How to be a World-Changing Writer

image of a young writer

As a copywriter, you know that words have power.

You know words can influence, inform, and inspire.

They can persuade your fellow humans to do some amazing things (or to do the wrong things, but we won’t go there today).

What you may not realize is that your words can change the world.

Here’s something else that’s really cool that you might not have realized …

The keys to world-changing writing are also the keys to damn good copywriting.

But as you know, good writing doesn’t happen all by itself. So let’s talk about what it takes to be damned good … and what it takes to change the world.

Your words must be meaningful

As Hugh MacLeod said, the market for something to believe in is infinite.

Your writing must give your readers something to believe in.

Some writers are called to create a great masterpiece like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. If that’s you, that’s awesome.

But most of us are doing something much more humble. And there’s nothing in the world wrong with that.

It can be as simple as the promise of SEO Made Simple.

You know that nasty, frustrated feeling of being overwhelmed by something like optimizing content for search engines? Maybe for you, it’s another topic. But we all have a thorny problem like this. It feels complicated. It feels kind of scary. It feels like it’s going to be very easy to mess up.

For readers who are feeling that same kind of overwhelm, the promise to make search engines simple gives something to believe in.

That they can do this. That they can keep moving forward and get over this stuck spot.

Whether you’re telling a grand, heroic story or just solving a frustrating problem, the concept is exactly the same.

World-changing writers and copywriters both begin with the meaning.

Your words must be sticky

But meaning isn’t enough.

Meaningful words that aren’t also sticky will slip silently into your readers’ left ears and swoop swiftly out of their right ears. (Or would that be eyes?)

Your words must stick inside your readers’ heads. Your reader will be changed by words that stick, and will share your words with others.

No stickiness = flash in the pan.
Some stickiness = successful marketing campaign.
Mega stickiness = world-changing movement.

This is where all your copywriting tips and tricks carry over to the craft of world-changing writing. Headlines. Subheaders. Bullet points. Specific details.

And most importantly, storytelling.

World-changing writers and copywriters both strive for a sticky story.

Your words must be authentic

There’s a lot of smarmy social media kool-aid out there about authenticity. That’s not what we’re talking about.

What we’re talking about this this: No one will care about your meaningful, sticky message if it smells like bullshit.

If your readers suspect you’re trying to sell them something they don’t want — whether it’s a product or an idea — you’ll lose their attention forever.

That’s why your words must be authentic.

“Authentic” doesn’t have to mean sharing intimate details of your personal life. (In fact, if you could refrain from letting us know what your cat had for breakfast, that would be awesome.)

But it does mean that you have to believe in what you’re writing. You have to let a piece of yourself shine through in your words.

You have to give a damn.

World-changing writers and copywriters both let authenticity into their writing.

So where’s the world-changing?

The world isn’t changed in one fell swoop. (Or even a swell foop.)

The world gets changed one person at a time.

One reader who reads your meaningful, sticky, authentic words. One reader who is a little bit different after reading your words than they were before.

If you’ve done your job well, that one reader will share your words with one more reader. Then two, then ten, then a hundred.

That’s how the world is changed. By spreading ideas that are meaningful, sticky, and authentic.

So how about you?

What idea will you spread? Will it be grand or humble?

Whatever your idea is, Pace would love to give you a hand with making your message a little more meaningful, a little sticker, and a little more authentic. To do that, check out her free video course, The 6 Steps to World-Changing Writing.

And let us know about your world-changing idea in the comments.

About the Author: Pace Smith is the co-leader of the Connection Revolution, where she helps dreamers blossom into world-changers. Click here to get her free video course, The 6 Steps to World-Changing Writing. Sonia does a lot of writing around here, and is pleased as punch to be one of the teachers in Pace's workshop.

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Comments

  1. Hi Pace/Sonia,

    the world is certainly changing. I kind of miss the days when people had time to read properly – the world is moving so fast these days. It does however seem to be a reality that people’s attention is harder and harder to keep both because the bar is being raised by plenty of good writers out their giving away outstanding free content and devices, technology and busy lives ‘encouraging’ us to scan and have less time for content,

    I still read old-fashioned books. :-) You can sit on them and they don’t break.

    I liked the post very much but I think even great ‘sticky’ ideas can be overlooked too easily these days – at least until a platform is established over time via consistency then the great sticky concept from the blogger who has become a trusted source has a better chance of being shared…

  2. This post really resonated with me, particularly because I am new to blogging and my fresh and shiny new ambition statement is:

    “To help small businesses that are innovative, socially committed, and environmentally conscious succeed; thus restoring love and humanity to the market and saving the world one keyword at a time.”

    My challenge is to combine that big idea with solutions to everyday problems… not always an easy task! I don’t know about everybody else, but through all the static of copywriting and SEO headlines in my twitter feed, something about “Changing the World” really sticks out and grabs my interest. Perhaps by solving everyday problems we are just another option, but if we can add a bigger and broader world-changing concept, we can also speak to our audience’s deepest desires.

