How To Set Your Readers Free

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Writing Space

Words can transport in so many ways.

We read books to carry us off to different worlds, new ideas, hidden places of the imagination.

We write, perhaps for others, but often just for ourselves: journals, poems and stories that give us breathing space, allow us to express ideas, to share our deepest hopes and fears, to keep our writing sanity.

But you can also use your words to change the state of your readers: to move them from where they are to where they want to be… or to a place they’ve never yet dared to dream of.

Photo credit: Escape by dev null on flickr

If you’re writing an article, a blog post, a piece of non-fiction, a newsletter for clients, a feature on coaching there are lots of ways you can put your words to work to set your readers free.

Here are some of them… using ESCAPE as our guide:

E: engage your readers. Start where they’re at, get into their shoes, feel yourself into where they are… and where they want to be. Manage your own state before you start to write: make sure you’re in a suitable frame of mind for your writing task (positive, playful, optimistic)

S: suggest new avenues. Don’t tell people what to do (some folk are bound to resist) but play around with ideas, dreams, visions, new ways of doing things, crazy half-baked schemes… and leave your readers to choose the direction that appeals to them

C: carry your readers forward. Start where they’re at and move them towards a suitable end point – as easily and effortlessly as you can. Get rid of blocks and obstacles, leaps in logic, awkward phrases, management jargon or too much irrelevant material. Allow them to glide through your words.

A: adventure. Play, stretch and experiment with your content or your language. Test the waters of something new. Open your mind to new possibilities, look for different ways of describing something, allow new options to float into view. (You might just find you’ve changed your own state as well your readers by the time you’ve finished your writing!)

P: possibility. Use the language of possibility rather than necessity. Choose verbs like “could” or “might” and steer well clear of “should” “have to”, “must”. It’s like adding baking powder to a cake mix: these words automatically lighten your writing and make your readers feel lighter and more playful too

E: enjoy. Get into the right state before you start to write, one where you’re enjoying playing, adventuring, creating new possibilities with your words. Enjoy the playfulness that emerges as you write. Smile at the pictures, sounds and feelings that materialise. States are infectious. Your positive, playful state will help your readers to connect to your work, leaving them feeling lighter, more creative, more playful too.

When you read something that transports you to a new idea of what’s possible, what kind of language do you notice at work? How do you approach your writing when you want to gift your readers the freedom to escape?


7 Responses to “How To Set Your Readers Free”
  1. Chris says:

    make sure you’re in a suitable frame of mind for your writing task (positive, playful, optimistic)

    Oooo now that’s good advice and most likely why i sometimes struggle.

  2. Words are so powerful, aren’t they, Joanna? Your tips make me feel hopeful that I can transport my readers too. I’ll soon be writing my next e-newsletter and will use your tips to help me.

    The gym I attend has “motivating” sayings scattered around the room. Unfortunately so many of them are phrased in negatives, rather than possibilities. How do I suggest a change without offending?

  3. karen says:

    Joanna, your words always inspire me – and often hit home in unexpected ways. We really are lucky to have you sharing your words and your wisdom with us!

    I particularly liked the phrase “Allow them to glide through your words” – I am learning to be a better editor of my own words and getting rid of all that unnecessary or irrelevant material is something I hope to get better at this year.

    I plan, with your encouragement, to become more playful and fun in my writing. To start, I am breaking out the beautiful box of 24 coloured pens my friend Lin sent me for Christmas and playing around with words and images on big sheets of paper… let’s see what happens!

  4. Great post – as always, Joanna. As a coach myself I know how important but undervalued P is. When I suggest rewording a statement to a client it so often has the immediate effect of “lifting” their mood. Thank you

  5. Joanna Young says:

    Chris, yes, that one can make a big difference. I find that if I really can’t change my state I’m better leaving it till I can. (Then again I also find that smiling as I write automatically makes me feel more cheerful… like I’m doing now!)

    Angela, I think you could ask them if they’d considered framing the tips in positive language and if they’d be interested in experimenting. All the advice suggests that it’s the most effective way to achieve change. it’s possible they haven’t realised what they’re doing – it’s only when you tune into language and pay attention that you realise how you are framing things to others (and your self!) Hope that helps

    Karen, yes, the gliding is probably a throw back to the ballet dancer of last month! I like the idea of writing as a dance. And I *really* like the thought of you getting out those coloured pens… Can’t wait to see what happens!

  6. linda704 says:

    Joanna, your words, as they so often do, really resonate with me. I have noticed some of these things in my own blogging, which is my “recreational” writing. I wonder if I can apply the ESCAPE philosophy to my scholarly writing, if for no other reason than to motivate me to get into it.

  7. Joanna Young says:

    Jackie, hi, thanks for popping over. You’re right, changing the language can change a coaching conversation instantly. It’s a great way to break or change state.

    Linda, hope the words help you to find the motivation you’re looking for. Thank you once again for your support and feedback, and for taking the time to pop over here.