You write the songs


Step back

You’ve been writing for two weeks now. Your head is deep into your material. When you’re not writing about your topic you’re thinking about what you’re going to write next and cooking up good examples.

You’ve lost a little bit of perspective on your reader.

Remember that what you’ve written over two weeks, your reader will read in a couple of hours. The material you wrote yesterday followed two weeks of thinking intensely about your topic. You are familiar and maybe getting a little tired of your topic. The reader is still fresh.

This is a lesson I learned from, of all people, Barry Manilow.

I was working in Adult Contemporary radio on air at a station that was marketed as WMJI, Magic 105.7. Lots of radio stations identify themselves with position statements like Kiss FM but once an hour they are required to use their call letters and city where they are licensed. So at Magic we would have to work in "WMJI Cleveland" once an hour.

Some stations would have a recorded promo that played at the top of the hour. Some deep voice would do the station I.D. over some sound effect. WNWV in Elyria had been known as "The Wave" and would have the sound of waves hitting the shore underneath the I.D.

The other alternative was to have some convoluted phrase like the one we had at Magic. Once an hour we would say something like "WMJI, Cleveland’s Magic 105.7 with the best music of yesterday and today."

Once an hour for the four or five hour shifts we worked each day. Four or five times a day for the five or six shifts we worked a week. Somewhere between twenty and thirty times a week every week. And in between that playing the same basic music all the time.

It was easy to lose perspective on our listeners. They weren’t listening as much or as attentively as we had to. They were doing other things while they listened to the radio.

So my boss took the entire air staff to see Barry Manilow. Like his music or not, you have to respect the commitment he has to his audience. He has sung some of those same songs for decades. He’s got to be bored with some and hate others by now but when he takes the stage he knows that there are people who have never heard him sing these songs before live. He knows there are other people who have heard him but who saved up to be there to see him again.

He presented a solid set of music and made the audience feel good about being there. They had been part of something. I never really liked his music before that night but I’ve had good things to say about him and his performance in the last twenty years since I witnessed that concert.

I want you to feel that way about your readers. You’ve put in the time and polished your examples and mastered the material and now you’re putting on a show. After two weeks it is getting to be a grind for you but it can’t feel that way to your readers. They want it to feel as if you are effortless but in control.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about using hooks to help your reader gain confidence in your guidance without feeling you are being too controling.

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.