writing for the spoken word…chocolate chip cookie please!

writing for the spoken word

It sometimes takes a different viewpoint to write for the video and television medium. Many times translating our thoughts takes a different viewpoint. I sometimes have to get a coffee and cookie to work on a script.

I often find those I am working with on the project have a hard time seeing the words translate into the video medium. Specifically, each medium we use to communicate whether it be email, tweets, or video…the final written word is different for each medium.

I think and write as if I am writing for television, I write in the spoken word. I write as I imagine saying the words and find myself using the “…” as pauses or places for emphasis. Sometimes I use all lower cases to illustrate a soft tone, even not capitals for the word at the beginning of a paragraph for smoother spoken transitions. Then  ALL CAPS for emphasis of intensity or shouting.

I challenge those I am working with to sit back and read the whole script out loud. Speak it…say it…deliver it using your voice.

Listening to the script instead of saying it takes on a whole new medium. It is hard to write for the spoken word, we explain thing differently using our out loud voices. We pause for emphasis, we say words differently than in written format, we even omit words that are unnecessary.

Writing for the spoken word is like writing for a spoken conversation. You say a phrase and wait for a response, allowing your audience to adjust to your statement. You want the audience to not only hear your words but feel your words.

Writing for the spoken word still embodies the idea of telling stories. If you are writing a 30 second PSA for television, you do not want to share your closing thought in the middle of the script…unless that is the parenthetical design of delivery.

Or for that 30 second PSA or television spot…we do not want to cram 29 seconds of words into a 30 second final product…unless we do not want someone to breathe while listening. People need to breathe when listening, digest your creative thoughts, and store them in a way to remember your message.

I always encourage those who are writing for television or video to read the script out loud while recording yourself. Yes…then play it back and listen to the delivery. How about recording yourself with a video camera…reading the script to see the expressions in the lines of words, hear the pauses…feel the delivery. Many times…you will find the places to re-write and refine because now you see and her the script in the context of the audience.

Now it is time for a bite of that chocolate chip cookie!

Finding inspiration for your blog…be yourself!

There was a wonderful discussion on #Blogchat Sunday night surrounding how do we find inspiration to blog when we are faced with writers block. Great discussion and great question. I think this is a bigger question than just blogging…it is a creative writing question.

Blogging is a digital display of  our most passionate thoughts. It is the place to share our ideas, our thoughts, our visions, our business…it is our editorial voice for online ownership. Blogging is very personal.

So how do we take something so personal and put it to paper, as the old cliche goes. What makes us sit down and type away, and share our thoughts with a mass audience. It comes from inspiration…it is the connection between our ideas and how we articulate these ideas in a digital paradigm. Most people think blogging is just about writing. Some of the best blogs are more that just words, they are pictures, videos, podcasts…they are the visual representation of our thoughts.

In order to understand the question how to find inspiration to blog or write…we must figure out what inspires us. Inspiration comes from connection…how we are able to connect with our ideas and articulate those ideas in a way for others to consume. How, when, where do I find inspiration? It is about trust and listening. We have to trust our instincts and listen to the little creative bug that says, “that is a great idea…so you better write it down.”

Blogging is more than just inspiration. Inspiration comes at the oddest times for me. It might come at 4am when I am laying awake in the bed. It might be standing in the shower. It might be when I am riding down the road. But when a creative thought comes across my mind…I know I must find a way to document and articulate that thought. If I am driving, I might try to record some audio of my thoughts. If it is in the middle of the night…I might pick-up my iPad and jot down some notes. If it is a visual image infront of me, I might pull out my camera and snap a picture.

Blogging is more than just writing…it is capturing and articulating media. So many people preach that we must use pictures, video, and other digital mediums to grab interest or even leverage SEO. Yeah…those are great thoughts. But as a documentary storyteller, I think we should use those mediums to articulate our thoughts. We should use video when video explains our thoughts better than the written word. We should use images or pictures when reinforcing our written argument. We should use audio from a podcast or MP3 when sounds bring meaning and depth to our explanations.

Blogging is more than just communication…it is illustrating our digital thoughts in a way so the visual world can see our world view. Blogging is the one time we can combine all the visual and digital means to share our thoughts. We have the ability to help our audiences navigate through our story.

