Do you seek clarity first?


Clarity…

When I started writing I was semi-clueless about the craft especially when it came to producing content for an audience. All I knew is that I enjoyed writing, strike that, I had a passion for writing.

The first writing project I dedicated my time and efforts to was writing my autobiography. I had envisioned a best seller. An epic story that helped the masses discover the treasures that are hidden in the tragic events that are common experiences for the majority of us.

After two years of pecking away at the keys on my keyboard I got up the courage to reach out to a writing coach for some professional feedback.

Brandon, read the first few pages and then he asked me a question that I hadn’t anticipated. “Who is your intended audience or your target market?” He inquired.

I revealed my almost pearly whites and said. “Anybody and everybody that might benefit from the positive things I have learned from the tragic events of my life.”

“That’ a pretty broad net you are casting.” Brandon smiled, and asked. “Do you fish?”

I scratched my head and responded.“I love to fish but what’s that got to do with my writing?”

“Any good fisherman will tell you no matter how large a net you cast, you won’t catch any fish in an empty lake.” Brandon observed the perplexed look on my face and then he inquired.“What’s the message you want to get out?”

Ouch… I shook my head and looked across the table at Brandon, thinking that I had wasted two years of my life. If he couldn’t grasp the message I had worked so hard to convey the first few pages I had written must have sucked.

After ten or so minutes listening to me ramble on about my message Brandon took a few minutes to express his thoughts about the few pages he had read of my manuscript. I was happy when he said I had captured his imagination as well as his heart. When he finished sharing his encouraging words, he suggested that we meet again the next week. After I had the opportunity to do some soul searching and some research to define my intended audience.

Even though my first coaching session didn’t go the way I expected I learned a valuable lesson. When you are writing it is as crucial to know who you are writing for, as it is to know the message, or thought you wish to convey.

It’s been about five years since my first coaching session, since then I have become a writing coach and volunteer mentor for writers myself. The first thing I share with my writing clients is the importance of clarity. Not only clarity of their message, but clarity as to who their audience is.

Do you know who your target audience is?

Before you sit down to write, it is a good idea to determine who you are writing for. Do the research and write in a style that will appeal to that audience. Recent study’s conducted by several organizations including the National Center for Educational Statistics or NCES have revealed that the average Adult in the United States reads at a ninth grade level. Further more it has been determined that the average reader would rather read at a level two years below their skill level for entertainment purposes. That said most likely the members of your target audience prefer reading stuff that has been written at a seventh grade reading level. So much for “five dollar” words… I am not saying don’t use them, but consider this. Would you enjoy reading something if you had to google every other word in order to understand what it is the author is trying to say?

Do you have clarity about who you are writing for?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I appreciate you and am grateful for your taking the time to do so. With luck you found some of the information useful.

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How shall I begin?


Isn’t it funny sometimes how things turn out even when we put forth the effort required to make things happen as we intended them to? January is over and I have yet to post anything on my blog this year even though I have been working on this post for weeks.

Oh come on now Joe you’re a paid writer. Do you mean to tell me that you do the research and write 600-700 word articles for your clients in a matter of hours, but a simple post for your own blog has taken almost a month to write?

Not to make excuses, but the dead of winter is an emotionally challenging time for many of us, and this winter has been especially challenging for me. The fact is I’ve been hesitant to share what’s been on my mind.

As I stood among my friends the Aspen, Cottonwood, and Spruce a couple of weeks ago on a frozen mountainside I caught site of a lone bird sitting on a bare branch. The crooning of the lonely songbird invoked a deep mourning for one that I loved and missed dearly.

You may not know it, but last January my son Dennis passed away after a long bout with the a demon I know all too well… the devil that lurks inside of the bottle.

I searched for the silver lining in the sorrow I was experiencing while a ferocious arctic wind pummeled my face with ice rain, sleet, and snow. With frostbite about to set in from the waterfall of tears cascading down my frozen cheeks it dawned on me that tragedy was the perfect segue into my upcoming series about writing.

Tragedy… After all a series of tragic events was the impetus for me to write something for the first time since I left high school.

What was so tragic that I would pick up the pen and express myself in writing? A better question might be why did I pick up the pen?

It was February of 2007 as I sat in my car during a freezing rain storm. I stared at the bottle of Wild Turkey 101 I held in my hand, and contemplated whether or not it might be better for those I loved if I stepped in front of a truck. I was about to pop the cork, when out of nowhere a poetic thought came to mind.

Fortunately I chose to set the bottle down and followed the urge I had to drag the backpack that contained my laptop out of the back seat. I snatched the laptop out of the bag, fired it up and watched the letters appear on the 15” screen as my fingers hit the keys. When I finished reading the poem that I had just written, a wave of emotion overcame me. I felt so happy to be alive, that I took a walk and let the freezing rain wash away the tears.

Several poems and a few months passed before I started my first major writing project. Even though I spent the next year writing a story that will most likely never be published, I knew as I wrote my life story that I wanted to become a paid writer.

So how does one become a paid writer? Especially when you don’t have a college degree.

First of all you have to love writing enough that you are inspired to learn how to write in a way that reaches an audience. Learning to write for the audience you want to reach doesn’t require spending thousands of dollars, and sitting in classes for years. It does require study and dedication to learning the craft of writing though. I have spent at least four hours a day over the last eight years learning the craft and if I were to guess I will spend the rest of my life studying the art of writing.

My first mentors William Strunk Jr., and E.B. White, authors of The Elements of Style opened my eyes to the simple truths of the importance of style and grammar in my writing. No I don’t personally know either of these two masters of the craft, none the less they have mentored me by sharing their wisdom and knowledge.

Over the next few months I will be sharing with the cherished readers of this blog the adventures I have enjoyed with the many mentors I have had the gift to learn from over the years. Some of them are known to many, Masters of the craft like William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Nora Roberts, and Stephen King to name a few. Then there are those that you probably never heard of like Brendan Schemrie, who taught me the importance of writing for a specific audience. Or Shauna Edson, who spent an hour every Wednesday for a year coaching me and teaching me the mechanics of writing dialogue. Then there is my friend, editor, and co-mentor of the Veterans writing group at the Salt Lake V.A. Hospital, Peter Muller who has taught and inspired me in ways that the masters would admire.

Thank you for stopping by and allowing me to share my thoughts with you. Until next time please keep being beautiful you as you are the change we need to make our world a better place for all we share it with.

Namaste with love,

Joe Bradshaw