Writing advice from my fairy godmother
Can I let you in on a secret?
The gravel is muddy, messy, pothole-y, and I'm sludging through the slush, happy to see dirt and earth poking through the snow. The air has that familiar Minnesota-spring warmth to it that puts the entire state in the mood to listen to country music, even though we're nowhere near cutoff jeans season. My dog Wilson is pulling me like a sled dog and coughing dramatically from the tension he's putting on his collar. We're almost to the park; almost to the place he knows he'll get to run freely.
^ Feel like you can picture that moment?
One of my favorite prose writers (AKA my fairy godmother) Shauna Niequist said her best advice to fellow writers is to “pay attention to everything, notice everything, and practice describing it all in great detail.”
That advice is familiar for journalists and those in the creative writing space.
But I also think this piece of advice will greatly benefit you.
Can I let you in on a secret that should help you feel more confident the next time you do have to write something for your business?
Good writers aren't that creative. They're actually just really good note-takers. They're excellent observers. They're good at asking questions.
When I was a journalist, my colleagues and I would often say we were “writing” an article, when in reality, we were in the process of interviewing several people and taking notes. That was the hard part; once our notes were complete, the writing came easily; almost flowed from us.
So if you feel, as a solopreneur or small business owner, that you're not qualified to write your own stuff… Yes you are (if you have the capacity).
Start taking good notes now so you have information to draw from when you need it.
If you're in a meeting with someone who just signed a contract with you, write down why they decided to work with you. Pay attention to their pain points. Ask how they're feeling about working with you.
If you're at the store and you see an item on the shelf that reminds you of why your product is better, pause and write it down.
If you're at a networking event and your coworker just gave the best elevator pitch you've ever heard, ask her to repeat it and then write it down.
The most successful work I do for my clients comes almost verbatim from their mouths first; all I did was capture it in my notes. They're always thrilled when I put into writing what they've already verbally processed through meetings with me.
So take good notes, and the writing will take care of itself.
Because the details matter.
As Shauna wrote this week: “Here's to the details, to living as a noticer, to choosing to believe it all matters, because our lives matter – the big and the little, the wild and the mundane, the dreams and the snacks, the whispers and the howls and the whole big thing. It all matters.”
As always, I'm cheering you on and I'm here when you need me.