Write For Your Audience Like It’s A Party Of One

Harmony With Flowers
“Harmony With Flowers” by Mariano Peccinetti

You’re in a great mood! You happily sit down to write. Tap, tap, tap. You are flowing!

Then, without warning, that person — oh, you know the one — pops into your mind. Maybe it’s an old classmate or someone you dated. Or a mom on the PTA. Or, if you’re as blessed as I am, someone in your family.

That person is the master of the backhanded compliment. They always seem to dismiss your ideas, your talents, your experience. And for some reason you still want them to like you…when you know for sure that You. Do. Not. Like. Them. At least not this passive-aggressive, competitive part of them.

You re-read your writing. It’s all crap. Suddenly, your imagination takes off to some future place in a different dimension. You’re a fly on the wall as that person reads your piece, and all you can hear is:

“Oh, how cute. It’s so great that anyone can get their work published nowadays.”

OK, let’s stop right here. We all have that person in our lives. Newsflash: That person is not your audience. I know you know this. Now I could put on my Psychology and Spirituality hats and dig deep on the underlying issues and dynamics here. But that’s for another day. Maybe.

Right now, we’re going to get you back to feeling happy and in the flow with your writing.

Here’s how:

  1. Know your onion. Imagine you are the center of an onion. People in your life naturally fall into place on one of the layers. Your dearest confidants and loves of your life are the first layer. Then the next layer includes your past, present and future friends – people who “get” you. Then warm acquaintances. And so on. Where does that person fit on the onion? Are they even on the onion? Right. Keep them far out. They are not in the inner circle. Hear me now: Your writing is precious. It’s your insides getting out. Keep your writing and exposure of your writing close to the center – especially while it’s in development.
  2. Know your audience’s emotional need. Who are you writing for? And what do they want? I mean what do they really want? It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, getting clear on your audience’s needs is essential. Let’s say you’re an Acupuncturist writing a Free Report “7 Ways To Nurture Your Body During Your Workday.” The audience could be anyone, really. But what these people have in common is a desire to be productive at work and feel healthy at the same time. THAT’S their need. Hold that picture in your head and heart while you are writing. Not whether or not someone will like you. Or think you are smart.
  3. Make it a one-on-one conversation. One of the simplest ways I’ve found to let my writing voice and personality shine is to write to and for one single person. Oh, it can be a real person or an imaginary amalgam of people. For example, when crafting fiction, I write only for my sister Diana. Referring to point #2 above, her emotional need is to relax and enjoy an uplifting story of love and self-discovery – with a happy ending. Knowing this need guides me. But most importantly when I think of her reading my writing, I FEEL good. I don’t anticipate snide remarks, snarkiness or criticism. And I don’t try to serve a crowd with varying needs, tastes and preferences. If you haven’t before, try writing as if you are talking to this one person. That ideal audience member. You’ll be surprised at how much easier the writing flows.

Don’t be scared of being specific. Remember, if you try to appeal to the masses, then you dilute your work so much that your message appeals to no one. Not everyone is going to “get” you. But your people will. And they’ll thank you for speaking so clearly to them.

Music To Quiet Your Noisy Writer’s Mind

Slow Jazz on Her Red Lips by iNeedChemicalX
Photo Credit: Slow Jazz on Her Red Lips by iNeedChemicalX

If music soothes the savage beast, then my mind must be a zoo.

Years ago when writing my first full-length fiction novel, I’d sit for hours pouring my heart and soul onto the page. Just about once every other minute a voice inside my head whispered, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” And that was true. But I was figuring it out, thank you very much.

What moved me through the internal noise of self-doubt – and the external noise of what we call “the world” – was carefully selected music. I never was without my headphones. A single CD looped: “Creations Vibrations,” two tracks of meditative Tibetan Singing Bowl vibrations by Kenny Mazursky. (Shameless disclosure: Kenny is my brother-in-law and he is awesome.)

This morning my head is noisy and so is the coffee shop where I work. It’s got me thinking again about sound and music and productivity and our delicate brains. And how music affects writing, and frankly any other work that requires a quiet and steady mind.

I came across Music2Work2, a company dedicated to sharing music that makes us more effective at work. Here’s what they have to say about the science behind Music2Work2:

“To complete his psychology degree, Andrew [co-founder] studied the effects of sound on human reaction times. The data showed that adding noise to the environment increased performance until it became too distracting and performance started to decline.

This is the idea behind music to work to. If we create music that is stimulating but not too distracting, you can create an auditory environment that is optimized for work.”

If you do a search for music to work to, you’ll find a wide selection of styles and genres to match different tastes. Next time you’re hitting a block or need extra focus, try integrating music. It may very well become a vital part of your work routine.

