“There’s no mystery to it and it’s not a technical trick.The scheme is for real….you can manufacture faith from nothing and there are an infinite number of patterns and lines that connect from key to key – all deceptively simple. You gain power from the least amount of effort, trust that the listeners make their own connections, and it’s very seldom that they don’t.”
In this passage in Bob’s autobiography, he is talking about a musical style that he learned and was about to start using as part of his playing and singing style.
This is very much about music: the structuring of melodies, and marrying them to lyrics to create songs. But while I was reading it, I started to realize that this same concept, of gaining power from the least amount of effort, was something that had strong applicability to virtually any type of writing.
And if you think about the different writers you read regularly, it’s quite possible that they are employing this same concept.
“I don’t know why the number 3 is more metaphysically powerful than the number 2 but it is.”
Back in the day when I wrote a lot of print advertising, one of the things I used to do as part of my approach to whatever I had to write, was to imagine every ad to be a sort of three-act play.
In Act One, you introduce the product through a situation that was usually some sort of problem the product you were writing about could solve.
In Act Two, you introduce the product and explain more or less how it works to solve the problem you set up in Act One.
In Act Three, you confidently make the assumption that you have done a good job in Acts One and Two and basically wrap things up by asking for the sale.
This rule would apply to pretty much everything you did: a TV spot, radio commercial, brochure or product video. (That’s sort of all we had back then).
In today’s world of Content Allegedly Being King, you find that ads are now longer format posts or blog posts. But, believe it or not, in most cases where these pieces are being created to sell something, the structure is basically the same. The depth of sale opportunity is greater but the logic of the selling argument is eternal.
“A song is like a dream you try to make come true. They are like strange countries that you have to enter.”
I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever just sit down and start writing. Not without an idea that at the very lease illuminates and defines Act One of the process.
Once an idea occurs to me, I think about it for quite a while (several hours), while I am doing other things. That’s the great thing about ideas. They are extremely portable and very light.
When I was younger, there was a front end to this process in that I would think about a lot of ideas and jot a lot of them down, for fear of forgetting them, and then pick one. This was similar to my photography when I would shoot a lot of different things and end up with just one or two that I thought, yeah, these are OK.
These days, and maybe it has something to do with accumulated insight, I stumble on an idea, like I did reading Bob’s autobiography, and that idea becomes a bit of a temporary obsession.
I explore all the ways I can get to Act 2 and 3, eliminate the stupid shit and end up with a pretty clear picture in my head of how to take it from one end to the other.
“One line brings up another like when your left foot steps forward and your right foot drags up to it.”
Because you have thought through the process and structure or creating the piece the actual writing is more like a gestalt, where you get to spew it all forth.
It may come out a little rough, but that doesn’t matter if the idea is sound and thought through. You can always fix it, tighten the bolts, lubricate the joints, add tangential thoughts that support the premise, and generally have a good time doing it.
But all the time, you are moving forward. The pony is sashaying or trotting or galloping depending on your preference and the speed at which you like to work.
I generally spend about 30 to 45 minutes writing on each op ed or insight piece I create. But I never measure the amount of time I spend molding the idea. It would be hours, days or even weeks, depending on the idea.
Why I Wrote This
A lot of people think that the stuff I write sounds very spontaneous, like a stream of consciousness rant. So I guess I wanted to let you know that this isn’t true. That there is a method to every bit of madness that I tap out here.
It is all thought through. It is all well planned. And most of the time I hope it’s well executed. But all the time it’s fun] for me to write.
There is a certain amount of addiction involved in anything you like to do and that gives you joy. I am a writing junkie.
I write all kinds of things.
In fact two days ago I unearthed the the opening salvo for a novella I want to write. It’s called Smith and it’s about a guy who learns to become a professional killer.
At least once a week I sit down and blow out an idea I have for a lyric and add it to my catalogue. Then I send it out to several composers I know to see if it turns their cranks.This week I am in the middle of writing a credentials package for an association I am starting with my friend and associate, Charlene Norman, who is one of the smartest business analysts I have ever met and who wants to get involved with some of the larger businesses in this area.
The long and short of it is that you can’t do all this unless you are at the very least, mildly addicted to the idea of doing it, and have developed your abilities to actually do it well.
I genuinely believe that the addiction defines the difference between those who write and those who make a career out of writing.
Which one are you?
• Think before you start writing.
• Decide on a structure. A three act play or whatever works for you.
• Just have fun.
• Don’t fear becoming addicted to writing. You will not die, it’s not poison.
If your business has reached the point where talking to an experienced communication professional would be the preferred option to banging your head against the wall or whatever, lets talk.
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