Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Life Is in That Opening!

In starting a discussion on why writer’s block often happens when composing the opening of a business message, I often ask, “What’s in the opening that prevents us from writing it efficiently?”

People usually respond, “That’s the part that sets the tone for the rest of the message, so I try hard to find the right words to respect people’s feelings” or “Sometimes I’m really not sure of what my message is, so I immediately get stuck on my purpose statement.” Either of these answers works for gaining insight into this pressing writing problem.

I recently received a different answer so rich with both perception and pragmatism. When Jennifer Noble, a Systems Integrity Analyst at Nickelodeon, heard me ask the question, she promptly responded with two simple words: “My life.”

A follow-up chat with Ms. Noble showed that those two words have several philosophical and practical implications. For instance, by “my life” she could have meant:
  1. The distractions of my life—my frantic schedule, my frequent interruptions, my diverse responsibilities, even my own insecurities—could get in the way of writing an efficient opening.
  2. My own preferred style—which is a reflection of my attitude and life experience—might not work for this situation, so now I have to leave my compositional comfort zone.
  3. My life— my business deal or my very reputation—is on the line, so writing the opening is unnerving.

What could we do about "my life" getting in the way? Skip the opening and jump to the details, which are much easier to write. You can return to the opening once you’re in a writer’s groove, when you’ll find crafting the opening a less imposing task.

Thanks for sharing “my life,” Ms. Noble!

To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here: