Stepping Back From Your Passion

The power to persuade. This one, single quality is at the core of all successful copywriting.

Last week we began our discussion of persuasive writing. I started by telling a story of being upset with a well-known online retailer … and how I’d written the CEO to express my displeasure.

In writing them, I used the three key components Mark Ford has identified for persuasive writing to be effective. These key components are …

  • The writing must start with a compelling idea
  • The writing must be stated clearly
  • And the writing must be specific

These three components are all important, but your starting place has to be a compelling idea. And as I said last week, that compelling idea must arise from a place of passion within you.

So if you’re writing for the alternative health niche, you must have a passion for natural healing. If the financial niche is your bailiwick, then you’ve got to feel excited about the entire world of investment.

And if public benefit and social welfare are your passion, then the fundraising niche is an ideal place for you to write.

Knowing your passion and feeling passionate about what you're writing is crucially important if you want to persuade others to follow your lead … to do what you want.

But …

Passion can be your greatest ally …
 … or your worst enemy.

When you write any type of persuasive copy, you must start at the same place you do in copywriting: With your reader’s core complex … understanding your reader’s emotional structure. This is true whether you’re writing a complaint letter, an article about cooking New Year’s dinner, or a sales letter.

But there’s a huge problem here. It’s easy to assume your reader shares the same passions — has the same emotional attachment to the subject — you do.

We make this assumption all the time in our daily lives. And we make it in our writing. It’s a trap. When you assume your reader feels like you do, you’re not going to pay enough attention to how to really touch your reader’s core emotions.

How do you avoid this trap? You must take a step back from your own emotions. Look at the situation dispassionately so you can clearly see how that situation affects your reader.

For example, I’m passionate about improving the lives of children and teens. If I wrote solely from that passionate feeling, I’d assume everybody felt the same way I do. “Of course, they’ll see it my way.”

But this won’t work. If I want to be truly effective in my writing, I have to step back to understand how my reader feels. I have to understand how important ideas like sustainability, monetary Return On Investment, and similar ideas are to donors. It’s simply not enough to rely on “these kids deserve a better life.”

This is why I didn’t write my complaint letter to the CEO until the day after receiving the offending package.

I have another example of this as well. I have a couple of good friends — Allison and Victor — who are outstanding blues and jazz performers. A little over a year ago, they’d laid down six tracks of music with a local sound engineer. The engineer lost the tracks when his computer had a hard drive crash.

The engineer was reluctant to make it right. This infuriated Allison. She and I talked about her problem and how she could write to the engineer most effectively.

When she first spoke to me, she was way too angry to be able to write a good letter to the engineer. I told her to give it some time … maybe a week or more … before she wrote the actual letter.

I recommended that she write the letter “in her head” several times instead of doing it on paper. When she did this, she started with her “angry letter.” But as time went on, she was able to divorce herself from her anger. By the time she was ready to write the actual letter, she was able to do it more dispassionately, more objectively.

Her final letter was much stronger, much more persuasive, and much more effective than it would have been if she’d sat down and written from her angry place.

The five-step process for stepping back from your passions.

It's a wonderful feeling as a writer when you write passion-fueled copy. Your fingers seem to dance on the keyboard. But as we’ve just learned, that can be a problem.

So what can you do when you’re feeling that sort of emotional attachment to your writing? You need to step back from your passion.

Here are five steps I take when I'm feeling this excitement and passion for my writing.

  1. Give yourself the perspective of time. Have the good sense and courage to avoid writing when you're feeling that way. Give yourself a day or more.
  2. Make a list of all the emotions this subject brings up in you.
  3. Then talk to a few friends about the subject. Find out how they feel about it.
  4. Make a list of your friends’ emotions when you’re by yourself.
  5. Finally, what emotions resonated most strongly in your friends? Those are the ones you need to focus on. If they match yours, great! If not, don’t be sucked into focusing on your own.

This doesn’t sound much different from how you understand your prospect’s core emotions. The big difference is to take the time to step away from your own core passions … the emotions inside of you that make it difficult to see how your reader truly feels.

Perspective, a little bit of time, and standing in your reader’s shoes allow you to come up with strong compelling ideas. Your starting point for writing persuasively.

Until then, keep writing!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 17, 2012

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