So where do we find inspiration…make sure we are truly connected to why we write, why we blog, why we share. Trust that if we are not inspired to write, blog, or even share…to trust that inspiration will present itself again. We just have to be willing to listen to our creative inspiration…and share those thoughts.

***Image is from Christina Berry’s Blog: http://christinaberry.me/inspiration/

Writing Passionately yields Community Writing

I was working with a group the other day around topics for their blog and ways to tell passionate stories for the audiences. We were listing topic areas, stories, and putting a rough schedule together to build consistency in their writing. They were extremely focused on the schedule so much so that they were worried about breaking outside of that schedule of writing. I have a few points to make here that will yield to my thesis that writing passionately yields community writing.

I told them that this schedule was just merely a barometer, and when you find a compelling story to tell…sit and write. Share your story and share it often. I think about writing for my blog almost like the way I began dating my wife. When, I first met my wife in graduate school…I fell in love. I knew I was going to marry her. It just took me two years for her to agree. As we began dating, we would go out, talk on the phone, meet for coffee, and learn to get to know each other. I had the three day rule.

The three day rule meant that after we would go out, I would not bother her for three days. I did not want to encroach on her space. I valued her friendship and I wanted to get to know her. But, I did not want to push her away…I wanted her to want to enjoy our time together. I was passionate about our relationship. Overtime we grew closer and the three day rule slowly disappeared.

Writing passionately is sort of the same concept. I try to build a relationship with the people that read my blog. I may not be the best, but I try. I try not to write too much to overload the “Internet” space and the people that receive my blog via email and Google reader. My wife is my barometer with this rule. She has been writing for close to five years on her blog. She writes about the following topics: life after her mother (who died of breast cancer), fighting infertility, against cause marketing, and her family. She writes about these topics and she writes passionately. She writes when she is inspired. Sometimes she writes everyday, and sometimes she writes after a month off.

She has built a pretty good community of readers. She has attracted successful authors and other bloggers like herself to share in her mission. But here is the thing, she is now writing with them. What do I mean by that? She will write about a topic, people will comment, she will respond, she will read their blog posts and respond, then she will write another post sometimes based on how her community is writing or responding to her. She has built a conversation around her blog, a community of people that have common interests and passions. She gets regular emails from her readers.

How does she do this? Well, she has a focus for her blog and she shares with her community. She writes straight from the heart…when she feels led to write.  There is no set schedule, there is no checklist…just a passion for her topics and for the people that respond in her community. She regularly is reading her friends blog and genuinely responding to their posts. She is building a community and this community’s writing is influencing each other in a way that they are writing for each other.

So here is my point. Writing for a blog has three elements: Focused Content, Passionate Writing, Engaging with Your Community. This is a barometer that I think will lead to a community of people that share your same interests.

Are you inspiring…

Write passionately I say…

Blogging is so hard to wrap our heads around. Finding our voice is even harder. We sit down to write and nothing comes out…nothing translates to from our head to our fingers. Who are we talking to…who are we trying to relate. Are we trying to write to inspire ourselves or writing to inspire others?

Sometimes it takes defining our motives…looking deep inside to define our voice and and defining those who we are writing with and for.

Do we write to meet a length quota or do we write without recognition of length, unknowingly fulling our space inside the walls of our blog…inspiring thoughts to inspire others. We write for ourselves but we write to be “read”. We want to articulate…we want to connect…we want to be heard.

So why do you write. Do we write to fulfill other people’s parameters or do you write with the same passion you find in life.  Are we so wrapped up in the technology that we forget to write our thoughts that bring inspiring thoughts to our daily lives. Watch out, we might say something that inspires another person…and create a culture of change.

We must write…write what drives our soul. We must ignore the constraints, forget the technology, forget the competition, and write the inner most passion that makes us get up in the morning and conquer the world.

We are entrepreneurial writers at heart…we believe in our ethic…to write passionately.

blogging in a leadership role – SUCCESS!

You know what is so much fun…the greatest joy, it is helping others find the path to tell their story. This past week was a big for a friend.

Telling our own story is one the hardest things to achieve…especially when it comes to exposing our thoughts online. Blogging for a top executive at a major organization has major implications. There is the tremendous opportunity to “own” your message. The hardest part is finding a voice…that leadership voice, online.

