Let’s say you want to blow up a lab.
What do you do?
You take two explosive chemicals and mix them together, right?
But what if you took Na + Cl and mixed them together somehow.
What would you get? You’d get salt.
What’s worse is that the lab would not be “blown up.”
And you’d be a failure.
The more labs you tried to blow with Na + Cl, the more you’d fail.
And the more you fail, the more you’re going to fail.
And this slides us right into why most of us struggle to write.
You see we don’t struggle to write an email.
We don’t write, re-write, re-think and then write something boring.
Our emails are crisp. They have flow. And ebb.
They often have a storyline.
Drama creeps in inevitably.
And the email keeps the attention of the reader.
So if we examine the issue closer, it’s not that you can’t write.
It’s that when put in the spot to write something like an article or a sales letter…
That’s when you freeze.
The words get clumsy. And droopy. And inevitably, the fear of “past failures” kicks in.
Heck, even I find it hard to write under those conditions.
Because writing is mostly a factor of enthusiasm.
It’s driven by emotion.
Yes, you can sit down and write clinically, but the words become kinda yucky. But when you’re having a conversation like this—one on one—then you’re no longer writing.
I’m not writing. You’re not reading.
We’re “talking” to each other.
The words flow. And ebb.
They grab hold of a storyline.
The drama sits precociously waiting its turn.
And it keeps your attention as a reader.
So then what causes great writing?
Ooh, I hate to boil down ability to any three things, but here goes anyway:
Point 1: Failure freezes the brain
You can’t write with failure in mind. If you sit down to write with past experiences of writing “failure,” you will inevitably fail time and time again. Your brain works on pattern recognition, and it sure as heck knows when to give up.
So when you sit down and write, past instances of failure pound your brain. Then you freeze.
Then you go and find yourself some chocolate to soothe your frazzled neurons.
But will you ever learn to write that way? Of course not, because the failure stems from a lack of direction; a lack of structure
Point 2: Structure forces the brain into pattern recognition
Structure? Yes structure.
Without structure, it’s impossible to identify elements. You see writers don’t just write. Their brain cells scurry around pulling instances of writing structure. It seems like the person is simply writing, but in fact their brains are operating pretty much like a computer. It’s using data that’s been written to your brain over the years. And it’s pulling out that data and memories at high speed and turning it into structure.
Structure may sound boring. It’s not. The most creative things in the world would not be around if it weren’t for structure. The Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, a snowflake, Windows Vista—they’re all built on structure (okay, so Windows Vista has flaky structure, but that just underlines the point of this article).
The basis is structure. The rest is embellishment.
Which takes us to the third part: A mentor.
Point 3: Mentors speed up the process
A mentor is not critical. I can indeed give you a recipe. And you could follow the steps. And with a little bit of luck, you’d not only cook a great ‘chook’ curry (that’s chicken curry) but also experience immense success.
And if you got praise for that chook curry, you’d do it again. And again, thereby building up a success mechanism in your brain. And yes, you may still be absolutely hopeless at baking muffins, your chicken curry is a sheer delight.
Of course, if you have a mentor you’ll be making chicken curries with far fewer mistakes.
A mentor helps. A mentor sees mistakes you’ve missed. A mentor is a catalyst—but hey, catalysts are just meant to speed up the process. The process, when properly explained will work regardless of the presence of the mentor. But if you’re in a hurry (and most of us are) then someone looking over our shoulders is kinda nice. And should we get stuck, it prevents us from going scurrying back to Failure.
Which takes us back to our struggle. The struggle starts in your brain.
You have no fear when writing an email.
You know the structure of how to put together a few hundred words.
You’ve probably even had a mentor in the form of a book, a course, or a school teacher that taught you how to write.
And so you write. Without fear or failure.
It’s this structure that drives consistent results time after time.
And that’s the core of writing.
To be able to get consistent results on demand.