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.
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.
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.
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.
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.