The online leadership voice is far beyond the sound bites and quotes for the media…it is the whole contextual quote. It is a chance to not only communicate with an external audience, but also engage an internal audience (employees)…one the largest employers in the region.

When we first started down the path, choosing which “hat to wear” when writing was tough. When we write, we are not only a family person but also a leader in the business world.

Last week…the voice was unleashed and writing began to happen naturally. Email after email were coming into my inbox, “check this post”…”how does the video fit”…”should we include the powerpoint”…questions. Each email led to me logging in and looking at the progress. The writing was wonderful. It was focused, passionate, and brought true leadership to the table.

It is fun to sit and watch executives step out, take the leap, and write for the whole world to see. Leadership is an awesome opportunity.

What is your passion? How do you find the zone?

The creative zone can sometimes be so hard to find. It does not matter when we need to create, but if inspiration has not eclipsed to the point of transferring the epiphany to our actionable finger tips, then we have not crossed the creative chasm.

The other day, I was speaking to my class about writing passionately. It is hard to grasp this idea…to write passionately. To sit down and bring theatre to the fingertips…orchestrating what is singing in our heads as true articulation.  We have a hard time jumping over that creative chasm…finding the happy place, the place where we call the zone. That is why so many creatives have writer’s block or dead periods. We sometimes take days to begin a project…mainly because it has not come to full understanding in our heads…in our hearts. We have to believe passionately about the message, the project. We have to feel it to articulate it verbally, contextually, visually, audibly .

How do we find the passion…well we have to look within ourselves and decide what makes us tick. What makes us peek up from the normal hustle and bustle of life? We have to focus in on the things that take us away from the status-quo and invigorate the juices in our heart, the passion inside us. What makes us smell the breathe of life?

How do we communicate our passion? We have to find a way to focus the energy…and be able to articualte it so others can see it through our eyes. Some of us write, some of us take pictures, some of us draw. What ever the medium may be…we have to allow it to connect with our inner thoughts as an instrument to translate, so others can see our point-of-view. The other day I watched a very successful entrepreneur articulate a vision, not through words, not through a powerpoint, but by drawing a graph, his medium…he crossed the creative chasm. No other way made sense, until he found a piece of white paper and a Sharpe.

What is the one place where you can go…the one place you know you can find the zone. You know, when you are fully in-touch with your passion? Athletes have it when they get on a hot streak, hit the next 5 three pointers back, to back, to back…without even hesitating. That is the zone…the happy place. The place where we are fully in-touch with our abilities to articulate our passion for others to see. Mine is when I am driving with the windows down and the music blasting. I go to my creative place, the place where I am in-touch with my ability to see things clearly.

Where is this place for you? Where is the zone? How do you find it to release your inner passion for others to clearly see the world through your senses…that is when we tell our story. It helps us lead!

Blogging is about K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid…and do it Passionately

Blogging…what an interesting topic to write about. There are so many people out there who have better things to say about this platform…but I cannot hold back anymore. I am hearing and reading so many people struggling with this idea. I have so many clients who want to blog, or have tackled the idea…and they are struggling. So what is blogging? Well, if I could define it in one post…then something is wrong. Blogging is a personal experience. Blogging is about community. Blogging is about writing with passion. Blogging is about letting the technology give us a platform to articulate our thoughts for public consumption, then connecting with those who share in that passion. Yes…passion.

Over four years ago, my wife started a blog as a journal. She kept it semi-private without sharing her full name and her location. It was her journal. It was her place to write about her mother fighting breast cancer and loosing that battle. Her writing was candid and raw. Her blog was also about infertility. You see, we have experienced three miscarriages. This was her tool to write and greave. She has pissed people off by writing candidly about family and personal experiences during this time of grief. She has thought about moving the blog and going completely anonymous. But, she has stuck to her guns, wrote with passion, and built a community of people who share the same thoughts. We could not have paid for a better therapist than WordPress.

She writes with passion and she writes with focus. She shares her inner most thoughts, experiences, and ideas. She did not spend money designing some beautiful blog. She did not spend time paying someone optimizing for the SEO. She writes with passion. She also reads with passion. She seeks out other bloggers to learn about them. When she sees someone new commenting, she goes to their blog to learn more about them. She uses her blog as her social space to build friendships all over the country…and she knows more about them than some of our friends right around the corner. She does all of this for free on WordPress.