    So can we succeed in being grand and humble all at once?

    • I think so — I’m reminded of a great Paul Newman quote, “Always take the work seriously, never take yourself seriously.” :)

    • Sarah, I hear you. Changing the world is a big promise, and so fulfilling – I’ve found myself using it in my marketing for years, especially when I am feeling particularly inspired!

      You can be grand and be humble. Just try and think of *how* you’re going to change the world. Think of your big talent – you know, the one you always brush aside and say “oh, it’s nothing – it just comes naturally!” Now, what problem does that talent solve?

      That is how you are going to change the world, because no one – and I mean no one – can do what you do, the way that you do it. And if you solve that problem for a company, and the company succeeds, isn’t that changing the world? Especially the companies you are wanting to work with!

      Just some food for thought. I love your blog, by the way – nice work :-)

  3. I’m trying to find my voice and so far I’ve written what I think people want to read. I should write what i want to write about and find the people who would want to read it. Thanks for the great article. Making a mental note to be more sticky…..

  4. Very nice thoughts. Passion also plays a very important part and if you feel passionate about something, somehow it automatically shows through your writing. A world changing writing comes from a passionate writer – a writer with a mission to make a difference.

    • I agree, but it’s smart to pair that passion with some skills. :) Becoming a more skilled communicator will help get that passion out there and doing some good.

  5. I used to be a professional musician and was quite successful at it. Twelve years ago I started a marketing company because it was something that I was good at and it ended up catching on and becoming quite successful as well…until it more or less took over and I all but stopped playing. I was pretty much ok with it since I loved what I was doing in the marketing space. Over the past 12 years I would on and off try and start a blog about being a musician because I felt an obligation to tip my hat to my past. It never caught on. It was always such a chore to write. A few months ago I came to grips with the fact that I don’t have to hold onto that stuff and I jumped full force into an Internet Marketing blog that i absolutely LOVE to write about and the results are through the roof in a mere 2 months. No question it all comes down to being passionate and authentic with what you are writing about! Don’t write for your audience…write for you and let your audience find you! I actually ended up writing a blog post about being authentic in your writing the other day: http://www.marcensign.com/is-it-ok-to-say-on-your-blog/

  6. Pace/Sonia,

    Thank you for this inspiring post. I’d like to add that some self-help and spiritual gurus ‘toss’ the word ‘authentic’ around like it’s a Frisbee! Most people either don’t understand what it means to be authentic or are too afraid to be authentic because of what ‘others’ may think of them. Who cares? If you have a powerful message to share, a message you believe in with your heart and soul, I say share it and have the courage to handle the B.S. that could come your way.

    World changing ideas

    I have so many. Where do I begin? I liked to reach the teen/parent market, especially teens from dysfunctional homes or are in the foster care system (both). Our society likes to emphasize the word ‘family’ a lot, but many kids in the system have lost their families. What does family mean to them? I would say to them, “Create your own family. A family doesn’t necessarily have to be biological. The beauty is you get to pick and choose who you want to be in your circle. Cool, huh?” I’d also tell them to view ‘their story’ as just that, a story that doesn’t have an ending, yet. How their story ends is up to them.

    I better start getting my world changing ideas out of my head and onto paper. :)

  7. Hi guys
    I don’t have anything to add to the conversation but these words are inspiring stuff, so i just wanted to post a little “thank you”! Keeping it real, finding and embracing passion in my writing is the challenge now!

  8. Everyone, remember to sign up for Pace’s video course, because she’s going to go beyond inspiring you to actually showing you how to do this stuff. :)

  9. Thanks Pace and Sonia! I think its very easy for people to look at something like “copywriting” and only apply it to things like a blog post but as a mobile marketer myself, I watch people easily brush over something like an email headline or mobile banner copy. Businesses looking to engage with their customers on mobile devices need to master the art of copywriting because when it comes to how that impacts their engagement with a customer it can in fact be “world changing”.

  10. Hi Pace,

    I’m working on it one step at a time.

  11. True, nothing better than word-of-mouth!

  12. This is huge. Words can be so powerful and we live in a world where the internet/twitter/facebook really do change lives.

    I believe in Sarah’s mission statement – use our writing talents to help promote organizations with causes we believe in. I just started writing for PLAY it Forward Adventures, a travel company founded on the “Pay It Forward” philosophy. http://www.pifadventures.com/blog

    If each writer helps out just one group/organization they believe in, the world really will change.

  13. Damn good thoughts here. I have nothing noteworthy to add. Just saying thank you for a great post.

  14. I hope you don’t mind, but I just quoted the part of this post on authenticity on my blog. I just finished re-creating a page on my site, talking about authenticity being one of the big missing keys from marketing today. The amazing thing is, I use the same definition of authenticity you are talking about here before I even read this post. Great stuff, and thank you so much for sharing it with the world!

