A conversation, a divinely worded paragraph in a book you are reading or perhaps a random act of kindness you were fortunate to witness has you excited. The sparks are flying, ideas are flowing and you’re feeling inspired to write a blog post, an article or a story to share with your readers; something that they will find value in.
You start typing, a little manically at first, afraid that you might lose your train of thought. Words, intrigue and thought bubbles spill onto the page.
Ok, it’s a tad scattered but you’re getting it down, translating for the muse so to speak.
The words aren’t exactly the words you want to be using to describe this message, but hey, you can always go back and make those edits.
On the tip of your tongue is the expression you are after, but you can’t seem to find it. The line which would capture the essence with such poetic grace, your readers would be nodding in uniform agreement.
Vague descriptions sit in place of fine-tuned statements. It feels… hollow. Something is missing. It’s lacking power; the juice that gets people’s heads turning.
Then you pause.
You ask yourself: Does this even make sense to anyone else who is not in my head?
Then that imposter strides on in.
Who wants to read about this anyway? Is it even any good?
The momentum is lost. That initial high of inspiration has fizzled along with your idea. The copy joins the folder of countless unfinished drafts and random musings that sits on your laptop, and you’re left feeling frustrated and unsatisfied.
Can you relate? Sounding a little too familiar? If you are a writer (or have dabbled with the world of words), I’m sure you have ridden this creative curve more than a few times. I certainly have.
I’ve been doing a bit of research on communication lately, learning from great minds like William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Terrance McKenna, Steve Jobs and Paulo Coelho, and what I have found is this:
Communication is the 'in between'. By 'in between' I mean it is not you and it is not your reader, it is the space occupied between you both. In other words:
Your words are the train and your readers, the destination.
So many times we get caught up in a game of limbo. First we are in our own head, consumed by our thoughts, and then we switch. We reposition our perspective from the point of view of the reader, but somewhere along the way, the space 'in between' is lost, and frankly, it’s exhausting.
It is here, in the 'in between', where your story exists. Where the right words, right feeling and right connection will speak to your reader in the way you intended, before confusion set in.
I’m guessing you, just as much as me, want to communicate your unique thoughts in a way your audience will love and connect with.
You ultimately want to have an impact, yeah?
But you want to do this minus the struggle and the push. You want it to be easy.
Here is a set of tools to help you sit comfortably (and confidently) in the space 'in between' next time inspiration strikes and you feel the urge to put pen to paper.
+ First things first, consult your tribe.
Your wonderful idea has great merit. The fact that you feel called to write about it is a pretty good indication that your readers will be just as excited too. But before making any assumptions (just as Miguel Ruiz says: “We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask”), ask the questions.
Before writing this post, I asked my community what blocks they face when writing/blogging/telling a story. Specifically, what brings their creative process to a grinding halt. The responses ranged from finding flow when time is tight and the to-do list is too long, to frustratingly being lost for words, to identifying the crux of their message when one idea digresses into maybe two or three.
After speaking with your readers, you will no doubt be tempted to run wild with the answers and launch into a writing frenzy.
+ Before you do anything, recollect those thought bubbles. Pull out a note pad and write this question:
Why am I writing about ……?
Keep your answer to one statement or sentence if you can. Sit with your response for a minute. Do you believe in what you are writing about? Does it hold meaning for you?
This is the ‘you’ part of the communication.
(Side note: If there is no passion behind the spark, if you are feeling called to write about something because you think you ‘should’, then before diving deep into a whirlpool of words, here is the opportunity to re-consider the intent behind your story.)
Then comes the ‘reader’ part of the communication.
Jot down these three questions. Your answers don’t have to be long. Maybe just a word or two, which encompass the direction you are heading with your words.
What is the key message?
How do I want my reader to feel?
What action do I want my reader to take?
Or as stellar communicator Alexandra Frazen puts it: Feel. Know. Do. This is her mantra for magnificently easy writing where you crystallise how you want your reader to feel, what you want them to know and what you want them to do after reading your words.
A few months ago, I was working with someone I truly admire on a story to be published in a publication adore. So in a nutshell, it was an incredible opportunity and the stakes were high. We worked collaboratively to define the purpose of the story (ensuring her desires for the story were also being met) and from there, I crafted the questions to tease out the gold for the story. She answered each question thoughtfully and with so much heart, and upon receiving her responses, I was giddy with excitement. I got to writing.
If we don’t take a moment to reframe and focus, the passion can often override the purpose. What you are looking for is a fine balance of both.
Place this note pad centre stage - beside your laptop or journal - so that when your mind starts to wander, you have a map to guide you back to the original inspiration.
(Side note: There is nothing wrong with steering off track and exploring another idea. Sometimes that is where the gold is hidden, in the detours and offshoots. If you have found that you have deviated too far though, check in with these words and find your way back home.)
+ When you can’t find the right word or phrase, remember to simplify.
Despite what we may think, fewer words have greater impact. Why? Because words with substance stand on their own. When you use words to fill the white space, your message is diluted and the reader is left to wade through the extra padding to find and interpret your message. As Ambrose Bierce says, “Good writing is essentially clear thinking made visible.”
It has become a faithful part of my creation process to leave a story once it’s done. I have a good night’s rest and with fresh eyes the next day, I re-read my words. I often erase whole sentences and paragraphs because I recognise they do not support my key message and in fact, detract from what I am trying to say. This is a sure-fire way to clear the clutter.
So embrace simplicity, speak straight from the heart and to the hearts of your readers and make your voice clearly visible.