We marketers spend so much time thinking about the number of clicks, whether this logo should be bigger or smaller, the right web URL, commenting system, etc. What we forget…write with passion. Find a focus for your blog and write with passion. Then, go out and find similar people and read what they are writing. Use commenting as an opportunity to take a genuine interest in people. If we are business bloggers, find that business focus and write with passion. Show something personal about you so people have something to connect.

Sarah also does something very interesting. She password protects certain posts, only allowing certain people to read certain posts. Talk about generating interest…she has more people asking for the password than I have hits in a day for my business blog.

We think way to much. We also think if we just set-up a blog on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, etc…that people will just come and money will start flowing. UHH…HELL NO. Blogging is about writing…articulating thoughts, your thoughts. Blogging is that editorial place to share opinions, facts, information….through our eyes. What is your passion…write about it! Write about it consistently! Then, go out and find others that interest you…read their blog. Comment with passion and be authentic. Do not worry about technology, let the technology be the provide the platform to allow your writing flow freely.

It is all about a Thank You Note!

So today I found a little surprise in my mailbox, a thank you note. Well, there was more than just one thank you note…two. Below you can read the thank you note from one of my students. The note was not to me.

I teach Business Writing at Clemson. It is my goal to teach students more than just how to write, but how to use writing to build relationships. I teach them to think like entrepreneurs. I teach them to think about building career relationships. This thank you note is not only just a representation of a student thanking and praising a teacher, but using the knowledge learned in the classroom. Today, I am the student! It has come full circle!

There are so many times if we wonder if we are making an impact, but tonight…this one student made me shed some tears. I love teaching! Thanks Kelly!

Read below!

Collaborative Editing – A Lesson in Listening

Collaborative writing…well that can be tough, but collaborative video editing? This can be difficult, exhausting, time consuming, etc….but maybe not? Collaborative storytelling is the way I like to look at it. Five months ago, I was asked to work with the Call Me MISTER program to help create a 10 year anniversary video project for their big summit. The goal was to interview many of the “MISTER’s” and supporters of the program, allowing them to talk about the program through their eyes.

It was a team of us traveling all over North and South Carolina to interview each of the 20 individuals, our guide was just a few questions. What we found…a lot of stories to be told, each with a different viewpoint of the Call Me MISTER program.

The Call Me MISTER program is an initiative to place black males as elementary teachers in the class room. That is it…you can look beyond the initiative and derive more underlying themes, but there is a need especially here in South Carolina to change the face of our educational system. What a better way to do so than to place educated, black males as role models, as educators. Not football players, not rappers, not drug dealers…but teachers, leaders, educators. This initiative is based at Clemson University with many black colleges in South Carolina with this program in place.

We interviewed many of the “MISTERS,” the graduates of this program. We interview the presidents of each of the South Carolina institutions (Clemson, Benedict, Claflin, and Morris). We interviewed those who support the program including Wachovia, Doris Buffet (Sunshine Lady Foundation), Mott Foundation, DuPont, and the Self Foundation. We found so many stories, so much passion, so much that needed to be conveyed.

So when all the interviews were complete, this team worked together in a room and took close to five hours worth of video interviews, and collaboratively constructed four final video messages. We collaboratively decided beginning, middle, and end. We created criteria which helped us clarify what was to be cut and what was to be included; to support the mission and the audience’s needs.

Each one of us had our own predispositions, our own viewpoints, and we learned to identify what comment was purposeful and what did not add value to the mission. We all had a deciding factor in the construction of the storyline, all four of us. We listened to the stories and to each other; and we let the MISTER movement dictate the message.

What a great way to tell a story, a collaborative way to find the story within the story. We listened.

Video – Good Ole fashion Storytelling

It took years and years for me to get to the point of understanding what it means to tell a story. A Story…which is comprised as a Beginning, Middle, and a End.

Hmm…let’s think about this for a second. It is currently recommended that if you are creating online video content, that you keep it within a few time parameters.

1) If it is a single person speaking right at the camera…then a minute is about as long as the human attention span can stay engaged.

Jakob Nielsen’s “Talking-Head Video is Boring Online” states that “Eyetracking data show that users are easily distracted when watching video on websites, especially when the video shows a talking head and is optimized for broadcast rather than online viewing.”

