1 LOOK IN THE MIRROR
2 GO FOR RESULTS
3 WHO WILL YOU CONNECT WITH?
4 WHAT’S YOUR POINT?
5 HOW TO MAKE YOUR POINT
6 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
7 WRITE LIKE YOU TALK
8 JUST WRITE
9 MEMORABLE IMPRESSIONS
12 REACH THE NEXT LEVEL
13 WORKSHEETS AND CHECKLISTS
ABOUT BARB SAWYERS
1 LOOK IN THE MIRROR
I’ll bet you’ve looked in the mirror and said to yourself: “I can be more than this.”
That happened to me when Iturned 50. Sure, I had reached some of my life objectives, such as amazing kids, a nice house and loyal clients.
But there was more I wanted to do, more I wanted to become. I had only 50 more years to do it. Yikes!
It wasn’t about crossing exotic destinations off my bucket list. It was about seeing what I, the one and only Barb Sawyers, could do.
I couldn’t say I was too busy with my kids, now teens. Nor could I blame my stagnation on my parents’ low expectations, my ex-husband’s betrayal, obsessive media consumption, chocolate, vulnerable interest rates or a full dishwasher.
It was up to me.
I wanted to help people, but not by holding cold cloths on hot foreheads in refugee camps or mapping seating plans for charity galas.
No, I wanted to help all the poor people who were chained to their computers, cranking out emails, reports, dating profiles, posts and other written communication. What’s more, I wanted to help all the people stuck reading that stuff.
I wanted to help people like Deanne Kelleher, founder and director of Kaos Group. A professional organizer, Deanne loves sharing her passion for imposing order on chaos, from transforming crowded cupboards to streamlining digital files.
After a long day of making lists with clients, taking her kids to swimming lessons and struggling to meet the deadline for her monthly online magazine, she decided to rest her eyes—just for five minutes. The next morning little Tess found her slumped over asleep at her desk.
She vowed to change. She could not stomach missing a deadline. She hated the example she had set for her kids. She was desperate to balance her work with time to play with her children, fiancé and friends. But how?
She could hire a professional, but only a psychic ghost writer would be able to pull those ideas out of her head and save all that much time.
Deanne figured she should be able to find an organized approach for writing her magazine, blog and other marketing material.
More than that, she wanted to convey the bubbly personality that came across so well in her presentations and television appearances. But she was haunted by the ghost of her grammar teacher, telling her she’d get a poor mark unless she wrote in a formal tone, with lots of rules.
I met Deanne when she was one of the facilitators at a small-business coaching group. The leaders kept telling us to focus on what we do best and outsource the rest. But like Deanne, they too insisted on doing most of their own writing. They wanted to pull out and share all those great thoughts going to waste in their heads.
Deanne became my most enthusiastic test reader for the first edition of Write Like You Talk—Only Better. As soon as she realized the book would help her write more efficiently and effectively, the color-coded highlighting began.
She is still using the checklists and worksheets for the Organized Lifestyle Magazine and other writing. Through this practice, she’s keeping up with her writing without falling asleep at her desk.. Better still, Deanne is capturing both her expertise and personality. And business is booming
This can work for you too.
In a world where you communicate so much online, where you need to stand out to be heard, writing is a means to many ends.
Writing to connect with more people can help you follow your dreams. When you look in the mirror, you’ll be happier with your reflection.
Knowing I’ve helped, I’ll feel better about my reflection too, though you can bet I’ll still bitch about losing ten pounds.
So read this book. And give yourself one more reason to look in the mirror and say “Wow!”
2 Go for Results
Why writing counts
For you, maybe it’s emails, tweets or collaborations at work; Facebook. texts and messaging the rest of the time. Chances are you write a lot.
If you are a digital native, you probably take it for granted that much of your communication is written, not spoken. You probably use your cell phone more for texting than talking.
Despite how important and time-consuming your writing is, it may not accomplish what you want.
Perhaps people aren’t showing up prepared for your meetings. They aren’t grabbing onto your ideas. They aren’t buying your products. They aren’t responding to your dating profile. They aren’t giving you a job interview. They aren’t voting for your idea. They aren’t telling their friends. They aren’t doing what you want them to.
Maybe you recognize yourself in some of these scenarios:
Lauren loves writing. Too bad she doesn’t show the love to her readers by thinking about their interests, terminology and time. That’s why her love is so often unrequited.
Cecil thinks he shows respect and a business-appropriate demeanor by peppering his emails with hollow formalities such as “as per your request” and “warmest regards.” But people don’t warm up to him.
Mel is so used to writing/chatting spontaneously online that she neglects all the planning, improving, tightening and other thinking that would take her essays and posts to the next level.
Li produces lots of white papers, but nobody seems to remember what’s in them. Most people don’t remember Li either.
Maria, BS, MBA, PhD, uses long words and sentences, many pages and lots of capital letters. Despite her obvious brains, she can’t entice people to read through her content. But how else can she become a thought leader?
Asif relies so heavily on spell check to find his mistakes that he often confuses sound-alike words, especially it’s and its. This makes his supervisor think he’s stupid and confuses others. Too bad, because he deserves a better job.
