Beyond Fear: A Closer Look At Why You’re Writing
Dedicated creative writers tend to write because they feel compelled to. They “hear voices” in their heads. They have “too much built up inside.” They feel ”something needs to be said.” Often, the need to express themselves with words is as necessary as breathing.
But we business writers–who write things like email campaigns, summaries of scientific findings, or monthly reports–are usually writing because a) it’s our job to write these things, b) it’s protocol to write them, and/or c) we happened to catch the eye of the conference facilitator at an unfortunate moment.
But what’s the real reason we’re writing? Purpose was the topic of yesterday’s #WrMatters Twitter chat with Michelle Baker, and it also happens to be the base of the Writing Triangle.
Michelle and I talked about how we feel when we lose sight of our purpose. At its root, many of us are writing because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t get it done on time to specifications. Not the most organic of motives, and it usually ends in burn-out: fear is not a sustainable emotion.
For business writers, the purpose of a piece usually comes from outside (e.g., when I write for clients, I’m sending their message to their audience) rather than inside (like most business blogging should). So focusing on the audience and the context is the most sanity-saving way to approach each piece of writing with fresh intent.
By focusing more closely on your audience than on your deadline (or the people making you write), you’ll more easily notice gaps in information and lapses in voice and tone. And those things are dictated by context. For example, if you’re writing an email campaign, think about the kinds of things your subscriber would find refreshing in the first email, but redundant in the second (let alone fifth).
Your purpose keeps you honest, too. When you have a point, you’re less apt to pontificate, digress, or be otherwise self-serving when you write. Michelle and I confessed doing this on our blogs (sorry!), and it really stems from a lack of purpose that particular posting day. But depending on what you’re writing–to whom–sometimes it’s forgivable, sometimes not.
So whether it’s client work, daily summaries, or your own blog… why do you write?
Hope to chat with you at the next #WrMatters, May 3 at 4pm EST!
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Hi ShakirahDawud I made my way over here by way of suddenlyjamie who directed me to you as part of her "embarrassingly long comment" on my blog about fact and opinion.
You make some interesting points here. Now, I am not a writer by trade but I do write for fun and I write a lot for my job which is odd as I work in the architectural field. Traditionally, architects and designer are know to be the worst writers because they have no idea to articulate things in words. Images, visuals and the like are rote but writing. Not a chance.
So, I was discussing opinion in a technical response to spice up a typically dry document and asking people their thoughts on whether responses to proposals in business should contain only fact. After blogging for a year or so i see that opinion is what entices readers to reach out and also to come back so it seems like opinion, if well crafted, could enhance the technical response.
Great post, great topic; purpose. I happen to agree with Jamie, writing with purpose and to inspire the reader to think a bit differently is the reason I write too. Now, do I risk inspiring a reader reviewing a proposal response. Hmmmmm.......
rdopping Fascinating experience, Ralph. I have to agree that opinion always draws a crowd of other opinions. I'm part of the production process of quality control reports for a national federal program. Now, even though there are standards of quality by which observations can be weighed, because this is quality control, everyone has an opinion--which can become very impassioned when questioned. The report is dry as dust and in some places incomprehensible to lay readers, but the people who created the report and the people affected by it are quick to point out anything they think is arbitrary, and offer opinions of their own.
Pleased to make your acquaintance--thanks, suddenlyjamie!
Whether I'm writing for myself, my blog, or a client, my reason for writing is always the same: to inspire some kind of action. That's the thing that keeps me focused, drives me forward, and gives me the most satisfaction. In some cases, the action is simply getting someone to look at things from another perspective. In other cases, the action is more focused - getting someone to download something or register for something or BUY something. Sometimes, the action is about changing how someone feels about something (themselves, their work, their dreams) or inspiring them to pole vault (or baby step) past their fears to try something new. We write to spark change. That's what words are for. :) XO
suddenlyjamie "We write to spark change. That's what words are for."
You already know you nailed it. No need to tell you so.
I was glad I saw the word "focus" in this post, because I associate that word with purpose. Or, maybe being focused keeps me writing to my (and my client's) purpose. In any case, I can't have one without the other.
I'm one of those who writes because she must. Simple as that. And when I write for clients, I do it because I truly enjoy it. It gives me satisfaction to translate a client's purpose or help them communicate their goals.
LynetteBenton I'm happy to have clients I enjoy writing for, too, Lynette, because otherwise... well, I'd have probably finished my Great American Novel by now, lol. Also have to write, but it does happen every so often I have to write something I'd rather not. Focus helps.
Yes, "focus more closely on your audience than on your deadline" - this is the most critical thing to remember for me. I think part of the issue is that you have to work a bit harder to make business writing sexy, which causes people to put pressure on themselves. But you're right, context is key. Good points to remember!
@MissKemya Aha, yes! Business writing isn't always flashy--actually, most of it isn't. But that's not the point! The point is to get the message out there clearly and professionally. Sometimes it's hard to see past our own need to preen sometimes (or that of our superiors), but it's always for the best to cut out the things our audience doesn't need.
Puts a great perspective on all this writing we're doing. Context is such a huge word here, too.
I think, though, that social media has allowed poor writers to be pervasive. That can change with continued practice, however. Lot to think on here; great piece, Shakirah.
@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Yes, you're bringing in a third category: the writers who write because they have a keyboard, internet, and nothing better to do with their time...