Often when people ask about the secrets of great writing they expect something mysterious, some unattainable skill that only the brightest minds seem to be able to grasp. Sure, the Michael Jordans of writing might indeed possess something along those lines as the conception of complex worlds such as those of Tolkien or Rowling can scarcely have happened without some alien capabilities. But there are millions of mere mortals who create fantastic content daily without possessing godlike skills. How do they do it?
In this article series I will go through some of the simple things to keep in mind if you want to create great content. Welcome to Part one: Listen!
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!
The saying is older than dirt and possibly more boring too. But there is usually a reason why dull sayings stick around to annoy generation after generation. While this particular proverb is mainly intended to make people pay more attention to the needs of their peers, it is highly applicable to the creation of content, especially written content.
Working with content creation and copywriting, I talk to a lot of clients who are in need of texts which describe their product or services, so when we meet for a briefing they usually want to start off by telling me about said products or services. This is not the best place to begin, however, and I usually steer the conversation in another direction as soon as I get the opportunity.
When I am hired to write for a new client the first thing I ask them is always the same thing: tell me freely about what you do and why!
Sure, I want to hear about their business. After all, I am supposed to write about it. But that is not why I start things off in this manner. This first inquiry is designed in a specific way to encourage a specific type of answer. An answer containing what I call “little truths”.
A “little truth” is a parcel of information spoken with the utmost sincerity, an aspect of the story which the narrator believes to his or her core to be accurate. This is what you want to be listening for! When someone speaks freely without preparation, they speak from the heart and truthful nuggets are bound to pop up. Little truths give you a glimpse of the essence which you are meant to capture in your writing.
Don’t forget to take notes of all that other interesting stuff being said which you will need to incorporate into your content, but make sure you find a system to highlight the little truths – I usually just embolden them in the notes – as they will form the basis for a genuine story.
So listen, and listen carefully!
You also have two ears and ten fingers for a reason!
Now we’re talking, here’s a more relevant quote for a writer! After you have put those two ears to good use, the task moves on to the fingers, and it is no coincidence that they are five times as many. What are the little truths? Little, of course! They are, as mentioned, just glimpses of the essence, not its entirety, which is why you need more fingers than ears to proceed with creating great content.
Taking essential elements or fragments of a story and turning them into vivid and captivating narratives is the core assignment of any writer, be they fictional, factual, copy or other. But turning concepts, ideas or little truths into something more than that is diligent work that requires all those fingers.
Though even twenty of them would be utterly useless in the hands of somebody who doesn’t first use their two ears!
Did you enjoy this post? Please consider sharing it wherever people might appreciate these kinds of tips and be on the lookout for Part two of the series!