As I writer, I use this technique in my everyday world, as well as in my projects at the office. It’s my secret weapon against every writer’s nemesis – the dreaded writer’s block. I get stumped and meander off task, then get anxious and overthink the assignment. Time speeds up and the day slips away from me. It helps me to remember that I’m in control of the words I select, and I steer the course like a captain at the helm of a mighty yacht.
Simply stated, the art of writing boils down to the words you choose to deliver your message.
One of my favorite movies is Big Fish, directed by the exceptional Tim Burton. The main character and hero of the movie, played by Albert Finney, is a world-class storyteller that recounts the key milestone in his life through whimsical, larger-than-life tales. His son is embarrassed and resentful of these stories, until a wise friend pointed out the flaw of being overly logical by saying “Y’see, most men, they’ll tell a story straight through— it won’t be complicated, but it won’t be interesting either. All the facts and none of the flavor.”
The element of flair needs to shine through in your writing. The words you incorporate are your paintbrush for filling the reader’s mind with awe and wonder. The words you select become the puppet master that deliberately leads the reader through a series of emotions, reactions, and personal reflections. The words you include control whether the reader is inspired or deflated, motivated or overwhelmed, and even optimistic or hopeless. It seems like people innately get this in social circles. No one wants to be the dull person who has nothing new to talk about, we want to be the cool guy from sales who scored the big contract and then took the whole team out to celebrate. The facts are the facts, but the words you choose are the difference between the story being mind-numbingly dull or incredibly fascinating.
The first question of any given Monday morning is “How was your weekend?” If I’m being honest, the ratio of time spent on chores versus leisure time is at least 70-to-30 on any given weekend. However, there’s no chance I’m leading with the reality of my ordinary moments. Working out, grocery shopping, and popping into Home Depot for a garden hose will not make the cut of my personal highlights reel. My socially appropriate update would sound more like this, “Thanks for asking, my weekend was fantastic! I caught a comedy show on Friday night, took my cousins to the theme parks on Saturday, and then met the girls for a champagne brunch on Sunday. How about you?” I’m convinced that half of the reason people take up hobbies or watch the latest movie is to tell others about it.
Through the magic of editing, expand your basic thoughts into powerful, descriptive statements. Make announcements, declarations, and bold predictions. For example, consider the evolution of this sentence:
- The chef prepared our meal tableside, and it was very tasty.
- Our chef prepared a healthy meal for us tableside, and I enjoyed the flavor of the fresh herbs in the sauce.
- Our award-winning chef wowed us by preparing our meal tableside, and the combination of the fresh-cut basil and balsamic reduction was the perfect complement to the roasted pork tenderloin served atop fingerling potatoes.
Which meal would you rather eat? Skim through your drafts and look for places to exchange the ordinary words for extraordinary phrases. Dynamic writing almost becomes a game of age appropriate Mad Libs. Was your chicken dish excellent, or was it mouthwateringly tender? Was your hotel fancy, or was it a 5-star resort with a luxurious spa? Was your vacation fun, or was it an experience of a lifetime? You’ll be surprised how easy it is to spot the ineffective words once you start to look for them.
Writing isn’t a skill that’s reserved for the uber creative among us. With a little practice and a thesaurus at your fingertips, anyone can become an accomplished writer. Don’t be afraid to do a brain dump, then polish up your adjectives on the next edit. When in doubt, just start typing. One of two things will happen- either you’ll practice your brainstorming and storytelling skills on an completely unusable piece, or more likely your research will spark an idea that leads to a fascinating, dynamic post.
At Hunter & Bard, we continually challenge ourselves to expand our stylistic writing skills and carefully select the most relevant words for your brand’s voice. If you’d like us to take a crack at writing for your audience, we’d love the opportunity to deliver a masterpiece. Until then, I’ll keep my head in the clouds.