Why can’t I see you?

Could it be because you are simply not showing up? I think it was Woody Allen who said, “80% of success is in showing up.” Whether concretely or metaphorically, your presence is required in your writing.

Other people can research and record the same facts. Other people might even share many of your opinions. But when I am drawn to a source of writing, it is usually because I am drawn to the writer. How are they like me? How are they different? What are their characteristic ways of expressing themselves?

I love to read the Dear Sugar column at TheRumpus.net. (Warning: Language is often strong.)  Sugar writes anonymously for now, and has reflected several times on this anonymity. Is she “showing up”? Oh, yes–often virtually naked in her openness and vulnerability.  Even though I don’t know her name, I feel I have a profound sense of who she is.

Journalists are taught to write without injecting their personality into their reporting. Some are more successful than others, but by and large, I don’t read news articles because of the byline. If I do read  them, it’s for the facts I hope they contain. Does this suit your writing purpose? If so, you can get lots of free education and tips at Poynter. You may want to start with Roy Peter Clarke’s 50 Writing Tools (the link is to a summary version; the whole list is well-worth reading and re-reading).

Malcolm Gladwell is another favorite of mine. In one sense, he is a consummate reporter, sharing his  research and insights  uncolored by the language of emotion. Yet in his choices oof what to research, what to report, which experts to interview, and how to report their stories, he shows up so clearly I have the sense I can identify his pieces without seeing who wrote them.

How can you show up?

  • Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.
  • Be consistent; think about integrity, “being of one piece,” and hold yourself to it
  • Be reliable. If you are blogging, and commit to one post a week, don’t let your readers down. If you are writing a book, and promise a result in its title, make sure that a way to achieve the result is given to the reader by the last chapter.
  • Avoid “cute.”
  • Write English (or whatever language you are writing), not SMS/text-speak. (LOL!)
  • Care about your reader, and let it show.

Your thoughts? Please comment.

Be real

If you want to build an audience of people who know you, like you, and trust you, you need to be yourself. Which should be a relief, because you have no competition for that role.

But if instead you try to sound like someone else, or like something you are not, you are sure to fail. People are astonishing in their ability to smell the inauthentic, the phony. It’s not a conscious thing; it is intuitive. You are good at it, too; you know who sounds real, who sounds like a person you might get to like, and who is trying to sell you a bill of goods.

“Authenticity is the key. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made,” is an old cynical joke. But the truth is that authenticity cannot be faked or imitated. Your readers’ BS detectors will be ringing all over the world if you try to pass off some imagined image of who you think you ought to be on them.

Don’t bother. It has no upside. Be yourself. You are not only good enough; you are wonderful! You have something powerful and unique to offer, something that nobody else has. Yes, it may take some work to find out exactly how to express it. But you know what? You can get help from your public.

Start with a blog. Communicate on a regular basis with your audience. Ask for their feedback. Give them yours, respectfully. It won’t be long at all before you find out who you are and how you appear to your market.

You can use polls to ask your readers about things, too. And all of this interaction is fuel for your book, for the powerful message you will package and deliver to your readers.

But don’t wait to construct a flawless persona; nobody has one, and if you present one, it will be immediately recognized as phony.

Be yourself.

The power of story in writing your book

I got linked through Copyblogger to a wonderful blog, to which I will direct you in a moment. On this blog there was a link to an anonymous post from a reader. It is astonishing in its clarity, its transparency, and its good writing. Before I send you over there, I wanted to mention the power of story:

  • Humans seem to have some kind of neural receptors for stories. Something turns on in us, and we settle down to find out what’s next.
  • Stories give us a place of contact. Electronic communication occurs in a sterile frame; no coffee spots on the “paper,” no characteristic handwriting, no whiff of perfume or tobacco. Stories increase the surface area of contact with our reader.
  • Stories have power. Don’t misuse it: If you take your reader somewhere they don’t want to go, they are not likely to trust you again.
  • A photo of a cup of coffee.
    Image via Wikipedia
So think about these points as you read this, and decide how to add more stories to your writing.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
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