Good Design Needs Good Writing
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Here’s How to Write Better
Did that catch your attention? It’s not clickbait. It’s the first line of a post that I wrote a few years ago that got over 28,000 views in LinkedIn. And it’s not just an intriguing line of copy; it also has a great image to go with it.
In our world where content is king, the kind of content that really engages combines great visuals and compelling language. Good design is simply made better with good writing, and good writing is made better with good design. If you ever need to write about your brand, services or product, you can improve your writing skills. This improved content will give your design team the fodder they need to make a great piece of communications. Yes, even better than the unintentionally successful example above!
Maybe becoming a great writer isn’t in the cards—I know I’ll never be a great designer, but I can design a few things because I’ve learned a few things. So here are a few simple tips to help you become a better writer.
Write With Your Feet
How many times have you stared at your laptop or notepad or wherever you capture your thoughts, and wondered when something good will start coming out of your brain?
When that happens, walk away. Science has proven that when you disengage from a challenge you abandon your conscious brain, and turn things over to a part of the brain where creativity blossoms. So when you’re really stuck, or when you’re trying to figure out what to write about, prepare some notes in your head, maybe even jot a few short bullet points on a Post-It note, and bring them with you as you start your walk.
And if you have a dog, put a leash on her and take her with. My dog Nola is my writing muse. Whenever she and I can get outside and take a long walk, good things happen in my writing. In fact I wrote most of my book The Worst Business Model in the World walking her!
Write It Down!
A potentially obvious but very important reminder: make sure you have a way to capture your thoughts.
You may think you’ll remember your brilliant thoughts perfectly when you eventually write them down, but regardless of how crystal clear an idea was when you thought it up, IT WILL NOT BE THE SAME IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN LATER. So please, for the sake of everything that’s good and holy when it comes to thinking up great stuff, capture your ideas right away. Find what method works best for you. Tattoo it on your arm. However you go about it, don’t lose those pearls of greatness.
I use an app on my phone called VoiceMemos. It’s super simple. I just hit record and talk, and pause when I need to. When I get back to my laptop, I have the raw materials I need to create something great. I transcribe it word for word, print it, read it, and start editing it on paper. That way I’ve captured my voice and the content, and can then get down to shaping it into writing better fit for readers.
Sebastian Junger has written some wonderful things, including the book Tribe, which I encourage you to read when you have time. When someone asked him what he does to deal with writer’s block, he said “Writer’s block means I don’t have enough information.” I couldn’t agree more.
When I find myself stuck, I go to a source of inspiration, which often means reading whatever I can get my hands on. In fact, the article I reference at the start of this post about the convenience store in Mexico City was something I came across when I was reading the Sunday New York Times.
It may be your favorite blog or site or book or magazine. Pick something that interests you and dig in. Inspiration will come as you’re reading and collecting information. And did I mention it’s important to write it down?
Sleep On It
Like a fine wine, the things we write get better with age. I don’t think I’ve written anything that hasn’t been improved with a little time.
Tuck your words in when you hit the sack and let them benefit from a good night’s rest. When you take a look at them in the light of a new day, you’ll be amazed at how much excess language you used to make a simple point. When you can strip away the extraneous words, your content will be more compelling. Writing is more powerful when you capture the essence of a story in a thimble instead of a mug.
Give people something to remember. Ask them a question. Offer them a challenge. And don’t do it to promote yourself, do in in the service of your audience’s interests and make it about them. Give them some closure but also help them like you.
Consider these suggestions and watch your writing improve. When better writing combines with design, your whole marketing game gets better, and we can work together to create great content. In the words of the immortal Jerry McGuire, “Help us help you!”
As you begin to improve your writing, Here are a couple of questions for you to consider: Where will you walk when you start writing your next great piece? And how will you capture your thoughts?
Find Danny Schuman on LinkedIn.
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