Stop Being so Smart!
You heard me. I want you to stop being so darn smart and clever all the time.
Because your readers don’t want you to show them how smart you are. They don’t want your big-words or your clever turns of phrase.
They want your empathy.
Yup. That’s the truth. Think about it though: when was the last time somebody’s clever lecture made you love them? I mean – other than that crush you had on your professor…who knew tweed and elbow patches would be so attractive?
The fact is that you likely felt respect for those smarty-pantses. You felt awe – you may have even felt a strong admiration for them. But I suspect that you could only take that smart-dude tone for a short period of time, or the professor you really loved was the one who could cut that clever-tension easily with the odd joke or anecdote, or even a “I’m right and you’re wrong, Windley. Admit it!”
(I have an unhealthy relationship with authority figures.)
The key to writing well is really about understanding your readers.
And then communicating that understanding to them in a genuine way that makes them feel like it’s all about them, because readers are selfish.
And that’s cool. You are asking them to give you the one thing in life that is totally and completely irreplaceable: their time. They have every right (and inclination) to be selfish. If you want them to give you bits and pieces of their lives, you need to make it worth their while.
People will read your blog posts, your stories, your e-books or your sales-pages for two basic reasons.
The most obvious reason – and the one you will see in all the “How-to write amazing copy” guides and courses – is that you can solve a problem for them. You have knowledge or a product that they need or want.
The most important motivation though – and the one that will take your writing from basically effective copy to writing that will touch the human element of your readers and activate their trust – is the feeling that you are talking to them directly…about their own life.
That trust and understanding creates an instant relationship between you and your reader. It links you as one human talking to another human, and it’s the only way to genuinely communicate anything to anybody – ever.
So how do we activate that magical human-connection?
Stop being so smart, and start being simple.
This is the single most powerful and practical writing advice I’ve been given, though it’s often given in a very clever, but confusing and not so pragmatic way (irony!): “Show. Don’t tell”.
Here’s what that really means, kitten.
Pay attention to the innocuous details that your readers are paying attention to in their actual lives. Then talk about those details, in relation to the conversation you are having.
If you point to the stack of post-it notes on her desk and the blinking of the cursor on her white, blank screen – she will feel understood and activated by that specificity. EVEN if she doesn’t have a stack of post-its today, she knows what that means and she’s seen it before.
Sit in her office (or dining room, or car) and look around. Feel the tightening of her chest if she’s stressed out – or hear her nails tap-tap-tapping on the desktop while she waits for an email. Then, describe it – in her words.
Those details and that empathy will make your writing (sales-pages or otherwise) a completely different experience for your readers.
I want you to download this free printable worksheet (from my Blogging VIPDay Workbook) and give the activity a try. Even if you don’t see yourself as an artist, this visual activity will help you empathize with your reader’s physical existence – and relate to her as a human too.
Go do it! Get out your crayons or water colours and enjoy yourself. If you’re on Instagram, take a picture of your fun and tag me in it too (@WriteWithaK)! I love seeing your work.
Then choose at least one detail from your reader’s surroundings for each of your senses (sight, smell, touch, hear, taste), tell us about it in the comments section below – and appeal to it in your next blog post or other writing project.
Have fun! See you next Tuesday.
You mad? Excited? Have a perspective to share? Please do!
Want to read more? Check out these recent articles.
Scene: you’re at your desk, hands dancing over the keys. Click clack clickity clackity click clack – swish. Now, layer that satisfying typewriter sound with a movie soundtrack in a major key – both invigorating and also somehow relaxing. The victory song – the joy of writing. There’s steam dancing from a coffee cup that…
Four rules to help you avoid Writing Resistance (and tiger bites) even when you’re stressed.
Writing motivation comes in two forms. One works better than the other, but they’re both important – and neither should hurt.
Oh there’s that meme again. You know the one about Shakespeare writing King Lear during the plague, or whatever. Or the other one saying that you never lacked “time” but rather you lack “discipline” unless you create or learn or complete some amazing life-goal right now. Maybe it’s a stream of pictures of *perfectly baked*…
I think those two words have hurt me more than my three worst ex-boyfriends…combined! Not because it’s bad advice to tell a person to just start the things they want to create. But because productivity for productivity’s sake – sucks. “Just Start!” is great advice if the problem you’re having is that you have a…
One of the key elements of a rich Writing Practice is the act of purposefully adding a sense joy & luxury to it. That doesn’t mean that you have to scream-laugh while you draft a blog post – or purchase a solid gold desktop to hide behind. But it does mean that we can find…