In my last installment of this long-form series How to Write Your Book for Your Business, you learned that as the human embodiment of your business and brand, it’s you- not your ideas- that is the central force of your book, responsible for nurturing intimacy with your reader, forging a trusting relationship, and keeping them invested, so they read your book to the end (and then recommend it to everyone they know!).
It’s anxiety-producing to know you’re supposed to “be yourself only better!” on the page- particularly if you’re not one who writes on a regular basis. To help you combat the performance anxiety that may creep in, use these 3 ways to sound like your best self in your business book, so you come across as warm, engaged, and competent on every page.
Self Awareness & Performance Anxiety
It’s the same for everyone; you’re all competence and charm when you’re one-on-one, but as soon as you become aware that others are looking at you, you may become self conscious. When you’re writing and become self-aware, those feelings of discomfort, and the ensuing metaphoric throat constriction, can make you adopt a formal, awkward voice, much more like someone’s stuffy Great Auntie’s than your own, or worse, can cause you to clam up entirely.
You’re not alone; even highly trained musicians, surgeons, and athletes- people whose chief currency is their ability to be loose and able at their craft in a public sphere- occasionally seize up when they’re aware of the high stakes of their performance.
Now that it’s been made unequivocally clear that regardless of how incredible your ideas are, you’re the star of the show, the thing that will make or break the success of your book, it’s only natural you’d have a response to that.
Because high-level performers’ chief currency is being able to perform in spite of feeling those same feelings, they’ve developed ways to approach the job at hand, so they can keep performing- and killing it- while they do.
Writers can use some of these tricks, but because they’re geared toward “stage fright” and less toward the media of writing, the following 3 strategies are specifically designed for writers whose chief currency is developing and owning their voice and persona in their business books and who need to nail it on the page:
1. Focus on One Reader
Rather than write your book to the faceless masses, who as a mass can’t be as generous in your imagination, instead, imagine a client you’ve been working with for a long time or a supportive colleague. See their smiles, imagine them nodding as you move through your ideas, murmuring, “oh, that’s so good!” or “Wow, that’s so insightful!”
Many people who give speeches know this trick. By focusing on one kindly audience member, you can make what you say and how you say it feel personal by writing something valuable for someone you know will be happy and appreciative. (Pretending they’re in their underwear is optional).
Hear Your Writing as a Conversation
Turning your writing into a conversation (albeit a one-sided one, but that’s OK) will remove the “performance” aspect from the writing and allow you to drop your defences from feeling like you have to sound a certain way. Letting go of the idea that you’re writing for a world-wide audience to simply chatting with a familiar client or friend will allow you to get more real, more authentic in your sentence structure and language, and overall, sound much more like yourself on the page.
The trick with making your writing personal is that you maintain the openness and warmth you’d have with someone supportive and with whom you’re comfortable while still keeping it professional, bright, and exploratory. Doing this keeps you in business owner/thought leader mode, but rather than delivering the information as if you were standing alone on a stage, sweating beneath the bright lights and aching for it to be done with already, you’re doing it over a kindly mental cup of tea. The psychic shift in your ability to feel relaxed- and bring that into your voice- is huge.
2. Write More Not Your Book
Many people find their writing comes across as stilted because they simply don’t have enough practice accessing their real voices on the page in a casual setting. While you’re not aiming to write in your “real” voice, your persona’s voice will stem from your authentic voice, so it’s important to be able to access that same fluidity of personality.
If this is true for you and you don’t write enough to have embodied your on-page self, you may find that when you do sit down to write, your voice defaults to the voice you used as an undergrad when you had to write expository essays about string theory, neuroscientific developments in the 1900s, or Jane Eyre, which you only read the Introduction of, and you tried to “sound smarter” to fill up more word count (I’m kidding; of course you didn’t do that).
“Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”
~ Mark Twain
The good news is the more writing you do, the better you get at it. That easy pliability of self on the page infuses everything you write: one of the nicest side-effects of writing more often!
Tips for Getting to Know Your Best Self in Writing
- Get yourself a nice journal, one that fits well in your hand and is good looking, and write in it, every day, for 20 minutes. You can write anything you want- anything. This is your “sandbox” where you’re developing your skill to be yourself or to find out who you are as you, but the “writer-version” persona borne of you. (*Tip: if you focus your writing on business-related issues, you’ll be able to mine this writing for blog material!)
- Remember the lost art of letter writing and write to a friend you haven’t been in touch with in a while. Email is fine if you must, but imagine how fun it would be for them to get something in the mail that’s not a bill and consider going longhand. Handwriting is a direct line between body and mind and an efficient way of boosting the effects of embodying yourself on the page.
- Dictate into your phone your observations, grievances, or errant thoughts on any subject for 10 minutes. When you’re done, email yourself the file, then read it aloud. From there, without pausing to get up or do anything else, keep up the voice you used in the dictation and type for another 10 minutes.
Warning: it can be a little disconnected to see your true self come to life on the page if you’re not used to being your best self on the page, but with time, it’s empowering to be able to bring yourself to the page in such a way, and further, to do so in service to writing a great business or self-development book that people will want to read because you’re the one sharing the information.
3. Stop Trying!
Remember the undergrad you trying to sound smart? (Note: you didn’t sound smart. You sounded adorably like a 20-year-old trying to use the biggest words you knew and the longest sentences you could to fill up a paper about string theory).
Trying is like wringing your writing the way we do a wet washcloth. It takes all of the essential you-ness out of it: the fun, the playfulness, the vulnerability. Blech. Who wants to read that? (Not professors. They definitely do not want to read that. This article in McSweeney’s is one of the funniest you’ll see on just how much professors don’t want to read those final student papers.)
So here’s a freeing idea: don’t try- instead, just write. Remind yourself if you don’t sound right, you can delete the material and try again (Another Note: it’s highly probable you won’t need to).
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
~ Elmore Leonard
You Only Better! Writing Exercise:
- Jot down 5-7 adjectives you would use to describe your business self (or tenets of your business you could infuse into your persona as the extension of your business).
(For argument’s sake, let’s go with “warm, authoritative, silly, family-oriented, passionate and ambitious”).
- Jot down some of the things that make you interesting: do you have a dry humor? Do you love sports? Baking? Have kids or pets? Where do you live? Do you enjoy certain weather or seasons for certain reasons? What do you care about/causes that matter to you?
Keep this list where you can see it easily. Remember, warmth, professionalism, and candour (to whatever degree you feel works for you) will be valuable assets to your writing voice and serve as a warm arm around the reader’s shoulders. Your voice- as an extension of the work you do- will give your reader the human opportunity to connect with your business. And that- is what keeps people turning pages and buying what you sell.
It takes time to become yourself on the page- allow it to unfold, have fun, and try to stay loose (go ahead and imagine anyone you darn well like in their underwear if it helps!)- and soon your on-page self will become a natural extension of you.
If you’re ready to take the leap into writing your book for your business, now is your best time to enroll in our Write Your Business or Self-Development Book in 4 Months Program. Imagine how you will feel to forge ahead now and in 4 months, have your book done!
Or if you’d like to chat with us about your work to see if this program is for you, please contact us any time.