Hitch Your Wagon to a Dragon and Blog Like a Wizard
The business landscape is crowded with sorcerers of the written word who bend the dark forces to their will. Meanwhile, you sit there, read their stuff and go Hmm. Anybody can write like that.
So you launch your favorite word processor, and start tapping away at the keyboard. Wow, you have tons of stuff to say. Except… none of it seems to gel. Where’s the wit? The verve and pizzazz?
Your own writing bores you out of your skull. And it fails to get your message across.
Guess what: it doesn’t have to be that way. You too can tap the arcane wells of power that fuel the best writers in business today.
So, how would you like to write like a wizard?
Great Artists Steal
Great musicians accept everything that they hear and find something good. ~Jazz composer John Zorn
If you model a behavior, you’re not taking anything from the source. Learning is, in the end, copying and adapting.
When Louise Brooks, witch-queen of the bobbed haircut, decided to become an author, she realized that she needed writing practice. Lots of it. So she would sit down with acclaimed novels and copy whole sentences into her notebook. She said copying helped her understand style, tone and rhythm.
Brooks knew there’s nothing wrong with being a sorcerer’s apprentice.
If you’re in a rush, turn to master wizards for help. I suggest that you study at the feet of the greatest Wizards; like Andy Maslen’s no-nonsense sorcery, The Copywriting Sourcebook.
Need to write a sales letter? There’s a chapter on that. What about a press release? Ditto.
The Copywriting Sourcebook is a recipe book for all kinds of business potions.
Double the Magic Power, Double the Fun
There are some things you can’t do by yourself. You need someone to call you out on your nonsense, and point out flaws in your text that may have eluded you.
You see, you’re too close to your own material. What is glaringly obvious to you may not be as evident to somebody else. A co-writer helps you pinpoint weaknesses and leaps of logic.
Ideally, you want a writing partner whose writing skills are more advanced than your own. Someone who can make a point in clear language and has a firm grasp of the basics, including punctuation.
Always have a fellow wizard read through your incantations.
Maybe you think you’re summoning heavenly spirits, but you’re actually invoking denizens of the underworld.
Put a Hex on’em
The Internet is like this old wall they dug up in Pompeii. It was scribbled over with graffiti, from top to bottom. One of them read, “I am baffled, O wall, that you do not crumble under the weight of so many words combined.”
Many blogs are the equivalent of those ancient graffiti — lots of people trying to be funny or relevant, and failing. The Intertubes are clogged with irrelevant dreck.
I’ll tell you why.
It’s really hard to structure a text in a way that others will understand, and noise keeps you from the messages that matter.
Lack of focus is the real killer. The key ingredient in magic is concentration, so cast one spell at a time.
Decide what your goal is before you start to write.
Cut, cut, cut
“Cut, cut, cut” was Ezra Pound’s advice to all young poets. Guess what? It applies to your writing, too.
Overwritten sentences are hard to read. Wittgenstein, the philosopher, once wrote that “anything that can be said, can be said clearly.”
Nix the demonic jargon: best-of-breed, knowledge-intensive, and the like. Don’t feed the shoggoths of complexity. Write for human beings.
Set down as many ideas as you want, then get rid of 90%. Cut the flab.
The best way to deliver your message is to keep it short and to the point.
Don’t Skimp on the White Rabbits
We humans have been communicating through the power of story for very, very long.
Stories teach by example and lend credibility to your message. Telling stories is like planting seeds of understanding in your reader’s mind. Our brains are wired to remember narratives and derive meaning from them.
A picture is worth a thousand words but a story is worth a thousand pictures.
In the context of business writing, you want to focus on true events. A bold writer could use Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella to make a point, sure; but that kind of trickery is for PR shamans.
You want to pull rabbits out of your hat – rabbits, not alligators.
Stories have to be more than detours. Think of them as stepping stones and never lose sight of your goal.
Coda: Hitch your Wagon to a Dragon
One of the greatest challenges you will face as a writer is developing a voice. What do I mean by that?
One of Chuck Jones’s art teachers once told his students that they had 100,000 bad drawings in them. Before they got those out of their system, they wouldn’t draw anything good.
Things aren’t that different when you write. You’ve got a truckload of failures in you, enough to make the gods weep. Voice is what you get once you move past the misfires and sketchy experiments. Before you develop a voice, you are not effective. It’s as simple as that.
The griffin of failure must be tamed in order to become the dragon of self-confidence.
While the griffin squawks, the dragon roars. Which one will you be?
- Have you identified a writing partner yet?
- Do you spice up your material with relevant stories?
- Do you have a clear goal before you start to write?