Daphne Gray-Grant's Rapid Writing
As a kid I was so desperate to have print in front of my eyeballs that I'd read the cereal box at the breakfast table -- in French. (I’m Canadian and all our packaging is bilingual.) It didn't matter how mundane the subject, or how dull the writing, I devoured it.
Flash forward 40 years and I'm still reading like a zealot but I've moved from cereal boxes to electronic newsletters and blogs.
I'm constantly gobsmacked by the sheer number of newsletters and blogs that don't really make the grade. Who reads them? Who has the persistence? The patience? The time? What keeps me at it is the occasional piece of really wonderful writing. (Well, that and the certain knowledge I can learn as much from bad writing as good.)
Now along comes Ira Glass -- legendary National Public Radio producer and host -- with a pithy little YouTube video that, in a few minutes, neatly summarizes exactly what's missing from much of today's communication (this one is the first of a 4-part series).
When you have a spare 5 minutes and 24 seconds, I urge you to watch it:
In the meantime, let me summarize the two key points:
- Stories and anecdotes are central to interesting writing because no matter how boring the material, the momentum of the form will carry the reader/listener along. (Glass compares hearing or reading an anecdote to being on a train.) I love how he reels in viewers with his tale of a man waking up in an extraordinarily quiet house. Isn’t it fascinating how he can make something that’s inherently boring so absolutely fascinating?
- Interesting stories, by themselves, are not enough. They must have a point. Glass calls this the "moment of reflection." This is the big payoff for the reader or listener. It's when the writer shows the connection between the story that grabbed your interest and the idea that just might change your life.
This week as you're writing, ask yourself: Are you telling enough stories? And are you connecting the dots for your readers?
A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8 1⁄2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. It's brief. It's smart. And it's free.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of News Group International.