Are you simultaneously petrified and fearless about what you’ll write next? Your readers thank you.

petrified

A paradox is two seemingly contradictory truths that reveal a deeper reality: hurry up and wait, first shall be last, that sort of thing.

The most influential writers live in the paradoxical state of fear and fearlessness, trembling and swagger, self-doubt and self-confidence.

I try to find that sweet spot all the time. Occasionally, I succeed.

Let’s start with fear. This post literally terrifies me because that’s what it should do. What if nobody reads it? When will you start skimming? What if someone calls out my “improper” use of the word, literally?

And the biggest question: In this content-dense world, how can anything ever live up to the high standards set by MOZ’s Rand Fishkin in this video?

It’s enough to make me stop writing. Ever again.

And that’s precisely when fearlessness must kick in. Not just any swagger, though. We should ground our supreme confidence in two mindsets: passion for our subject matter and empathy for our readers.

If you believe that what you’re writing absolutely must be written, go for it. If you’re considering carefully how your readers will read it, rewrite until you know you’re providing something of value.

I believe better writing can improve our lives, including all those hours spent in professional settings. Fewer wasted minutes trying to find the point. Less frustration when we can’t find that point anywhere in the text. It’s time to push ourselves forward.

This word-sentence-paragraph thing isn’t easy, which is why Page 17 is fearfully and confidently putting together workshops to help. They’re still in beta, but let us know if you’re ready to equip your team with tools that will lead to better writing. We’ll be ready when you are.

Chip and Dan Heath, Sally Hogshead, Shane Snow, Kevin Ashton: It’s not just what they say, it’s what we do.

actionable

I had five discretionary minutes between meetings.

I opened Safari on my iPad.

I started clicking.

First here. Then over there. Eventually someplace entirely new: ActionableBooks.com.

Well, this is interesting.

Instead of a traditional book review that condenses hundreds of pages into a handful of paragraphs, each Actionable summary identifies the primary (as in just one) thing you should actually start doing after you return Made to StickHow the World Sees You or Smartcuts to your bookshelf.

They call that thing the golden egg. Each summary then shares a couple of gems (as in just two) from the book that can help you put into practice the key actionable takeaway.

It’s a nice format for turning your reading list into a doing list.

In January, I joined their team of volunteer summary writers. My latest is for a powerful book, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery, by Kevin Ashton.

Give the summary a read the next time you have five discretionary minutes between meetings.

If I’ve done my job, you’ll know what to do next.

Utilize whatever you’ve been allocated or risk its forfeiture.

Hemingway

Or more succinctly, use it or lose it.

Why the predilection to use words like predilection in sentences?

Do they somehow make us sound smarter?

Are we trying to make others work their tails off to slog through our emails?

Let’s find every utilize and replace it with use. Let’s write improve instead of be improved upon. Let’s become the Ernest Hemingway of emails. According to this analysis, he wrote to a fourth-grade reading level.

If he’d have sent me an email, I’d have read every word.