Friday, August 22, 2014

The Horror of the Blank Page

Here at PCG, we help clients communicate effectively through almost every form imaginable, except skywriting (so far) – from press releases to infographics, from presentations to online advertising. But no matter how the information is delivered, it all begins the same way: with words on paper, or on a screen.

So even deep into the digital age, we still emphasize the basic skill of effective writing. Get the messages clear, get the storyline clear, and then present it in a persuasive, appealing style.

The hardest part is getting started. That was the subject of an in-house tutorial led by our partner Leonard Greenberger. He was the right tutor since last year he published his own book, What To Say When Things GetTough: Business Communication Strategies for Winning People Over When They’reAngry, Worried, and Suspicious of Everything You Say (McGraw Hill Education). And he admits that the hardest part was filling up the first page.

So he began the session with two telling quotes from major writers:

When asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, Ernest Hemingway – the war correspondent on the ground in both World War I and World War II – answered, “A blank sheet of paper.”

And Stephen King, the master of horror, once said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start writing.”

They reminded me of one of my own favorite quotes about writing, from the journalist and author Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Good writing isn’t for the queasy. Maybe that’s why it’s so rare.

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