Bryan Garner, whom I regard with the utmost respect as a literary expert, recently published another valuable piece in which he expounds on the critical importance of letting your true self shine through your writing. While focused on assisting appellate lawyers, his advice should not be limited to them, but instead, is applicable to all writers, especially in this day and age, when literally everyone writes.
Garner argues that a boring person cannot write an interesting book, an unintelligent person can’t write an intelligent letter, a mean-spirited person can’t write an uplifting e-mail message, and I cannot disagree. He points to the wise advice of philosopher, Bertrand Russell, “A style is not good unless it is an intimate and almost involuntary expression of the personality of the writer, and then only if the writer’s personality is worth expressing.”
What does this sage advice mean to you, for your writing? Simply this. Be yourself. If you’re not comfortable being funny, don’t go there. If you have trouble with grammar and spelling, hire an editor. Or go with the way you do write, a la The Color Purple. If you don’t feel that you can wisely write on a subject, choose a different topic with which you are more comfortable.
While my first boss used to confess that “No one is irreplaceable,” just before he and I both quit our jobs in Big Law, there is absolutely no question that each one of us has something unique to offer the reading public, our unique self and our unique take on our topic of choice. Would-be authors often complain to me that they are afraid, that they don’t want to write a book that someone else has already written. I always assure them that that could never happen. I tell them, “You are the only you and no one else has written the book written by you.”
Maybe you’re the witty, light-hearted type. Maybe you prefer more informative, textbook-style literature. Maybe you just need a bit of assistance to polish up your writing. Whatever it is, if you truly want to connect with your audience, just be you. You’re fabulous and you have a lot to offer.
Write On Your Passions
Be your authentic self, and others will be drawn to what you have to say. For example, I’m a collaborative practice fanatic. When I write or speak on the subject, my enthusiasm is hard to ignore. This makes my audience want to learn more about the exciting things I have to say. But if, instead, I chose to discuss the rodents residing on the Galapagos Islands, you probably wouldn’t really care what I have to say, because, although some might find it interesting, I do not.
Therefore, when beginning to write, start by learning more about you. What drives you? What motivates you? What makes your fire burn? Where does that passion come from? Why?
Now that you’ve done of bit of self-reflection, look at what you’ve already written. Are you speaking truths in the very best way you can? Don’t stop there. Look to ways to improve. Do you reach your point concisely and interestingly? Do you include specifics to foster your points, to make them more interesting, more lucid? Most important, have you been fair to your views and to those of your audience?
By taking the time to answer these questions as you write, you’ll improve your technique and gain a wider audience.