Writing Style: Readers Welcome Influence

Your writing style influences how your readers' inner ear hears your writing.

In the same way that nobody reads Emerson using Shakespeare's style, nobody reads your writing while imposing their own style.

Readers will embrace whatever style you write with because they're reading your writing. They're listening to how you're communicating the words. Nobody reads like an editor (except editors, and they already know they're reading like editors).

The very act of choosing to read puts your readers in a receptive mode that welcomes influence, whether they realize it or not. The placement of your commas and periods, the points at which sentences and paragraphs end, the words that you choose to use, all of it influences how your writing sounds inside the head of your reader.

They do not use your style--whether good, bad, or full of errors--to judge you as a writer. (Again, editors and people inclined to read like editors are the exception, but they're not the norm and they're most likely not your average reader.)

So embrace whatever style comes natural to you. Avoid letting your inner editor judge you before others even get the chance to read what you have to say. Don't let your style, or lack thereof, prevent you from writing. What you have to say is far more important than how you say it.

Reading Distractions: Questions

Writing creates an adventure, a series of thoughts and images that lead the reader, carrying them on a series of emotional peaks and troughs through an ocean of time, moving them from one point to another and, hopefully, adding something of value or making the adventure fun along the way.

As a writer, it's important to think about what your reader will experience on that journey. It's important to think about the various elements of language and how they combine to create that experience, that adventure that your reader embarks on when they commit to reading something you've written. (You're on a mini adventure right now.)

Adventures that are uncomfortable and full of unwanted distractions are not much fun. If anything, they're hard work. You want your adventures to be enjoyable, easy, and free from distractions.

Distractions come in all forms, the most obvious of which are bad grammar, bad spelling, badly assembled sentences, hard to follow paragraphs, and the usage of words that are needlessly complicated. But there are much less obvious distractions that can subtly influence the adventure and distract the reader from the experience.

Let me give you a real-world example.

A friend shared an article with me called 7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers. The article starts with a short introduction and then lists the seven habits with little descriptions underneath each one:

Questions can be a source of unwanted distraction

Notice the question at the end of that first point? That question is a dangerous distraction.

When I began reading this list, that one question — "What’s yours?"  —  made me stop and think.

I began to wonder, what is my creative time? What are my daily routines? When do I usually do my creative work? Suddenly I wasn't interested in reading point number two because I'd already been distracted by a question in point number one. The momentum was lost and the adventure ended prematurely.

When I tried to ignore that lost momentum and continue reading anyway, I found that only a fraction of my attention was available; I was still thinking about that question in the back of my head.

In all forms of communication questions are powerful things. They invite the listener to stop listening to you, to stop being receptive to what you're saying and listen instead to themselves.

Of course not all questions are created equal: there are many questions in this essay but none of them are asking you to stop and think deeply, or to recall memories or think about your daily routines or even access the vast stores of knowledge buried inside your brain.

In writing, there's a time and place for questions and it's important to anticipate what effect your question will have on the readers' experience of that writing. Sometimes you want the reader to stop and consider something before continuing on and at other times you want the reader to have an easy and comfortable route to go from one point to the next.

Questions at the end of an essay or article can invite the reader to continue exploring on their own, to extend the conversation using their own unique treasure-trove of memories and experiences, trail-blazing and sharing a unique adventure beyond and outside your own writing.

What other distractions have you noticed while reading?

Notes: The middle-man to your happiness

David Tate writes about the dangerous effects of reading, but more than that he explains why it's so vital that we stop being filters, that we stop developing a habit of judging what we're consuming in attempt to consume things that make us happier and instead focus on creating the things that actually make us happy.

I think we should all agree that getting faster at judging things is bad, but I think the real danger in having a super-efficient-filter is that your default mode is exclusion – you reject long enough and you lose the ability to create things that pass your own filter. You stagnate at work for fear of everything you do being judged like every news article or viral video that you view.

So how do you break the power of consumption? By creating your own things. All the things you consume - somewhere somebody is making all this stuff, right?

Adding anything (not just your opinion) to the world is creating – writing, drawing, dancing (not line-dancing which is not art but instead some sort of long-term psychological annoyance stress test). Normally when people think of 'creating' or 'innovation' they think of a naked hippie standing in the woods painting a tree, an alcoholic writer slaving away at a sad tale of a small town, or some tech geek coming up with some new way to annoy everyone by sharing every detail of their pointless life.

If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like and cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?