2) If there are more shots beyond the headshot edited over a person speaking (a narrator), then a person’s attention span on average is willing to hang around for about 2.5 minutes. What do I mean? Well, there needs to be a variety of shot selection instead of just looking at the one talking head shot.

Now, given these parameters…let’s talk about Beginning, Middle, and End edited so that it tells a cohesive story between 1 to 2.5 minutes. OMG….seriously. Did you know that if you wrote a script for a video that is:
– one full page length on an 8.5×10 in piece of paper
– one inch margins
– single spaced
– 12 point font size
then it would take roughly 2.5 – 3 minutes to narrate the script. Most people have a hard time condensing a blog article less than five paragraphs. This is why I like Twitter…tell a story in 140 characters.

Many people in advertising and pr like to plan, and plan, and plan, and pre-plan the plan. You know, write the script with the message/vision in mind. Dictate what the narration is going to say, script each person in the video so that it is a controlled message. There is tremendous value in controlling the message.

I typically take a more journalistic approach to creating messages for the clients who choose to work with me.

  • Identify the context by analyzing the Audience, Purpose, and Delivery.
  • Identify the cast (people/subjects featured in video)
  • Identify the storylines that provide context for each subject
  • Write an overall OUTLINE of the story
  • Schedule Interviews
  • Outline the questions/points for the interview
  • Interview each subject on-camera as a conversation
  • After each interview, log and transcribe each interview
  • Write final script
  • Identify gaps in story
  • Write narration and on-camera host scripts that interweave the interviews that display the story (Beginning, Middle, and End).
  • Edit the story. Be prepared to deviate from script based on pacing and story execution. Place each piece of the puzzle together to support overall message.
  • Revision Cycle with stakeholders
  • Deliver the message to the target audience

Now this is a basic overview of the “journalistic approach” to storytelling. But really…it is the approach of letting the subjects tell the story. Using keen interview skills to listen to responses, and being prepared to alter/adjust the interview to pull relevant topics from the subject…bottomline, to meet the needs of the message. This most important part of this process is…LISTEN! Listening is the key to telling a good story. Listen to the subjects, listen to the message, listen to your instincts, listen to the responses on tape, listen to facial expressions of the subjects, listen to the clients reactions.

So how do we listen? Well, let’s talk about listening during a few keys areas of the process.

1) Listening during the interview.

Bob Dotson (NBC Correspondent) said the best way to listen during an interview is to ask a question/make a statement then sit there and force a response. Do not say a thing, create a silent void for the subject to fill. Do not sit there and do the typical “Ahh Haha” or the “Yes” while the person is talking…you will corrupt the audio recorded!

Listen to the subject by watching their facial expressions while you ask questions. This is key to seeing and understanding what makes the subject tick. Did you know that the first two or three questions are typically throw away questions. Questions that get the subject warmed up…use them to your advantage…make them feel comfortable and forget the camera is there. While you are listening to the responses…stay tuned into the how the subject’s mood changes so that you know when to ask a hard question. LISTENING will help you frame your interview session. Interviewing a subject is like telling a story…there is a beginning, middle, and end to the question an answer session.

2) Listening during the logging/transcription session

This is the time to watch, listen, and analyze whether the interview session translates the intended message. Listen for changes in the storyline both in the interview and the over-arching story that is being created. Listen and log “soundbites” that fit into the storyline. As you are logging/transcribing take note to the “soundbites” that might fit in the beginning middle, or end. Listen and take note to the comments….additional “B-Roll” or footage might be needed as complimentary video to reinforce the comments.

3) Listen during editing process

As you are constructing the message from the script…listen as the message flows. If it feels awkward, forced, contradicting, etc; then be willing to listen to your instinct to change so that you feel “at peace” with the pacing.

4) Listen during the revision process

Watch and listen to others as you present the story to your peers and the stakeholders. Watch their facial expressions. Notice when each person starts to lose interest by playing with their iPhone, or looks away. Notice when there is a complimentary emotion that matches the moment in time in the story. If someone cracks a joke, then the audience should smile or laugh. If not, the editing did not execute the purpose. Listen to the responses and be willing to step away from the creative enterprise to think critically about the overarching goal. Be willing to question and listen to why each person had a particular response