Client Shout Out: ‘The Business Alchemist’

laurie hacking image

Huge congratulations to my wonderful friend and client Laurie Hacking on her insightful and entertaining book The Business Alchemist: A Fable to Free Your Money Flow.

Laurie is the inaugural client of my freelance writing and editing biz. It was my great honor to collaborate with Laurie and contribute editorially to this inspired book.

“This is a delightful fable in the vein of Illusions by Richard Bach, but with a female protagonist and wise woman mentor…” – Chellie Campbell, author The Wealthy Spirit and From Worry to Wealthy

Check out The Business Alchemist on Amazon!

 

Interested in finding out how I helped Laurie go from “first draft” to “ready to publish” in less than three months?

Let’s talk! Contact me today. I’m here to help you take your writing across the finish line!

Beware of Hyperlink Blue

color wheel

Recently, a friend forwarded a marketing email from a well-respected networking organization. The email listed events and pertinent information relevant to me. I had my calendar and wallet out, ready to sign up and fork over some moolah. But I never got that far. Sad for me. Sadder for the networking organization.

As I scrolled through the email…and scrolled….and scrolled…my eyes glazed over and my blood pressure ticked up a notch. The marketer had employed an excessive amount of “hyperlink blue” and what I call “emergency red” for headlines and random emphasis of random words. After two minutes of focused attention but without comprehending a single thing, I closed the email with an “aaaaagh” as if I just discovered a garden snake in my kitchen.

Honestly, I’m a snob when it comes to email formatting. In fact, Hollywood studios rewarded my snobbery with a weekly paycheck to ensure that written communications to employees were as digestible as possible. I’m a snob because the audience WILL NOT READ the email if given any reason not to read it.

Sometime back in last millennia, the masterminds behind the Internet standardized the default hyperlink color to #0000ff with an underline. No, it’s not pretty. It is reminiscent of 1998, but millions of people associate that color blue with links. So, in my opinion, that blue color is off limits for anything other than links. And, actually, now that we have other options for link colors (i.e. a virtual web crayon box), let’s just leave #0000ff back in the ’90s.

A few thoughts to consider about links:

  • Use color sparingly. A solid rule of thumb is black or dark gray for the body copy, one headline color, and one link color. The eye-glazing networking email used six colors: black, blue, red, maroon, pink, and lighter blue. If you color random words or use too many colors, you start a visual competition with the headline and links.
  • Choose color wisely. When selecting a link color:
    • Be consistent – Pick one color for all links throughout your site or marketing piece
    • Match your color scheme – Choose a color that compliments an embedded image or logo
  • Underline links. Your audience expects links to be easy to find. Color and underline accomplishes that.

There’s much to say about the use of color in writing materials. This article in entrepreneur.com is a good place to start: The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding.

And when all the color talk inevitably makes you reconsider your home or office decor, check out 10 Color Theory Basics Everyone Should Know. It’s a great primer on color and inspirational design article.

Speak What You Write

This is the first in a series of WRITING TIPS for professionals who are not trained writers. 

New writers are often surprised to learn that practiced writers routinely read their writing aloud not just to themselves, but to other people. Whether it’s in person or over the phone to a trusted friend or colleague, speaking your writing will IMMEDIATELY provide you with the following information:

  • Readability. If you are stumbling or tongue-tied, then your readers will be, too. Write like you talk.
  • Message. Overall, does the writing make sense and get your point across?
  • Flow. Is there a clear beginning, middle and end?
  • Tone. Do the language and tone match your intention, your audience, and your message? Too flowery? Too much jargon?
  • Reader Fatigue. Are you trying to jam too much into one paragraph? Are your sentences varied in length?
  • Gut Check. What does your gut say while you are reading? Notice your own energy and attention.

I read aloud the first chapter of a fiction piece to a fellow writer friend recently via phone. Now, this was a novel that I wrote eight years ago and re-edited earlier in the summer. Before the call I was feeling, dare I say, cocky. Within three paragraphs, I tossed up a white flag and stopped. My gut forbid my mouth from saying another word. I HATED EVERYTHING I WAS SAYING. Not the plot; that was fine. But the words were all wrong. Back to the editing table!

That, my friends, is why we don’t write on a desert island.

Don’t stop with speaking the words. Ask the listener for feedback.

  • Can you summarize what happened in the story (fiction) or summarize the main points (non-fiction)?
  • At any point did you lose interest? Where?
  • At any point were you confused? Where?

Stay tuned for more tips! Have a special request, don’t hesitate to email me or post your comment below.

On Writing Routines

Routines provide us humans with safety and security. Routines soothe anxiety. It’s true for babies, and it’s so true for writers.

