Know what you want to say, and then listen

There’s a balance.  When we go to writing a thing- to identify the narrative of something there are to two things that need to happen.

Step One:  Know what YOU want to say.  

Dig in. Commit.  Get really clear because if you’re not clear, your audience won’t be either.  Have the courage to make to tight too.  If it’s a paragraph, it’s too long.  There’s this great practice of the 8 word mission statement.  In your narrative (book, campaign, keynote, video) get it that tight.  And be not shy.  It takes some courage and trust to just put a stake in the ground a write down what you wanna say, without explanation, with declaration, without apology.

Step Two:  Now Listen.

So you’ve got it clear on what YOU want to say.  You’ve done that work.  Now STOP and notice what your audience needs in order to hear it. Do they need a runway of explanation?  Do they need an interaction? Do they need you to just come right out with it?  This is the art of the work here.  Know what you want to say, and then say it so they can hear it.  How do we do this?  Imperfectly.  That’s how.  But here are a few things that help:

  • Drop the ego. Be willing to do a different way than YOU want to to. Some call this killing our darlings or BBQing our sacred cows.  Just let go.
  • Use empathy.  Really. Feel your audience.  Spend time imagining their faces, their thoughts, doubts, fears, hopes.  This is a meditation, or a workshop, or an archetype.  Know who they are, then have the discipline to stay with them.
  • Play.  Play helps.  Workshop three different ways to approach your audience.  And commit to each approach as you build it.  When I do concepting with my creative counterparts, we ALWAYS think of three or four concepts we believe in and we take the time to fully build them out, holding empathy for our audience the whole time.  This brings great relief and confidence in our final selection and shines a light on gaps, overlaps and new possibilities.  And it works best if you approach is as play.
  • Find inspiration.  Go out onto the interwebz. Or into your network and look for things that inspire you.  This is a big unlocker when you’re stuck seeing only one way of telling your story.

In the end you’ll still be imperfect.  And that’s part of the dance when we don’t live in a world of 1’s and 0’s.  We live in the land of subjective, emotional, nuanced storytelling- in whatever form you do it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *