Is your work “good enough”? If you aren’t asking this of yourself, you should be. Too often, we creatives are blind to our own abilities – our own limits. You’ve heard the saying before, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Does that adage hold true for your work? Is it true regarding what you’ve just created and shared with that special literary agent or potential client? I hope it isn’t, but if it is, relax. Let’s work through the art of writing captivating stories so that you can put your best foot forward and build your platform for the long haul.
Your work ISN’T special…but it CAN be!
The first draft is called word-vomit for a reason. As creatives, we expel words or pictures like fireworks exploding out of our minds. It’s beautiful. It’s awesome. It’s captivating…to us. But, if we leave it the way it comes out, it will remain only captivating to us and no one else. To captivate others with our thoughts, our work must go through the fire of refinement. More work must be injected into the project. In fact, the more effort that goes into a project, the better and more appealing the end result tends to be.
It’s like writing a poem. Anyone can write a poem or craft a picture book. But the first draft of any poem is using first draft words when 3rd or 4th draft words would do far better. First draft lines contain first draft errors and first draft redundancies. First draft sales pitches are too short, too wordy, too bland, too common, and too ineffective while 6th draft sales pitches are dynamite.
Whatever you create is created in it’s most raw form. For it to be useful and valuable, you must refine it like gold.
Give me VALUE.
Without a doubt, the most effective product or service gives tremendous value. Why? Because when people receive tremendous value, they literally cannot keep it a secret. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this in action already, but let me tell you the story once again.
I love exercise and am blessed to have a home gym. It’s not really a home gym though because it’s in my shed. My cold-as-the-arctic-circle-during-wintertime shed. There is nothing more demoralizing to me than being motivated to exercise, walking into my shed, and being so cold that I just want to curl up into a ball and go back inside the house (which I have done many times). So, finally, one Christmas I got myself a super cheap Wemo Mini Smart Plug to plug my space heater in. It’s WiFi enabled and is controlled by the Wemo app.
I decided to give it a try (and bought a second one for the house). What I hadn’t known at the time was the digital smart plug app lets me create rules that activate the switch whenever I wanted. Now, rather than anticipated hypothermia during my workout, I know the shed will be toasty warm. Now know this – Wemo did NOT ask me to mention them, their product, or offer to pay me for doing so (though I would have welcomed the idea *wink wink nudge nudge*. This product is simply beyond valuable to me. It’s so valuable, guess what I do?
I tell everyone. I can’t help it! We people love value! We love giving value. We love getting value. We love sharing anything of VALUE! If you give people value, they will support you and share you with their own sphere of influence. Like a great book, great movie, or great restaurant, value is captivating. That value though, only comes from editing, re-working, refining, developing, and growing your product or service.
Make me FEEL something, anything, but something!
The big reason why stories or art captivates someone is because it hits them emotionally. It pulls some deep, internal string that fills the 18 inch (average) distance between their brain and their heart. I can read a lot of stories but the one I recommend to others will be the one that makes me feel.
Think Great Expectations, when poor little Pip cries at saying goodbye to Uncle Joe. Or the rage that boils in your veins when Edmond Dantes is betrayed by his best friend in The Count of Monte Cristo.
These epic stories do many things, but one thing incredibly well. They move you. They make you cry or they make you angry. They make you reconsider life given this new information or they make you satisfied with how you’ve just spent your time. Even something as “business” as sales copy can be emotionally charged. Consider the following examples:
- Are you looking for windows? Look no further! We sell windows by the truckload! Everyone comes to us for their window needs! Looking to remodel? Building a new home? Want to save money on energy costs? We have the windows for you!
- Sick and tired of high heating bills because your windows are old and you can’t afford new ones? I get it. I’ve been there too. That’s why I created a local, affordable window company for people like us. You don’t need to put it off any longer.
Which company would you call? Which company would you recommend to a friend? You may think it’s because of a lot of factors but the most fundamental one is how those two sales pitches made you feel. Number 1 may not have made you feel anything while number 2 may have made you feel like they would “understand” your situation, or that you could trust them to be honest.
Put it all together for captivating success.
When you put in the time to refine and develop your story, product or service, making sure it is not just average but rare among an array of averages, and your work brings something of value and worth to a person through emotional impact, you are being captivating.
Never stop honing your skills. Never stop getting better. Never stop growing your understanding of your target audience and what they want or need. Never deliver dry and boring when you could have created enthralling and wonderful.
You got this.