“A bored writer leads to a bored reader.”
I’m quoting myself, from one of my workshops for first-time authors. It seems obvious, but if you think about it, any time you’ve yawned into a book, it just didn’t vibrate with the energy of the author, it didn’t sparkle with their personality, it didn’t thunder with their passion or message. Whether your task is to write an article for your website, an email to a prospective client, or a larger project like a keynote speech or a book, you will have more success if you up your game.
There are 3 ways you can immediately start to improve your content, make it more engaging, and make it more fun for both you and your reader.
- Remember that you are writing from someone to someone.
“If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.” – Ray Bradbury
For your topic, ask yourself: What’s the angle that makes me intrigued?
What’s the potential upside of my reader exploring it alongside me?
Your best content will be of mutual interest, and of potential mutual benefit.
- Use (many) more stories, anecdotes, visuals, and metaphors.
For example, I received tons of good feedback on this short post which utilizes nature (an excellent source of inspiration) to make a point about good leadership:
Leadership includes being a good giraffe.
Obviously, we can see this analogy apply to looking out over everything going on around you, practicing an overview, “big picture” perspective. But also, a giraffe is incredibly perceptive. With an eye the size of a tennis ball which has seven lenses and slightly protrudes, their vision covers almost 360 degrees with clarity that allows them to see the movement of a distant blade of grass. When alerted, their neighbors take note: zebras and wildebeest watch the giraffe to get information and direction they may need. Coaching point: How well are you surveying the big picture, gaining clarity, and then communicating what would be most useful to those around you?
- Build your skills.
You are right—you do not need to be an English scholar or prize-winning writer, but just like anything else, the more you improve, the more confident you will feel about the task. You know to “sharpen the saw” in order to hone your skills to be a better communicator, manager, or leader, for example. Many of us attend classes, training and listen to expert speakers, knowing that success is tied to staying on the leading edge. In order to succeed in your goal to be persuasive, entertaining, or influential, invest in your writing skills. You can handle one manageable bite at a time and quickly see the impact that more skillful writing will have.
Here are 5 ideas—choose one and do your homework (Google is quite handy for this). Learn how to improve in that one area, starting wherever you are now. For example, to improve your writing, in general, read one book: On Writing, by best-selling author, Stephen King. (He’ll convince you to hate adverbs, among other key practices.)
- Learn the practices that the world’s best writers use. For general improvement, learn specific, small changes to make. (Recommendation: On Writing by Stephen King)
- Humor: for any topic, an infusion of humor will delight your reader. It’s not about becoming a jokemeister, it’s about giving a gift to your reader. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Even the smallest (appropriate) bit of humor will improve your content. (A book I enjoyed: How to Write Funny, by Scott Dikkers)
- Let technology help: an automatic grammar checker such as “Grammarly” provides much more value than the extra few seconds you’ll spend to use it. Another useful app is “Otter,” which records your voice notes. This helps your content by capturing those brilliant flashes of inspiration you have when you cannot sit down to write or type, but you can share to your phone and the app writes for you.
- Synthesize: draw on the wisdom of others, use your own personal experience as a catalyst, and give your readers original content they will appreciate as much as a cake baked by Betty Crocker herself. The ingredients aren’t so unique—it’s the way you put things together and create something you know your reader will love.
- To quote Josh Bernoff, author of Writing Without Bullshit, “say what you mean.” Fear can poison what you write. It can destroy clarity and dilute your message. Practice writing boldly.
Which of these appeals to you as a starting point? Share an example with me Barbara@Barbara-Dee.com where you improved a piece of writing from “asnoozing” to “arousing.”