You Can’t Ask for Their Hearts Without Offering Yours First
It must have stemmed from high school English class, when your grade depended solely upon the correct use of grammar and whether or not the teacher disliked you enough to pass you so they wouldn’t have to deal with you again next year.
The class where you wrote what you thought would please the teacher, the man, the education system that manages to belittle the complex human soul into nothing more than a letter on a report card.
Because you’re the sum of your ability to regurgitate information — and nothing more.
Or so they say.
For the first 25 years of my life, I was under the impression that a formal writing style and (slightly) dramatic, eloquent word choices would propel me forward in my writing side hustle.
I’d get hit by an idea for a blog post, usually right before I’m about to fall asleep (I’m convinced this is because it’s the only time of day when my mind is quiet enough to wander) and I’d jot down the main points so I could elaborate on it in the morning.
But once I began to write — like clockwork — the words grew stagnant.
The excitement from the previous night waned, and I began to lose my direction.
Was I only good at coming up with (hopefully) interesting ideas, only to become unable to deliver them?
What good is an idea if it isn’t shared?
As the drafts began to pile up on my blog and I pressed Post less and less frequently, I became deeply discouraged.
It wasn’t until I stopped in the middle of a post I was particularly excited about when the words wouldn’t come, that I realized I never left high school English class.
I never stopped regurgitating information. I never stopped trying to make my ideas as universally palatable as possible, even if it meant filling the void of interest with complicated words. I was still looking for an A for grammar and punctuation, still sacrificing my desire to connect with other humans on the altar of a fluid (albeit boring) sentence.
Not that all these things aren’t important when communicating.
But the root of my writer’s block was boredom.
I become bored with my ideas because I was so consumed with making it sound like a research paper. Hell, I was bored even proofreading the posts I did publish.
That was when I began to notice the blog posts I enjoyed reading the most were ones that were more conversational than authoritative.
If it was a blogger I had been following for awhile, I could sometimes even envision their laughter or hear their solemn tone as I read.
I felt connected to them.
Isn’t feeling connected one of mankind’s most basic desires?
They wrapped me up in their story, and reading their words become a 7 minute escape from my cubicle that I began to look forward to.
“I want to be that for someone.”
There was no personality in my words, no human connection, no humor. No sign of the qualities that drew me to other writers’ words.
The level of emotion and connection in your words doesn’t matter in high school English. But I can remember all the times I wanted to insert a bit of sarcasm, an opinion, a perspective into my essays, but I didn’t for fear that it would be taken the wrong way.
So I cultivated a journalistic, almost objective writing style.
But that doesn’t work when you are trying to get your readers to feel something.
You can’t summon emotion from a reader without using emotion in your writing.
Key takeaway: Say what you want to say in the way you want to say it. Don’t worry about offending someone, or not appealing to everyone. You only want to appeal to those who actually “get you,” and for the love of all things that are holy, it won’t be everyone.