Here are three cornerstones of my writing routine:

Write first thing in the day. It’s not new advice. Just about every book on the topic speaks of the magic of the early morning hours. But I mean, as soon as you roll out of bed. Before tea or coffee. Before brushing your teeth. Before breakfast. Before anything else. Why? For me, it’s because my brain doesn’t have a chance to object, complain or block my progress. That fuzzy, dreamlike state is the gateway to my creative brain. And, of course, getting the writing done early in the day prevents other life necessities from derailing the writing time. I use the same philosophy when training for a half marathon. Hit the pavement before my brain knows what’s going on.

Start with a short note. Time to talk about warm-ups. The blank page. The pressure of where to begin. The “what-if everything I write is pure crap.” To get going, I write a little short letter. Not just to warm up my writing fingers, but to ask for help from a higher power. No matter your religious or spiritual orientation, I think this routine works. It takes the ego out of the writing and refocuses your intention.

Basically, I write a note that begins like this:

Please help me to stay centered. Help me to let go and allow the words to come through me for the greater good.

Yes, it may sound hokey. I’m not above hokey. I’m just happy that it helps to ground me.

Create a Goal and Accountability. When I was a kid, my dad used to time me while doing my chores. “Let’s see how fast you can pick up all the LEGOs.” I’d race around, giddy, picking up those little bricks in record time. It was fun! It was a game! I do the same thing with writing. I set a goal, say, 1200 words in two hours. Then I text a friend and tell them my goal. They say something like, “Go, Laura.” Then I text them the word count after the two hours. They say something like, “Great!” It works.

What’s your routine?

Ban Writer’s Block Forever

creating-grit-2
What is it about that blank piece of paper that is so daunting? The whiteness that dares you to transform it into something of significance. You tap, tap, tap a few words and delete. Tap and delete. The creative valve closes and you succumb to Writer’s Block.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone and there is an easier, more fulfilling and productive way to write. The daunting feeling is your gut telling you that there’s a misunderstanding.

Writing is not a one-step, linear process. In the most basic sense, there are two stages: WRITING and EDITING. WRITING employs raw, imaginative energy that doesn’t care about making sense or about the rules of grammar. It certainly doesn’t care about the critics. It’s all about going with the flow.

EDITING calls upon the organizer, the rule governor and the strategist in you. To oversimplify, WRITING comes from the creative RIGHT brain while EDITING relies on the more analytical and orderly LEFT brain.

For a moment, think of the art of writing in terms of sculpting clay. Let’s assume that you’re starting from scratch.

Stage One: Gather the clay ingredients, mix them and place the raw clay onto a clean surface.

What do you have at this point? A big blob of clay. Nothing of significance…yet. But there is great potential.

It’s the same with writing. The WRITING stage is deeply creative. It may not have any order or sequence to it. You figuratively spill out all that is in your heart, mind and soul about the topic to create your “writing clay”.

Yes, Stage One is messy. No, you probably wouldn’t publish it in its rough and unformed state. So, you go on to Stage Two.

Stage Two: Back to the clay sculpting image. At this stage, the sculptor shapes and manipulates the clay with the tools in his or her toolbox according to a particular style or vision – or maybe just by “feeling it out”.

And so it goes for the EDITING stage. You shape the “writing clay” by moving it around, reorganizing, rewording, scrapping some paragraphs and adding others. You play with the flow. Maybe take the middle paragraph and see how it reads as the opening paragraph.

Imagine what would happen if you combined Stage One and Stage Two while sculpting. If you tried to sculpt the ingredients before they were mixed. If you stared at the clean (blank) surface and tried to make something happen without placing the raw clay on it.

Not much progress. And a lot of confusion.

And the same goes when you combine Stage One and Stage Two while writing. It’s where Writer’s Block lurks. Your brain comes to a stand still. It’s a draw. No winners. Only self-doubt and suffering.

So what about the blank piece of paper? I look at it as the clean surface for the clay. That’s all.

Give the two-stage approach a shot and let me know how it goes. For me, it’s made all the difference.

Hello, world!

And so it begins.

Welcome to Write Where I’m Meant To Be, the writing companion blog for entrepreneurs. Here, I’ll share writing tips, editing techniques and musings, geared primarily towards brilliant folks who don’t consider yourselves “writers”.

First things first. Writers are people who write. If you have a website, blog or any social presence for your business, you ARE a writer.

Be bold. Be brave. Own your internal scribe and start cultivating your voice and style as well as technical know-how. Writing gets your insides out on the page. Yes, it can be extremely vulnerable. THAT’S what makes it so important to be authentically YOU in your writing.