    Check out the post if you like, I’d love your feedback :-) : http://cherylwoodhouse.com/2012/05/your-words-must-be-authentic/

  15. So to summarize, my words have to be meaningful, sticky, and authentic. I sure love subheadings!

    Authentic is something I sometimes worry about. My concern is the amount of experience I have, and the content on my blog. Which of these topics I have permission to teach about? Do I have the authority? Right now, I’m working on finding the topics I’m an expert on, and finding the stories and information that I can share.

    I’ll be putting this in my weekly round-up.

    • Subheadings help with stickiness. It’s meta! (:
      Even if you’re not an expert, if you know more about a topic than someone else, they will find your blog helpful. There will always be someone out there who knows more than you, but beginners want to learn from someone intermediate, not someone who’s already forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner. No one will give you permission except yourself!

    • Don’t forget – you don’t need anyone’s permission to be an expert. In fact, if you really want to be authentic and yet still write about something you’re learning, tell people that you’re learning it! Invite them to learn along with you. No one needs to give you permission to be a student and share as you go, right? Like Pace said – no one will give you permission except yourself!

  16. Great writing is a skill not everyone has and so if you’ve got it, use it. I’ve never been creative with pictures but writing is something that came naturally and I was good at. When I’m writing copy for clients, I have a genuine desire to help them look good and get the results they are looking for. It can be hard to change hats each time you change clients and constantly maintain a passion for writing, but it’s a challenge I enjoy. What makes it all worthwhile is when a client loves what you do and really appreciates the time and effort you’ve put in to help them. I may not be changing the world, but in my own humble way, I’m helping to make a change to someone, somewhere in the world…

  17. When I first began writing (and when I say first began, I mean the first essay back in, eh… fourth grade), I was always told to write with passion. You really can’t hit any of the points mentioned in the article without passion. You need to expel a commanding influence from your mind to the paper (or screen, for most of us) to get anyone to actually read it, let alone become empowered by it.

    To change the world is no simple task – it takes a lot of work, blood, sweat, tears, and, most of all, passion. It’s like the great man said – “Genius is ninety-nine percent inspiration, one percent perspiration.” Without that push inside your mind to do great [or sometimes bad] things, you won’t accomplish the dreams you lay before your feet. You will open up two paths you can go down. But there won’t be time to change the road you’re on.

  18. These are great tips. As a travel blogger I sometimes struggle with excessive wordiness and I really ought to consider working more towards my words being more sticky and meaningful.

  19. Hi Pace and Sonia,

    Excellent! You get it. The world is changed one person at a time. Speak your message. One person who vibes with it, feels your profound message….maybe 2 people do…then these 2 people spread the word to like-minded people.

    World changers patiently use word of mouth marketing better than anyone on earth. Like a massive referral network. One person reaches another, a few people reach others, all vibing with the message. The fuel that runs this engine? The ENERGY behind your message. The authenticity and unbridled passion behind what you do. Can’t fake it. Can’t imitate it. This has to come straight from the heart, and people who vibe with the idea, will listen, tune in and spread the word for you.

    Patience grasshoppers. This takes some time. MLK spoke a powerful message, a world-changing message, but he did not reach the world overnight. He did persistently live his cause, and as he did this, a sort of energy momentum gained critical mass, and his movement and word changed the world. This is how it works: one person or small groups of people change the world with their authentic, passionate, heart felt message…and how blessed are you? You can do it with a laptop and internet connection. Pretty sweet.

    Thanks for sharing your message Sonia and Pace!

    Ryan

  20. Thanks excellent advice, great tips.

  21. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Great post and I couldn’t agree more with all three points: meaningful, sticky, and authentic.

    While I consider being meaningful and authentic as more internal attributes that each person inherently possesses, sticky is something that can be learned and developed. If you’re like Alan, who commented above, and enjoy old school tangible books constructed of this stuff called paper and ink, I highly recommend a book titled “Made to Stick” by Dan & Chip Heath.

    I actually stumbled across that book in an old Copyblogger post… so once again, thank you guys!

  23. Giving a damn is much overlooked, don’t you think? For me, I think that’s the quality that gives room for the meaning, stickiness and authenticity to happen. Without really giving a damn there’s nothing keeping those 3 things anchored together. Giving a damn is the meat in the pie, it’s the fuel in the tank, it’s the love in a hug and without it all you’ve got is pastry, a metal box and an awkward moment.

    I *love* the idea that words can change the world. Love, love, love it.

    Awesome to be reminded of it.

  24. Great Post Ladies!
    What has opened up many doors for me as a writer and curious “world wanderer” is my love of languages. One can really learn a lot about other cultures by engaging in simple conversation with natives — it can lead to wonderful experiences not possible for the average tourist. If taught early on, children can easily grow-up being fluent in at least two languages.

    One blogger who has taken this knowledge and turned it into an entertaining website is Benny Lewis, an Irish native who learned seven languages over the years and enthusiastically blogs on how fun and easy language learning can be : http://www.fluentin3months.com/

    Kudos to Benny and others like him that are finding creative ways to bring the world a little closer together!