Friday, June 18, 2010

Talk to Yourself

I recently read a great list of things to do to write better blog posts by John Graham-Cumming. Or rather it's really just about writing better in general.

If you are reading our blog right now, you may have noticed we've been working a bit harder on it. And I personally am working really hard to be a better writer. I believe it's paying off, as we have a good number of posts that get anywhere from 2 to 10 thousand people show up and read them. And our clients and potential clients are starting to reference some of this writing in our conversations.

I'm not trying to brag though. I feel like it's not too terribly hard to achieve this with some work.

There's a few more tips I'd like to eventually share about being a better blogger or writer that I started mentioning in a comment on John's post. Here's probably the most important tip to expound on:

Talk to yourself.

It's kind of a mashup of some things John was talking about. He mentioned spending time offline thinking about your post, and also reading your post aloud.

Similarly I've started talking to myself. Like a lot. :)

I'll just stand in the shower or walk around the house giving improv presentations to no one.

I'll pace around like I'm on stage for 15 or 30 minutes just arguing to the invisible crowd about how to do something better, or how to get off their ass, or how stupid something is, whatever.

Some of the reasons why this is so awesome include:

Writing more naturally

For some reason people, myself included, can start sounding wooden when writing. But for whatever that reason is, it tends to disappear when I'm talking about that same subject to someone or to no one.

A few months ago I was helping some high school kids prepare for their college applications. These are kids who are the first in their families to be able to go to college, so they tend to need a little additional help with getting prepared.

These kids are friggin smart and motivated and accomplished. And yet, when I'd read a few of these essays for these college apps, they were robotic. You could probably write a computer application to spit this stuff out, just by scanning their college transcript.

So I would just ask them, "dude, you are doing some really cool stuff, just tell me about it". And out of their mouths comes this stuff that over and over again gave me chills. These kids were kicking ass. One kid couldn't even speak english when he was a Freshman. Now he's an A student and in charge of the tutoring program for kids in school that need help in Math and Science. Awesome accomplishment.

But it's forgettable in his current essay. So I just started typing stuff the kid was saying out loud to me. A totally different essay emerged, and one the kid now was super pumped about.

You get to argue with yourself

Face it, some stuff you write or think about shouldn't see the light of day. Because it's terrible or wrong. But sometimes you write it and realize that later.

I find having a talk to an invisible audience actually gets a bunch more of those naive thoughts out there for debate in my own head better. I'll get through talking about such and such, and now all of a sudden I find I can punch 10 holes through all of it. Or realize, you know that's not really how I think of this topic most of the time.

I don't know enough about brain science, but I do know that different parts of the brain obviously do different things. And it sounds like the part of the brain that makes speech is different than the part that interprets speech. Maybe it's even a different part of the brain that interprets writing too? Who knows, obviously people learn to understand speech before they understand how to read. Maybe that makes us much better at being able to take in even our own thoughts if they come through our ears rather than our eyes.

Writers block be gone

One last point is that, I've definitely felt like I have nothing to write about. Lot's of people get to that point. But I guarantee if I called someone with writers block on the phone, I doubt they are also mute at that point :)

See? People can talk much more fluently and prolifically than they can write. Usually.

Just doing a talk to the aether, can do wonders creatively.

So I dare you. For the next week, give the air a lecture on something. Whatever you're thinking about. Just improv 15 minutes out and really listen to your words.

Then go write that stuff down. I think your going to like the results.

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