Updated: Dec 9, 2021
When words matter
One of my biggest challenges in the last 21 months was finding my creative energy. Having good energy is what enables me to create great thought leadership for my clients. And while there were trends, best practices and inspiration I could share with my clients to stay connected with them, I continued to lack the energy to get creative and write. I was struggling.
My sister, Molly Haydon, is a marketer. She’s got lots of ideas and is amazing at creating content. When I shared my situation with her, she said, “Go find your muse.” She asked me to think about where I used to do all my writing or creative thinking because that’s where I’d find my muse.
That was easy. I typically did my writing in the mornings in my blue swivel chair.
But I realized I’d changed my habits and was no longer spending my mornings there.
I went straight to my blue chair and immediately was able to finish a previously half-written blog. Then I wrote the openings for two more. I even drafted language for a couple of ads. It had worked! I had found my muse and was writing and feeling positive about the experience.
Written communications are very important to change management and engaging your team. Every announcement and email has the potential to inform, inspire and create momentum. Creating the best communications takes the right space (as I learned) and several iterations. We also know that when working on a project, you need to send communications over and over to keep broadening your reach and engagement.
I asked Molly to share more thoughts on writing content that inspires and motivates.
How do you find creativity?
Mental space or, more specifically, an empty mental space. It’s like a blank canvas. The bigger question is, “How do you get a blank canvas in a Jackson Pollock sort of world?”
I disengage from others completely to get this blank space. No calls. No plans. I ensure a lazy morning - an ‘eat what you want, when you want’ approach. I clean and organize while subtly thinking about things and then, all of a sudden, the idea will come through. Decluttering your mind is the key to listening to your inner creativity.
How can a leader enhance their writing skills?
Practice. But the hardest thing is taking, and actually listening to feedback from other writers and editors.
I recently hired a former college English professor to edit a book of mine. It was quickly apparent to me that, to her, I looked like a fifth grader writing a book. But once I got over the initial shock of edits, I saw how my writing could improve. That’s when you know you are on the right path. Your collaborative and edited self is always going to be better than your writing-in-silo self.
How do you make corporate speak more engaging?
Take temporary breaks from corporate speak. No one can handle corporate speak consistently for eight hours a day. So balance corporate speak by taking breaks that are more natural, using our ‘after work’ tone of conversation.
For instance, Harvard Business Review has found a less academic voice (and funny photos) to display relevant business paradigm shifts. After reading an article, you maybe have to read it again because it’s casual approach has some sizeable takeaways that require more time.
What’s a consistent issue you see with writing?
The habits we get into. Mine are the use of “so” and “but” to start sentences. Once you read consistent bodies of work from other writers, you’ll notice they have some signature phrases or words. I once read a book where the author used the word “proclivity” in every chapter. Be careful of your signature words - it could be a repetitive curse.
Also, know when social media language doesn’t belong in a business piece. We’ve all seen sentence fragments far too often on Instagram. When writing important content, give the reader the benefit of full sentence structure.
Where should you put the most effort into communications, like announcements or emails?
The middle. That’s where the arch is that keeps your reader engaged. We all know that the first two chapters in a book will determine whether someone will keep reading or not. Those first chapters are maybe a 15-page commitment. The ending is a chapter, so maybe a six-page commitment. But the middle, the middle is the journey of a ~200-page commitment.
When is a piece good enough?
Honestly, I think when you lose the passion and excitement for edits. If it becomes gruelling, it’s time to make a decision because to continue to dissect a great and helpful piece takes away the original purpose of the idea. Sometimes you have to park a piece, and sometimes you just close your eyes and press “Send.”
Can you provide some suggestions to help others improve their writing?
Read different authors. I’m reading a book now that is taking me out of my comfort zone. It’s an ‘old world’ written word, a style that takes you back in time and very prose-like. It’s not that I want to write like that, but it’s an appreciation for a praised author and a completely different audience.
Who do you read for inspiration and motivation?
On social media, I pull a lot of inspiration from Instagram pages, like “Tiny Buddha” and “Chopra,” and to make me laugh it’s always “My Therapist Says.” Also, as of late, The New Yorker has been coming out with some really pithy and amusing illustrations.
Thank you Molly for helping me find my creativity and providing great tips for all of us. So whether you’re writing blogs or business communications, like announcements and emails, the key is to find your writing space and style. Ask others to provide feedback on your written communications. Read others for inspiration and, remember, just like your leadership development, practice makes perfect.
About Molly Haydon
Molly specializes in marketing live events, Broadway shows and arena tours across North America and London, England. For three years, she worked for Cirque du Soleil launching Crystal, their first ice show in arenas across North America. She built the global marketing and PR team for LA-based CineConcerts for the Harry Potter Film Concert Series, as well as seven other film concerts. Molly has had the distinct privilege of working with the industry’s finest and funniest.
Find more of her perspectives: Mo’s Blog
Lisa W. Haydon is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years of operational experience leading teams in banking, capital markets, technology and professional services. Lisa’s instinct for sorting through business complexities, understanding distinctive leader personalities, and realizing results compelled her to leave a corporate career and become an entrepreneur.
Her company, Pivotal Growth, introduced a technology tool for leadership development assessment and planning. The suite of tools offers diagnostic capabilities to synthesize and accelerate people performance.
Lisa’s skills and the Pivotal Growth product help companies enhance their performance and support leaders achieving greater confidence and success.