Raise your hand if you’re a writer.
Now, raise your hand if you have a nice-sized ego.
And now, raise your hand if you lied on that last one and kept your hand down.
The thing is, writing and a big ego kind of go hand in hand. And if you haven’t quit, gone crazy, or offed yourself yet — which I know you haven’t because you were just raising your hand — then like it or not, you have a big ego.
How do I know this? Well:
- On some level (even if you moan and whine about how you aren’t a famous writer yet or how no one is paying for your brilliance yet or you don’t have your blog to book deal yet), you believe that your words are worth something and that other people should be reading them. It’s okay to admit this; it’s a good thing.
- You want people to read your writing. Because you know it’s good and it makes an impact and it feels divine to share it.
- Positive feedback doesn’t just feel good, it’s the ultimate validation of something that you already know: that you’re a writer (dammit).
When it comes to writing copy for clients, however, you and your big ego are going to have to have “the talk.” It’s the same talk you had with your kid brother when you were 13.
Yes, you can walk with me to the park, but no, you can’t play basketball with me and my friends.
The fact is, we need our ego to walk us to the park. We need it there when we pitch a client, design a product, write our proposal, name our fee. It gives us confidence, makes us feel like there’s someone (albeit ourselves) on our side that thinks we’re the coolest. It holds our enemies (fear, insecurity and hopelessness) far away.
But when we get on the court — when the contract is signed, the marching orders are given, and we’re sitting down in front of the blank screen — it has to leave, vamoose, go away.
Because . . .
Because it isn’t for you or about you, this writing that you’re doing. It’s for your client. (Or if you’re building a business with your blog, it’s about your audience and prospective customers.)
It’s about them. Always. They really don’t care about you. They only care about what you can do for them.
If you want to be a better writer, you have to get the hell out of the way. Listen to them. Hear them. Make it about them.
We all know that you are wonderful. And it’s great to have creative outlets where we can let our writing personalities shine with enough watts to light up New York City.
Just don’t do it when you’re on the clock, or you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Your client will say your copy just didn’t hit the mark. Your audience will say that there was something missing.
And something was missing . . . they were. They couldn’t see their forest because of your trees.
Some people might rise up in protest at this point and say that each writer has a certain special, creative something . . . something that makes her work so successful.
I agree — it’s called skill. No one would deny the fact that we writers can wordsmith with the best of them, create concepts that defy gravity, know our way around a thesaurus, and can make it all look easy. That’s what makes us writers.
You still have to get out of the way and let your clients or audience shine through.
Yes, even shine all the way through your rock-hard ego. The one that we can’t live without, but sometimes need to put away.