Spencer Critchley's blog

How to Write Both Fast & Well, Part 5: An Ancient Lesson in Three Acts

Bust of Aristotle, By Copy of Lysippus (Jastrow (2006)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons-Aristotle_Altemps_Wikipedia_Public_Domain.jpg

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Last time, I showed you how to give your writing some shape by using the Inverted Pyramid format. As I said, this shape works well for news, because the reader finds more important material closer to the top. This has a downside, though: the farther you go into the piece, the less interesting it's likely to be. So it doesn't work too well when you want to build interest, such as in a story or a blog post.

To meet that challenge we can use another kind of shape, this one derived from ancient principles of drama.

How to Write Both Fast & Well, Part 3: The One Point Rule

Message box

(Also published at Huffington Post.) In any one communication, you can only make one point.

Count on people forgetting everything else. That's because our minds throw away almost all new information -- by necessity, since we wouldn't be able to tote brains big enough to store a day's worth. Even the seven digits of a (US) phone number are hard to learn, requiring that we repeat them over and over to get them out of short term memory and into the long term version.*

This is why a good angle -- a simple, emotionally compelling idea -- is so important: if people are only going to remember one thing (and they are), you want it to be the right thing.

How to Write Both Fast & Well, Part 2: Know What the Heck You Mean

Cloud-shaped thought bubble containing question marks

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Last time, I introduced the power of a good angle for both speeding and improving your writing. Today I'll go into more detail on how choose that angle. The most important question to ask yourself is the simplest: "What the heck am I actually trying to say?" As, it happens, this also is one of the hardest questions. That's because: (1) You must truly understand your subject. That means work, and (2) You must commit to an idea that may turn out to be wrong or unpopular. That means risk.

Creating Content Driving You Crazy? Here’s How to Write Both Fast and Well (Pt 1)

Stressed-out woman on couch with laptop

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Compared to our pre-digital forebears, we're expected to produce torrents of writing: emails, text messages, blog posts, social media, presentations.

That's because publishing all that stuff is easier than ever. The trouble is, the actual writing isn't -- especially if you care about quality.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing," as Nathaniel Hawthorne said.

So how to write both fast and well?

How to get a designer's best work for a logo, website, ad - anything

Wrench

A long time ago, I had to learn from scratch how to manage visual designers, after having started out as a composer and audio producer, with no training in graphic arts -- back then I thought of it as "the blind leading the deaf."

Luckily, I found that most of the skills I'd developed while working with sound carried over to other disciplines, too. There's one skill above all that I believe managers need to master in order to get the best work from a designer or any creative professional:

Talk about why, not how.

Leadership Lessons from Obama for America's COO

Spencer Critchley

Last week I was in Washington, DC for a couple of days, connecting with old political friends -- and one new one. The new one turned out to have some very interesting things to say about leadership, from a unique perspective: playing a key role in assembling Barack Obama's first presidential campaign (this is not to say that the old friends weren't very interesting, too).

While Henry DeSio was serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Obama For America 2008, I was on the ground working on communications teams in battleground states. I never met him back then, but I'm glad I have now. He's working on a book about his experiences, and the lessons that can be drawn from them.

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