The ability to write well is both a talent and a skill. I am convinced that creating or fixing your personal brand absolutely demands you need to demonstrate the skill of writing well (or else you will have to pay someone else to ghostwrite for you.)
Here’s a secret I will share with you:
- You are born with talent.
- You can learn skill.
Writing and Your Personal Brand
I have taught writing to adults at the university level in the highly competitive and demanding Washington, DC market. I admit this right up front so that you will know where I am coming from in my commentary about writing and your personal brand.
I have seen how difficult it is to teach someone how to write well who somehow was born without the necessary talent for the task.
I also have seen people grow and become better writers because they deliberately chose to apply themselves in a learning situation.
And, one more admission: I have been pleasantly surprised to discover adults with an ability to write well in the English language even though they were born into some other language.
So, after many years of professional experience as a writer and also because I am one who teaches others how to write well, this is what I believe: Success in writing well in the English language starts with a person’s ability to use his or her own mind well.
I further believe that a person must attain the skill to use their mind to do two related tasks: (1) to consider symbolic meaning, and, (2) to express meaning to others symbolically.
Attaining success at each of those two tasks can yours if you start by deliberately applying yourself in a learning situation. Such a learning situation can be in a classroom or through online learning.
Discover Great Writers
Another equally valid learning situation is this: Read a book or two written by a person who is known for succeeding at the two tasks (thinking about symbolic meaning, and, expressing oneself symbolically in text form).
In my humble opinion, everyone should be able to name at least one book and one writer of the book that has made a strong impression on their adult mind. The ability to know and respect a masterful writer is essential to improving one’s own writing.
And, the book and the writer do not need to have some lofty significance intellectually. When I was very young, for instance, I was quite impressed the very first time I read the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by Lyman Frank Baum (1856 – 1919).
As I grew older and matured emotionally, I never forgot how strongly positive I felt about that famous fantasy story. But, I became more impressed the works of with another American writer, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 – 1910).
What writing is impressive to you will be as individual as you are. What impresses you before you reach the age of 13 will be far different from what impresses you after you reach the age of 31.
What’s important is to explore writers and their works while deliberately applying yourself in a learning situation. Yes, you should read for enjoyment. But, enjoyment need not be separated from learning.
I also believe you should broaden your horizons by reading writers whose works are in the nonfiction category. The enjoyment of a nonfiction writer’s works can match or exceed that of enjoying fiction writers’ works.
Sometimes, you will get very lucky and find one writer who succeeds well at both fiction and nonfiction. American Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007) is one such writer. Gore Vidal (born 1925) is one of the greatest living American writers who mastered both genres.
Online Writing Challenges
In today’s world there are so many opportunities for you to write using online channels. This is both a blessing and a curse.
If you use Twitter, for example, you are limited by their format to using only 140 characters for whatever you intend to write. Sometimes, less is more. Using Twitter to communicate in text form will focus your writing skills so that you learn to express yourself within the restrictions of only 140 characters.
Other online channels such as Facebook or Google+ are far less restrictive in terms of the available space in which you can write in text form. This does not necessarily mean that using Facebook or Google+ will be better for reaching and convincing your target audience, however.
Having your own blog (like the one you are reading now) on your own website affords the greatest luxury in online writing: You can have unlimited space within which you may write whatever you wish. However, I have read many blog posts that contain a lot of words, yet somehow convey very little substance or impact.
I invite you to read my comments about why you need to have your own website if you really want to be successful with your own personal brand. I want you to know that there are dangers involved in doing your own website.
Five Dimensions of Effective Writing
Let me close this commentary by providing what I consider to be the five essential dimensions of effective writing. You can use these to generate important questions that you need to ask yourself before you start writing:
I want to reach the reader why…
I am writing this because…
I am writing this for whom…
I want the reader to do what…
I expect the reader will already know…
I want the reader to respond how…
I expect the reader actually will respond how…
I want the reader to use this for what…
I want the reader to remember this one thing…
I want to have this specific outcome…
I want to reach the reader how and where…
I want this to go out where and when…
I intend to measure the impact by…
To summarize, let me repeat that you can succeed in creating or fixing your personal brand if you can demonstrate skill at writing well. This is true whether you are writing for print or online.