Nash Creek Industries
Handcrafted Copy and Storytelling

Blog | Nash Creek Industries

Stories, observations, and soul-baring truth.

Keep it Breezy

They can keep the Roquefort at the craft cocktail bar.

They can keep the Roquefort at the craft cocktail bar.

“Your writing is often very … um … well … it has this … quality …”

She delivered the message slowly. There were a lot of pauses.

I was in a stuffy little conference room across the table from someone who was depending on me to help tell a story — and I felt something bad coming my way. I sensed it because I'd been in that position before. It’s a shitty feeling that makes me pray for the fire alarm to go off or the phone connection to drop.

I braced for the next sentence.

Ya see, my writing style can be a little too folksy for some people. More casual than they want. I’ve had clients ask if I can make it more “corporate.”

They’ll say things like, “Hey, John. Can you ‘business it up’ for us?”

Sure, I can do that. But it doesn’t always come naturally. People don’t hire me because I make their company, product, or service sound like a brand created by a slick New York agency.

My stuff is more like beers on the back porch, and less like craft cocktails at a place where the server spends more time describing the complex flavor profile of the Roquefort on the cheese board than I spend picking out a pair of kicks at Shoe Carnival.

ASIDE: A server really did spend two or three minutes explaining cheese flavors to me, and none of them sounded good. That's a story for another time.

Now the meeting in that conference room wasn’t with a client per se. She’s more of a co-author/business partner. We’ve been working on a book proposal with a third partner.

Those two are subject-matter experts on a topic and have been nurturing the idea for this non-fiction book for the past year. They’re familiar with the content inside and out, but they need someone to help with storytelling, flow, and tone of voice. That’s me.

We were reviewing the work I’d done on the story arc and chapter descriptions. Together, those pieces made up a massive chunk of the book proposal we were about to send to a big shot in New York.

It was a pivotal moment. We had one chance to make a great impression. If this well-connected cat in Midtown Manhattan likes our idea, then he’ll pitch it to the top publishing houses.

My partners loved (actually, the text from one of them said, “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE”) the original book summary I wrote. Now it was time to review the individual chapter descriptions I’d been working on.

Which brings us back to the conference room. We'll take it from the top.

“Your writing is often very … um … well … it has this … quality …”

She wasn’t filling in the blank. But I knew what she meant. I hung my head a little bit, already feeling slightly dejected. Then I completed the sentence for her.

“Breezy. That’s probably the word you’re looking for. My writing can be a little too breezy.”

Her response shot back at me before the last syllable dropped out of my mouth and bounced off the table.

“YES! That’s it. Breezy!”

Yup. Here we go again. My style isn’t for everyone.

But what she said next caught me off guard.

“I want more of it. THAT’S what we’re missing in the chapter descriptions. You brought that quality to the summary, but I’m not feeling enough of it here.”

Huh? She wants me to make it less corporate.

But wait. She had more to say.

“When we read the first draft of the summary, we both felt like THIS is the voice we want. We both wish we could write like that! We want you to put that spin on the descriptions.”

"So let me get this right," I said. "You want me to bring back the breezy?"

I Gotta Be Me

It’s true what they say. The story you make up in your head is probably way worse than the reality. I proved that with this round of self-deprecation because the truth was 180 degrees from my expectation.

They didn't want less JT. They wanted more!

After processing what had just happened, I realized where this thing went off the rails.

The bigwig in New York who would be reviewing the book proposal seems like a no-nonsense, suit-and-tie guy. So I wrote the first round of descriptions with the brevity and clarity I thought he would want.

I wrote with my audience in mind, which is essential. But at the same time, I stripped the personality, style, and humanity out of the writing.

No one told me to write differently for Mr. Suit-and-Tie. I made an assumption because I doubted that my style was right for him. I guess I was a little intimidated when I thought about who would be reading my work. It was a self-inflicted manifestation of the Resistance that Steven Pressfield writes about in The War of Art.

“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent,” Pressfield says. “Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.”

Resistance spawns inner creative battles that’ll paralyze us. Or the tricky bastard will badger us into making dumb choices. That’s what happened to me.

What I took away from the chapter description incident was another in a long series of lessons I've learned about beating Resistance. And it won’t be the last one. But until then, I'll put my head down, keep slogging — and enjoy regular ol' sliced cheddar on a Triscuit. They can keep the Roquefort at the craft cocktail bar.

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John Terry