, try recording yourself as you explain to friend what you do over a bottle of wine, to capture some of your enthusiasm. Listen to yourself when you’re talking with excitement or just try a 5 minute rant into a Dictaphone about how brilliant what you do is. When you write your first draft, write it as you spoke and then just tidy it up when you edit.
Still struggling to find your passion?
I always think it’s hard to get excited when you write about what are often dry and sometimes technical features of a product or service. But if you make sure you think about benefits, then things start to warm up a little. How will your service change or improve my life? Tap into that and you may just find your passion. I can get really excited about saving someone time and making things a bit easier for them because I also know little things like that can make a big difference.
But don’t get carried away
There’s a big difference between writing with passion and loading your writing with words like fantastic and amazing. Try to be genuine and accurate. Rather than say something is huge, say it’s 50 foot high. Ask yourself if it really is the most amazing and innovative product on the market or is there a more precise way to describe it? I’ll write more about this next week but remember, adjectives and adverbs are not your best friend, so don’t let them slip into your writing uninvited.
2. Write with personality
I’ve blogged about this before. Now I want you to invest some time in thinking about your writing style and personality. Think beyond the obvious. Nearly every one I’ve ever asked has told me they’re fun but professional. Go deeper.
Have you got a dark sense of humour? Are you odd? What makes you mad or worried? What personality traits do you have? Are you modest, flamboyant, selfish, giving, volatile? Are you a little risqué? Strip yourself bare and see what you find.
It takes a little time to get this right. But once you’ve nailed it, embrace it. When you write in your true voice (sorry, I’m going a little woo woo here) …you’ll get that core following.
3. Know your reader
Hand in hand with knowing yourself, goes knowing your reader and I’ve blogged about that recently too.
Why is it so important? Because when you really know your reader your writing possibilities are thrown wide open. If your target love making cakes at the weekend you can use cake and ingredient analogies and images. If they use certain risqué language, you can be a little risqué too.
It’s all about speaking the same language and finding the things that inspire and motivate your readers. Crack that and you’re cooking on gas!
4. Tell stories including your own failures
There’s more and more evidence about the psychological importance of story telling. Stories are compelling – we instinctively want to know what happens next. But they’re also extremely memorable. And the best stories of all? Triumph over adversity of course and that puts you in a great position.
In your journey, you’ve undoubtedly made some mistakes, got it wrong or had to regroup and start again. If you haven’t, then you probably have clients that have. These form the basis of some inspirational and memorable stories that also provide valuable insights into what not to do for your clients!
Use them and celebrate them because you’ve probably got more material there than you realise. I’ve made lots of mistakes and when I share them, I save my readers the agony of making the same mistakes as well as remind myself never to do it again.
5. Give them an easy action point…just one thing to help them on their way
With all the excitement and passion, it’s easy to throw lots of info and advice at your reader, especially if you’re following my mantra of “give them something useful, that they need or want to know”.
But wait a second. As you painstakingly craft that 75 point blog post, crammed with useful tips, be careful not to leave your reader feeling overwhelmed. I do it all the time because I get so excited about sharing.
If that sounds like you, make sure you take a moment at the end of your post and give your reader just one easy and do-able action to help get them started.
5 1/2. So what’s the 1/2 point?
Well it’s less of a point and more of an important reminder. And it’s simply this…follow up! If you’ve given your reader one easy action to do at the end of your last post, in your next one, ask how they’re getting on. Did they have any problems? What were they? Can you help? It keeps the conversation going and helps them to achieve what you’re trying to help them with. All in all, a bit of a win, win.
So what’s my action point for you, I hope I hear you say? Easy. I want you to go through the last thing you wrote and take out any unnecessary words. Remove any “innovatives, comprehensives and fantastics”. Just strip them out and notice how it changes your writing.
In keeping with this month’s copy update, next week I’ll share George Orwell’s 6 rules of writing. But in the meantime, remove any unnecessary or long words and keep it simple and clear. Then and only then, you can work through the above steps. Good luck.
Until next week, keep warm and drink plenty of wine.
PS. Sorry that was a long post, thanks for sticking with it!