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5 Creative Writing Lessons That You Can Use In Your Business

5 Creative Writing Lessons That You Can Use In Your Business

Communication is important in business. You might think creative writing is an airy-fairy subject that bears no relevance to your business activity, but I’m here to show you otherwise.

Recently, I was reflecting on some of the most reinforced lessons that I was given during my undergraduate creative writing degree. Despite now being a business owner and non-fiction writer, several of those lessons remain valuable. Here are my top five:

1. Show, don’t tell

This is the first lesson any creative writer learns. Paint a picture with your words, don’t use them to force a message down your reader’s throat. Similarly, show your customers the benefit of your service, don’t just tell them about it in an impersonal, dogmatic manner.

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This lesson could, perhaps, be adapted to say “sell, don’t tell”. Words for word’s sake will get you nowhere. You need to show your business in its best light and then sell it to your prospects. Keep your message short, simple and relevant.

2. You need round characters and flat characters

When creating a story, you need a range of characters. ‘Round’ characters are full of details and tend to be the key people in any story. ‘Flat’ characters are the people in the background, who we all relate to and don’t feel the need to explore deeply or understand fully.

Similarly, your business needs a mix of inspiring new information and comfortable, relatable ideas. People need to feel they can relate to and connect with your message. By all means, wow them with your innovation but remember that you also need to provide a comfortable bridge for them to level with you.

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3. Find details that ‘tell more’

Details with deeper, hidden meanings are part of the standard creative writing toolkit. Objects, images, descriptions…what further information might they hold, what stories might they tell? You can use this idea to better understand your customers, too.

What characteristics, behaviors or traits do your customers have that can tell you more about them? Perhaps you have a group of customers who love all things organic – what else might this say about their lifestyle? What cars do your customers drive, where do they ‘hangout’ online? These details can all reveal something more.

4. Avoid clichés like the plague

Clichés are great. They do the job of instantly explaining relatable truisms. However, they’re relatable for a reason – they are highly overused. While a cliché might seem like the simplest way of getting your message across, bear in mind that they are also unoriginal. Familiarity is important, as is simplicity, but phrases that make your clients roll their eyes is not the way to go.

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Clichés exist not only as phrases but as actions, too. If any aspect of your business activity feels tired and “uninventive,” rework it. Even if you do think the customer is always right, the grass is greener on the other side or that the apple never falls far from the tree, find a different way to show it.

5. Be wary of your internal editor

When staring at a blank screen or new project your internal editor can give you perfection paralysis. If you start censoring, judging and editing before you’ve given the ideas a chance to evolve, you’ll crush your creativity. Instead, work on getting everything out there and giving yourself permission to explore your ideas. Don’t stop after every step to examine your footprint: finish the journey first and then go back and retrace your steps.

Be careful, too, of any negative thoughts that your internal editor is bringing up. Constructive criticism is important but self defeating thoughts and pointless negativity will damage your confidence and the quality of your work.

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What other unexpected lessons do you find helpful in your business? Take some time to think back over the years of learning you have done and see if there is anything that could cross over into your business life.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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