” You are so not like your website,” she said.
” In a good way? Or a bad way? ” I asked.
” No no, in a good way. You are more approachable and chattier than I imagined. I was expecting a ‘take it or leave it’ guy before we met. ”
That was from another client meeting two weeks ago.
That weekend I thought a lot about how I write.
Perhaps because English was my second language, my brain tends to find the shortest way to express how I feel.
Most people are time poor, I need to say what I have to say within 2 minutes.
I can’t waste their time with flash plugins and background music and inspirational quotes.
So today’s workshop post about photography, I’m going to talk about writing.
Because it is integral to my livelihood, and most likely yours too.
The easiest and fastest way to improve your writing is to hire a copywriter.
Or a ghost writer, if you have a blog.
But if you’re interested in a bit of self-improvement, here’re my recommendations.
The bible of all copywriters is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
It is the manual of concise writing, and every time as I reread it, I cringe at the mistakes I vowed not to make the last time.
My favourite is rule 14: use the active voice – it is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive.
It has stayed with me for the last 10 years.
After that, you can move on to On Writing by Stephen King.
If The Elements of Style is the bible, then On Writing is Playboy.
King wrote the book after a near-death experience, so it is very introspective as he dissects his own writing and his very own life experience.
Most important of all, he writes like that older brother who saw the real world outside of yours, giving pointers in between dirty jokes and reinforced that tone of voice is so important.
Here’s an excerpt: good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sort of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad’, is fearful behaviour. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.
And after that, you can try Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to get published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get in that way.
She is the fairy godmother of this passage to better writing and understanding of life.
This book made me realised that all creative processes lead to Rome.
To write better, you need to read and write more.
To be a better photographer, you need to observe and simply shoot more.
Not easy, often frustrating.
I’m not sure if reading this 3 books will make you into a successful writer, but I’m sure all successful writers adheres to the rules of these books.
Maybe the essence of this post is not really in writing itself, but to find parallels and inspirations outside the world of photography.
It really takes the edge off the feeling of being cocooned in a dark room.
As I said before, you can hire a copywriter for sure.
But I personally feel it’s much more fun to learn and develop new skills.
Maybe not to write a book.
But a better email.
A better product description.
A better proposal.
A love letter.
They all add up.
End of lesson.