“Reverse direction”—painting advice works for writing too

“Reverse direction.” Okay, that’s not what my friend’s painting teacher told her. He told her to turn her painting upside down, but the SEO gods only know one direction: up.

reverse direction to get another perspectiveWhat happens when you turn your painting upside down? Well that still-life you’re drawing stops being a bowl of fruit and a bottle of wine. Instead, it becomes a collection of shapes, of light and shadows. Draw that and when you turn the canvas rightside-up again, you’re likely to have the best wine bottle and fruit bowl you’ve ever drawn. Because you were thinking about it from a different perspective.

Of course, that advice works for writers too. Tell the story backwards. Bring a seemingly minor detail to the forefront. Take a different approach.

Change your perspective. It might turn an ordinary message into something memorable.

Reverse direction — platitudes become profound

One of my clients gave me permission to share some of my work for her in my class last week. I wanted to show them how the right story can elevate an ordinary message.

“Take care of yourself,” “unplug,” “focus on the task at hand”—these are not messages likely to stir anyone’s soul. But find the emotional center and weave a story around that, and what might seem to be platitudes turn into memorable advice. These true stories resonate with her audience; they write back and share their own experiences. They are engaged, finding the truth of the message in their own lives. And the more an audience engages with you, the longer they will remember what you have to say.

And the truth shall make you unique

There’s another benefit to this storytelling. Because we’re using true stories and talking about my client’s honest reaction to them, we know her message will be unique. Anyone can say, “I taught my daughter to ride a bicycle this weekend. It taught me the value of persistence. You can do anything you put your mind to!” Only my client can say,

“Letting go was the hardest part. For me, not for my daughter. She kept shouting, ‘I’ve got this, mom! Let go!’ And I did. And she did.”

And then we weave in the business part. For the record, I made that stuff up about the bicycle. To paraphrase what they used to say on TV, the anecdotes have been changed to protect the innocent.

But coming at your message sideways instead of head on, that’s the key to it all. Reverse direction and see what happens.


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