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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Talk to Your Readers

With freelance we tend to find ourselves writing informational pieces quite regularly. It can be a piece on how to repair something (DIY), or maybe in the creation of a craft item.

I was reading some information about a craft project that I wanted to try and I actually got bored with the way the article was written. To be honest, it was rather dry and I felt like the writer was telling me what to do. Hello, that's not nice!

Then I remembered one of my favorite authors and how she always talks to you and helps literally kick you in the butt, Natalie Goldberg. If you've read her books you know exactly what I am talking about. Just like standing in one of her mini-writing workshops, she talks to you with her writing.

Recently, I gave her techniques a try while doing a how-to piece on making a memory quilt. I must admit, it was at least a start and I am finding that more people have been interested in reading it. It has actually led to some readers asking additional questions and for ideas. This has helped me then construct my answers for each of them as if I'm sitting across the table from them having a conversation and enjoying the project that we are working on.

It's difficult to do considering that you don't have the person right there in front of you. But, I have found that if you sit there and think about your friends and how you would try to help explain to them how to do something or by visualizing and wanting to show them, it can help you to write a better piece.

Yes, like all of us, I am still learning the technique and still have a ton of kinks to work out. But, by talking to our readers, it gives them a sense that you care and want to help. As our society has changed a great deal in the last 15 years with the onset of this wonderful internet, many of us are now home-bodies and social butterflies of a different nature. We don't leave our homes like we did to socialize. Many of us only socialize through the internet. With this in mind, we need to find ways to humanize what we are writing, to make our readers feel that they matter and are in many aspects a part of our lives as well.

If you are interested in finding out how to write and speak to your readers, check out some of Natalie Goldberg's work. Her most recent release is Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir; or check out one of her older books called Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Each of these will help give you an idea of how to speak to or with your readers rather than at them or telling them.

Happy Writing!


  1. Love Natalie Goldberg. Her "Writing Down the Bones," book pulled me out of a long writing slump a couple years ago. I love your post, and agree with you entirely about writing in a more conversational, engaging manner whenever possible. Sometimes it's a challenge with web writing. One company I work with requires that articles be written in the third person, and certain pronouns (I, you, we, us, our, etc.,) are not allowed, as the editors want artices to have a more authoritative tone. It definitely is a challenge to write engaging articles within these confines, but I'm learning it can be done.

  2. I think your rights, its important to engage the reader, and when we do that, there is a greater likelyhood of getting the message across. But I do think it has to be authentic, you should know the subject and use metaphors that are elastic.

    One technique script writers use is break down complicated things into small steps that can be easily explained to a wider un-knowledgable audience.

  3. Great post! And a good reminder that our words are for people, not for the computer/the Net etc.

    Oh, and I love Natalie Goldberg's books, too. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing.
    Natalie Goldberg was someone I discovered at a Journal writing workshop. Since that time, her books have had a well-used place on my shelf. Particularly, Writing Down the Bones is quite useful just to read a page or two at a time.

    Patricia A. McGoldrick

  5. Anonymous12:22 PM

    I write fiction and skip around. When a scene comes to mind I've got to write it. Later I tuck it into the book. I would probably write full chapters that way if I wrote nonfiction. Good luck on your tour and book.
    Happy Valentines Day,
    J. Aday Kennedy
    The Differently-Abled Writer


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