Before you get started - stop!

Sounds weird- right? But I make most of my mistakes in writing by just jumping on in. Why do I do it?

Here's what happens

As soon as I go to write anything I find myself thinking all about me.  But a more useful and  strategic thing you can do, and I can too even though I keep forgetting and going back to default mode of me me me, is to not think about me and start writing but to stop. Stop thinking about myself and put my reader’s needs before my own.  Yes. My reader. Who am I writing to or to whom am I writing? (notice the little mini grammar tip hidden in there?)

For example, if I am writing to a really busy woman who gets upward of 50 emails a day. It would be thoughtful of me if I cut to the chase and got to the point in the first sentence of my email. People muck about with how are you doing? And I hope you are enjoying this fine weather or what a wonderful marketing meeting we had on Tuesday and all the poor reader probably wants to know is – what am I supposed to do?

I think it's about me.

But it's not.

Most of us when we sit down to write think about ourselves first, which is only natural.  We are the centre of our worlds, things only exist the way we perceive them. I sit down at the keyboard and I think what do I, me, myself want to say about this? What pearls of wisdom do I, me, myself have to share on this topic? (That’s not a mini grammar tip just me fooling about).

There’s a phrase going about  - customer centric  - which  I think was generated by a computer, but you get the idea. Think about what your reader needs. Be reader, not writer centred.

Who are you talking to?

Of course marketing and sales people have been doing this kind of research for decades in order to sell more effectively. This is not a sales tool, although it applies equally to your marketing copy. This is more about genuine consideration for the person who will be reading, which is what all professional writers do. As they write, they imagine one person they are writing to and what their reader's persuasions, predilections and peccadilloes might be. Sometimes they even imagine the circumstances the reader might be in while reading the email, report or story. Are they hunched over a desk that is loaded with to-dos or are they reclining on a swing chair in the garden on a sunny afternoon? 

Turning your thoughts outward instead of inward helps your writing in two immediate ways. Firstly, it takes the pressure off you and puts the focus on the content, and secondly it helps you decide really quickly what to put in and what to leave out, where to start and even, when to stop.

So before you write, stop. Think about the person at the other end of the words and make what you say matter to them. That way, they will read it.