For all of my adult life and for most of my childhood I have been told by many that I can write well. Perhaps it’s a learned skill, or maybe its innate, or the fact that my mother never talked baby talk to me, but always articulated beautifully the details and moments of our daily lives. It may have roots in genetics as my gene pool is swimming with a host of writers still in this world and some that are long gone but all that have been published and have some truly impressive credentials.
I guess, I just love words. Actually I read a statistic the other day that said that women speak 7,000 words to the man’s average of 2,000 – and I wonder does this leak over to the written word? In reviewing emails and texts, I certainly see the efficiency of testosterone as most of my 1 of 2 part text messages are responded to with….”K.” So much for two-way conversation.
But if you ask me, I attribute my writing skills to empathy – a somewhat unique ability I think I got in spades and that allows me put myself in the mind of the writer and let the thought process and the writing flow begin.
The first time I really understood this was when I was in college and a good friend of mine had just had a fight with his girlfriend and wanted to write her a letter to explain some things. He told me the story and I really felt his pain, and hers at the misunderstanding that had happened. I turned around and wrote a letter for him, and when I gave it to him to read, he just stared at me and said “how did you know all of this? I didn’t even tell you half of it.”
It’s a little spooky, this empathy transcends time – I can put myself in the past to help people cope with feelings of loss or regret, I can write in the moment or I can write for a future that needs to take place but hasn’t yet. They say that the messages that you write are to inform, educate or persuade – somehow I intrinsically know which one of these your message needs to be, and I have helped countless people find a “voice” on paper and hopefully make things better or clearer for it.
At times, this empathy thing can be uncanny. It is almost as if I take on the very characteristics of the person or people that I’m around. Left alone with Tar Heel fans, I’ll pick up a southern drawl and spew basketball facts, parked in a room of cigar lovers, I will make myself at home, smoking and toking and providing relevant aficionado banter. My friends once joked that you could drop me in a room of Hasidic Jews and that I would soon get along just as seamlessly as if you dropped me in a room of PTA moms. To paraphrase something coined by Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny, I blend….its just what I do and this transfers to my writing.
It certainly helps that I love wordsmithing. In fact, the verbal play of the double entendre can get me syntactically hot and bothered. Don’t even get me started on my love of a great quote. Language for me is just fun and we have so many words to use to share our thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions, that it seems a shame not to play with it a bit.
My love of writing, and the fact that I dropped out of Calculus three semesters in a row, landed me on the short side of my BS and I came out of SUNY Albany with a BA in English, a minor in Psychology and a penchant for digging into things to understand them so I could write about them.
So, I’m a writer. Not of books per se, though I wouldn’t count that out just yet, but a writer none the less. Whether it is a resume or cover letter, a technical manual, an article for a publication, a dedication, a presentation or a speech you need to deliver at the board meeting, I am your gal. Given bullets or a general overview for the event and a short explanation about the target audience for the speech (don’t forget access to pen and paper – how old school!) I’m on it. Add my friend Webster and my laptop, and I will go hog wild. Oh and by the way, I also do some kick ass copy editing. In many respects, and because of that empathetic “gift” of written gab I seem to have, I guess you would consider me a ghost writer.
For many years I’ve enjoyed copy-editing as well as working for and writing for fabulous people, relying on their knowledge, their emotions, their intentions and learning about their markets, the people they are trying to reach and the impact they want to make. It’s been a great avenue to explore and expand my writing, but lately, I’m finding more and more that I want to step out of the shadows and claim those words again. Like a Broadway baby wannabe – I want my name up in lights, or at least on the byline. Doubts of course ensued. Am I good enough? Do I know this material well enough? Why would someone listen to me?
And I realized a few things.
1. When writing on matters of the heart or anything you are passionate about, there is no right or wrong.Feelings are feelings and if you have them, you can write about them.Hell, even if you don’t have feelings you can write about them, just probably not as compelling.
2. There is such a thing as a co-authored piece, so if you need someone’s expertise and they need your writing skills – do what chocolate and peanut butter did – get together. Maybe create a by-line that covers you both. For years, I’ve wanted to team up with one a gentlemen colleague of mine and call ourselves “The Twisted Pair” – kind of like a he said / she said. I think it could be brilliant and give room to have two opinions. You know who you are boy, are you ready?
3. Never under-estimate the value of good research. If you don’t know your subject matter, you can learn it. Writing is just another form of communication, as is speaking to people. So do your research on line and then talk to experts that know your subject matter, ask them questions and listen to their answers as you get your brain wrapped around your topic.
4. Remember in ghost writing who you are writing for. Ultimately, the person that hired you, hired YOU to write for THEM. This is YOUR target and although it doesn’t come with the fame and glory of the masthead announcing you’re the author – the “author” will know it came from you. You have to get “okay” with that.
5. Find an honest “feedbacker” - get a good block of content together and then find a friend, colleague or relative that can be brutally honest with you. No, not your mom. She loves everything you do. Find someone who challenges you, but more than that truly wants you to succeed.
6. Writing more means more writing. Write as often as you can, and read as much as you can. Your brain is a muscle and when you exercise it, it will reward you. Don’t try for perfection; you’ll kill yourself staring at blank pieces of paper. Just write.
People are always hungry for more information. Content is king and will continue to be, so get started on your way, writing about what you know, what you love, what you want to share with the world. Put it on paper, bang the keys of your laptop, just get your message out there and your voice heard….
And if you have any trouble, give me a call. I can help.