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Worker, Writer, Watcher: Telling Stories


Writing is a process, often of elimination. This is true in creative as well as professional writing. One of the hardest lessons, in both, is how to put your ego aside and actually learn from the editing process.

Here are a few simple mantras to help you embrace the experience:

A Story is a Story

Whether you are writing a press release or a short story, you need a solid narrative.  When we retell personal stories, we don’t drone on and use lots of jargon.  Instinctively, we make sure to have a clear beginning, middle and end.  For example, on a trip to Greece several years ago, I was expected to ride a mule (whose better days were behind him) up a 1,000-foot narrow cliff path with no guardrail to reach the beautiful town of Santorini. I don’t begin the story with what I had for breakfast that morning, but at the decisive moment when I heard the echoing shouts of the other mule-riding tourists bouncing up the narrow, steep, curving dirt trail and decided I would brave the path on foot.  In other words, cut out “the runway” leading up to event and get to the drama (or, in the case of PR, the news).

Remember Your Audience

We tailor stories to fit our audience and we rely on our listeners for cues for what’s working. In PR, we work within a strict time frame and with specific messages. We know who is writing the news and who is reading it, and we want them to read and write about our clients’ news too.  The best stories are those that get better with retelling, and that is what we want most in public relations—someone to pick up and retell our clients’ story.

Communication is a Two-Way Street

While your skills as a communicator may work well when you are relaying news in conversation, sitting down to write can feel like a monologue.  That’s okay. You need to process and understand all the information and get it on the page before you can edit. There are no perfect sentences. Anticipate and learn to embrace revisions.

Editing is Writing

There are no short-cuts.  You have to get past the brain dump of information before moving on to the actual writing.  This will not be easy, but you cannot get to a finished product by jumping around.

Take Advice from the Masters

“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” — John Updike

And remember: Loving the process is an uphill battle.