Four magic questions…

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a useful blog post by Susan Weinschenk.

I’m a big fan of Susan Weinschenk AKA the Brain Lady, a PhD psychologist who writes about how to apply neuroscience to everyday working life. She is also author of the tremendous book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. It sits on my shelf and I consult it before every presentation I give.

Her blog is equally useful and entertaining and I especially enjoyed her Oct. 11/14 post headlined, “The 4 Magic Questions to Ask Before You Design Anything.” Here’s what struck me. Her questions are equally useful for writers!

Here they are:

1. Who is the target audience?

2. What does the target audience want to do?

3. What does the product owner want the target audience to do?

4. What is the target action at this particular point?

I cover many of the same points (using different words, of course) in my own book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster Better. But I was struck, once again, by the core similarities between writing and designing. What are these similarities?

First, you have to think outside of yourself. The point is not what you want to do but what your audience wants. Second, you need to be very specific. What, exactly, does your client or boss want to achieve? What’s the best, most useful thing you can do right now?

Writers often focus on their own writing skills (or shortcomings). But, to me, the most valuable writer is the one who can put himself in the mind’s eye of others: his readers and his boss or client. Maybe that’s why Weinschenk used the word “magic.” What could be more magical than being able to inhabit the minds of other human beings?

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