One of the things I love most about writing on this site is the opportunity to open up conversations with people around the world. While posting content online initially seemed like one-way communication, it has opened up profound offline conversations with people that would otherwise not have happened.
The shift to a more conversational tone in my writing took intention, starting with the right atmosphere: a cup of hot coffee, some light reading from someone who writes conversationally, and a distraction-free zone. I’ve found that the right preparation and atmosphere has helped me transition from writing “at” someone to trying to carry on an imaginary conversation with someone. It’s a more informal tone, and one that I have come to enjoy in contrast to the buttoned-up, color-in-the-lines approach I took a few years ago.
The transition happened so slowly that I was not even aware of it until a friend pointed it out to me. This person was one of the people who edited my book, The Savvy Young Professional. He shared that he could hear the transition happening with me as a person through my writing from the first half of the book to the second half of the book. Since it took me three years to write it, bookended by my wedding and the birth of my son, it was inspiring to hear that the personal maturity and growth I had experienced came through in my writing. During this same time period, I was learning a lot about becoming a more vulnerable, relatable leader and person. I’m not sure what happened first, the change in my character inspiring the words or the words on the page inspiring my character, but I do know that writing was, and continues to be, a therapeutic and reflective practice for me.
Writing about events and people became a way to cement lessons I had learned in my memory. It allowed me to unpack situations and see them from a more objective perspective than I had in the moment. There were many Sunday afternoons spent in front of my laptop writing when something would click – I would see a person or a problem in a new light. Or, I would re-read content and realize that I sounded cold and transactional, almost directive rather than conversational. If my writing sounded this way, how was I coming across to other people, I wondered? I wanted my book to feel like a conversation with me rather than a “how to” guide, and re-reading it allowed me to see specific areas that missed the mark in my writing and in my character. As my editor and friend referenced above says, “do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be profound?” I started writing the book with the goal of being perfect, and realized halfway through that it was more important to be profound. Once this shift happened, emotion and passion came out of my fingers onto the keys.
I had a conversation this week with one of our interns about the journaling questions I included at the end of each chapter. In my experience, writing and journaling provide the opportunity to express our inner thoughts, at times ones we are not aware of, on paper. It allows us to see what lies in our subconscious and deal with it, rather than bury it away in our mind. It can ease anxiety, share joy, and inspire. It gives us a basis to rationalize our thoughts and a place to document them that we can share with someone else or keep to ourselves. And, while some things are probably best left private, sharing the profound – rather than the perfect – can go on to impact others in ways we cannot imagine. So go start a conversation. Write. Speak. Be profound.