Make it Theirs


When you create something you intend to share, you need to think about who you intend to share it with and make it theirs.

This is the second in a three part series on creating something worthwhile and unique. In the first post I talked about how you Make it Yours. I talked about a variety of situations, but mostly I think about writing when I think about what it is I create.

There.

Just then.

Your mind wandered a bit.

That paragraph wasn't very interesting. It didn't get you into this piece fast enough. If there wasn't whitespace below it with three short paragraphs you might have stopped reading.

A friend recently had me proof read an email they were about to send. It was beautifully written and said all sorts of interesting things and then they got to the point.

"No," I told them, "you can't send that."

"Why?" the asked, "it says everything I want it to say."

"It does," I agreed, "but they won't read it. They'll read the nice things you say at the beginning and nod their heads and move on before you get to your point."

Most people aren't interested in what you have to say.

It's not their fault. It's not your fault.

People are busy. People are distracted. People have their own problems and priorities.

If it's important that they hear what you are saying

  • Understand who you're writing for
  • Understand what you want to say
  • Understand what you want the result to be

You can't write until you have a clear idea of who you are writing for. Whether it's an email, a novel, or an app, you need to know who the audience is.

Once you know who it's for, what is it that you are creating? What is your central message? If you're writing an email then that should be the subject line. If I'm writing to my designer to see where we are on the new artwork for my website, I shouldn't use "checking in" as the subject line. I should use "Checking on cover image for Swift Video" instead.

Now you know who you're writing for and what you want to say, think about what you want in return. Maybe nothing. Maybe you're just telling them something or sharing some image from the internet. But if you want something concrete, help them understand what it is. If you want an answer then ask, "can you tell me ...", if you want a result then ask, "can you have a sample to me ...".

Most people are willing to help you if they know what you want, have the time, and are able to. Make sure they understand what you're asking.

The other day my daughter and I were at the gym and were going to meet up at a coffee shop afterwards. I was in the locker room getting dressed and she texted me that she was on her way to the coffee shop.

"OK," I texted back, "I'm leaving now."

Fifteen minutes later I walked into the coffee shop and she looked up surprised. She thought my text meant that I was leaving the coffee shop and I thought I'd let her know I was leaving the gym for the coffee shop.

My job was to communicate with her and I'd done it badly. My text should have read, "OK, I'm heading there now. See you there."

When you write something, you have to think in terms of the receiver. They will be reading it in their voice not yours. The rules are simple.

  • Say it clearly
  • Say it cleanly
  • Say what you want them to do
  • Stop

In other words, make it theirs.