Simple Writing Bullet #5: Moonwalk. HEE-HEE!

Simple Writing Bullet #5: Moonwalk.

Did you hear the one about a kindergarten teacher and a girl with boots that won’t fit? The teacher spotted a little girl pulling on her red boots so hard, she tipped over, fell on her back and started crying. The teacher rushed to help, and discovered her boots were stuck. Eventually, after many heaves and puffs, she got her boots on.

Just as she wiped her brow, the girl said,

“Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.”

Sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than putting them on. The little girl waited as the teacher muscled them back on – this time on the right feet.

Then she whispered, “These aren’t my boots.”

The teacher bit her tongue and screamed on the inside. Silently, she wrestled the boots back off.

Then she remembered, “They’re my brother’s boots! Mama made me wear them!”

The teacher didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Finding her long lost religion, she prayed, squeezed the boots back on again, then sighed…

“Okay. Now, where are your mittens?”

“I stuffed them in the toes of my boots…”

You didn’t ask the right question

The way we’re taught to write is to say what we think and ask for what we want. The problem is, that challenges your reader to meet you where you are.

To make it easier for your readers to act, you must meet them where they are.

In other words, write backwards.

Start from what you want your reader to do. Picture it in your head – every tiny step your reader needs to take, from the moment she reads your words, to the moment she does what you want.

Now remember, before every action, there is a decision. And decisions happen in the mind of your reader. Not yours. They happen in your reader’s world. Not yours.

For example, if you’re a parent, you want your kid to eat vegetables. If your kid is normal, he won’t want to eat vegetables. And if you’ve ever tried negotiating with a kid, you know there’s no tougher negotiation adversary in the universe.

So what do you do?

You make The Decision about something else.

Rule #1: Start with WHO. Understand you’re negotiating with a kid.
Rule #2: Find out what they really want. Show him how to get what he wants (by eating vegetables).

One trick we added to our dinnertime arsenal was showing our son a carrot makes the sound CRUNCH. Impressed, he decided he wanted to make CRUNCH too. Not all tricks work all the time — what works best is what he’s most interested in at the time. And the thing he’s interested in doesn’t even have to be a thing.

Same in business. You want to sell your product or service. But your buyers don’t care about helping you sell your product or service. They don’t even really care about buying. What they really care about is getting what they want, with or without you.

So, no, the decision you’re looking for is not “BUY!” The decision you’re looking for happens before “BUY!”

You can replace “BUY!” with any Action — the principle is the same:

What do you want them to think?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to want?

That’s the principle of writing backwards.

When writing for action, always have a specific outcome in mind. Figure out what your reader must decide to produce that outcome. Then work backwards and give your reader everything he or she needs to make her decision. Finally, keep it simple — a confused mind chooses “none of the above”.