Ethan churns out number-filled reports about how well his sales team is doing. After all, he’s busy and it’s not a movie script. So why aren’t the executives giving him the credit he craves?
I’ll bet you can see yourself somewhere in these examples of people who would progress faster and farther on their quest for success if only they could download a serious writing update. But instead of tech short cuts, it will take the brain work of Lauren, Cecil, Mel, Li, Diane, Asif and, Ethan to upgrade their writing skill. You too.
Fortunately pretty much everything you need to learn is in this book.
Don’t blame your readers for not taking the time or being smart enough to get you. Don’t fall for those no-work internet success pitches. Take responsibility.
Writing is a skill you need to achieve your results. However, it’s not magic. By going back to your first and favorite way to communicate, interacting for our web 2.0 world and remembering a few simple rules, you can improve. If you don’t, I’ll give your money back.
In my 30 years as a writer and editor, I’ve seen lots of reasons why people aren’t getting the results they desire. But instead of patching over the same old weak spots, I decided to write a book that would help people overcome the common problems and produce results.
Although I borrow techniques from the novelists, screen writers, lyricists and other artists I admire, I’m not talking about creative writing. I’m talking about the practical writing you do every day.
You are busy, I know. So I don’t expect you to comb through every page or complete every exercise. Skim through this book once, then return to the sections where you see yourself. Read those sections again.
The next time you have something important to write, go back and use the worksheets and checklists to help. Keep working with them until writing becomes as natural as talking.
Before you know it, writing will become easier, faster and, yes, even enjoyable. You’ll be connecting with the people who matter most, attracting like-minded people and building a community.
All without returning to those boring high school grammar classes. Instead, you’ll go back to the fun roots of communication—talking.
Why talking counts more
Talking is the first way you learned to communicate. By talking, you grasped the fundamentals of engaging communication long before you learned how to write.
Talking is likely still your favorite way to connect with your nearest and dearest. Even in an era where we communicate through writing more and more, talking rules.
Consider these examples. You talk to your team when the news really matters. You work up to talking to the person you met on the dating site. You close big sales through in-person conversation.
When you’re writing and forget the correct way to phrase something, you go back to what sounds right.
It’s so frustrating when people write when they should talk. Think about how wounded you feel when a friend texts to cancel a date. Or how you pull out your hair when the call center rep reads a script instead of answering your question. Or how you yawn when the presenter reads from the slides or teleprompter.
Why can’t they just talk to you?
They should. But frequently, you cannot talk individually to everyone who matters. But you can capture more of the intimacy of live conversation by writing like you talk.
Writing like you talk engages your readers by involving them. Colorful language and vivid stories can roll off your keyboard. It’s easy and fun.
When I was studying French, I knew I was gaining proficiency when I started having two-way conversations. A little wine and a cute guy from Quebec helped.
I never reached that level in German. I am still stunned when I hear people speak it. How can conversation flow when they need to think about all those fiddly rules?
Of course, Germans don’t think about the rules, just as we converse without thinking about English grammar. We simply talk.
Because you write so much these days, wouldn’t it be great if it could become as automatic as talking? Maybe it can’t be quite that easy. But it will become much easier if you practice what you’ll learn in this book. .
On top of that, you’ll unleash the power of thinking that goes with writing. By thinking before you write, you won’t miss the point, piss off people or become crippled with writer’s block. By thinking after you write, you’ll can make sure you’ll look good, respect people’s time and conjure some magic from music and movies.
Combine the warmth and spontaneity of talking with the thought and reach of writing and you’ll soon start to see better results.
The writing road trip
Writing is like a road trip. You study the maps and tourist information to plan your trip. You hit the road.
You return home, taking a faster or more scenic route.
If you take the same trip again, it could be even better. You’ll pay less attention to how to get from A to B and more to enjoying the ride. Maybe you’ll travel farther.
Effective writing starts with thinking about who you want to connect with, what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
This gives writing a great advantage over talking, as I’m reminded every time I blurt out something insensitive. Although you may spend a little more time at the outset, these minutes will save lots more time later.
It’s like studying the maps and reviewing the tourist information before you head out on a road trip. It will keep you from getting lost or missing the most stunning sights.
2. Write like you talk
This means more than writing in a conversational style. It’s also about writing freely, like hitting the open road when you know where you’re going and the sun is shining. It’s the free flow of conversation combined with the creative surge of writing. This is the most fun.
3. Make it better
You’ll chop the length so it’s easier for readers to plough through and more focused on just what you want to say You’ll broaden the lens to include other important people.
You’ll hack out the biggest, baddest grammar mistakes, punctuation excesses and other problems that can cloud your meaning.
4. Reach the next level
You’ll take your writing to new levels by applying advanced techniques from movies, music and other media. You’ll go farther faster.
Like driving, the more writing you do, the better you will become. That’s why I’ve included worksheets and checklists you can keep on applying until everything comes naturally.
With practice, your writing will become easier and faster. You’ll get more of the results you desire. Just as handling curves and shifting gears become automatic for the experienced driver, so will writing that connects become natural for you.