What's the outside like?

Step 1: escape from box

Hello, and welcome to the start of a series of tips to write better. Warning: these will NOT make you a better writer. In fact, they will most likely make your writing worse. If you’re in school, this could fail you out of your classes. If you call yourself a writer, you may want to leave now. This is not art.

This is for you if you’re a leader, teacher, entrepreneur, troublemaker or firestarter who demands that every word you write advances your mission, spawns fanatics or nurtures lifetime customers.

Since you’re busy, I’ll keep each tip short and potent. I hope you’ll start collecting them as bullets for your own writing checklist, and try them in your own writing as often as you can.

Now, let’s get started with our first bullet. But first, will you do me a favor? Imagine a cozy library in your head, stacked with the best writing books you know. Don’t cheat. Imagine the quirky pictures on the covers and the flirty titles on the spines. Now, imagine the air is sweet and woody… and when you flip through the pages, they snap and crackle like dry summer leaves…

Good. Next, I want you to…

Set them on fire and cackle maniacally!

Those damn books may teach good writing, but they teach nothing about rousing an untrusting and distracted person to take action.

The truth is, what makes people take action has everything to do with human behavior, and almost nothing to do with writing.

For example, what one word would you use to get this furry monster to drop everything and give you full attention?
Cookie Monster

COOKIE? Of course. Mr Monster’s an addict. Shame on you for facilitating him. How about…
The Count... AH AH AH AH!

Numbers! AH AH AH AH AH! Good. How about Elmo:
Elmo loves you!

I admit, this one stumped me too. What can you do when you’re stumped? Research! Google says Elmo’s best friend is Zoe, his pet goldfish is Dorothy, his favorite food is Pizza and his favorite song is Elmo Song! Any of those are good choices to grab his attention.

But, do you know what’s more powerful than any of the above?

Their own names!

Advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins said: “Your message should single out your prospect like a bell-boy paging your name in a crowded hotel lobby.”

What makes all this work? Will it work if you said “Cookie” to the Count, or “Dorothy” to Cookie Monster? Will Cookie Monster turn around if you call him “Elmo”?

Would you get excited to see a postcard in your mailbox…

… if someone else’s name is on it?

No. And that’s why…

Always start with WHO. It’s impossible to say anything valuable to anyone, until you know exactly who you’re talking to… as surely as you know Cookie Monster will kill for cookies.

So, think of your writing. Do you know the name and face of the person you’re writing to? How well do you know her passions, fears and pains?

Don’t start until you do.