Writing has always taken on some sort of mythological identity to me. For some reason, only the elite minds are truly good writers. Average Joes like me will never be good writers.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
People have always told me I’m a good writer. In college, I would much rather write a paper than take a test. Tests were stressful and I never scored well. Papers almost always ensured at least a B.
In 2009, I started my first blog. Just a way for me to share thoughts and ideas, mostly around ministry and music, with the “blogosphere.” I probably clocked 120 posts on that blog before I discontinued it and removed it from the internet a few years ago.
One thing I’ve always been told is, “Your writing is so easy to read and understand. Very simple and clear.” It’s probably not a coincidence that I became a StoryBrand Certified Guide and started a business called Clear Church Communications.
In spite of preferring papers over tests and being a relatively simple and clear writer, I’ve never equated any of it with being a “good writer.”
Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me refusing to believe I’m actually good at something, or maybe I never viewed simplicity and clarity as “good” writing.
When things changed
That all began to change in 2018. I stumbled across a podcast called, Building a StoryBrand with New York Times bestselling author, Donald Miller. I’d heard of Don from his Blue Like Jazz days, but I never read the book and had no idea he started a marketing (messaging) company called StoryBrand.
I don’t remember which episode of the podcast I listened to first. It popped up as an ad on Facebook and caught my eye. Almost immediately I listened to ten more episodes and ordered Don’s new book, also entitled, Building a StoryBrand.
I read the book on a plane down to Orlando. It absolutely blew me away.
The idea that the most valuable characteristic in messaging and communications was clarity felt like God had opened a new door in my mind.
Immediately, my mind was flooded with all the writing I had done in the past and all of the comments from friends, family, and colleagues telling me how clear and easy to understand my writing was.
Maybe I was a good writer, or could be.
Fast forward to July 2019
I’m in Nashville, Tennessee for the first time. A musician finally in the Music City. It’s Sunday evening and I’m in a back room at Martin’s BBQ with 80-90 marketing professionals and business owners.
It smells SO good.
In walks Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand and his wife Betsy.
I’m a little star-struck. I don’t get star struck over celebrities. I’ve run into sports stars like Michael Jordan, Ben Rothlisberger, Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne, and others. When in New York City in 2005, I stumbled onto the filming of Without a Trace, one of my favorite TV shows at the time.
In every case I thought, “Well, that’s cool.”
This was different. Not only was Donald Miller a famous author and speaker, I knew what he was about to say over the next four days had the potential to change my life forever.
Don walked in the room, introduced himself (as if we didn’t know who he was), and flat out told us that what he was going to teach us would change our lives and the lives of the clients we work with.
A little cocky? Only if he didn’t back it up.
With that began my training as a StoryBrand Certified Guide.
Over the next four days, I learned how to use the framework of story to create simple, clear, and compelling messages for all kinds of organizations.
As Don reminds people, “People don’t buy the best product or service, they buy the one they can understand the fastest.”
Simple and clear.
Fast forward again to 2020, a global pandemic
This March, everything changed. The Coronavirus brought the world to a screeching halt.
Thankfully, my business didn’t stop or lose ground. However, the pace slowed as churches suspended in-person gatherings.
No longer was I marketing events and preparing for a chaotic summer. I was coaching churches in online worship and how people consume content online.
Like most businesses, StoryBrand had to pivot as well. Instead of selling seats at live workshops in Nashville, they had to move their flagship live marketing workshop to a livestream. In addition, Don did something people had been asking him to do for a long time, teach a course on writing.
StoryBrand Guides received access to the online writing course.
A few takeaways from that course:
- Being a good writer is the ticket to go anywhere you want in life
- Good writing is something that can be learned
- The more you write the better you will be
I took it all to heart and felt the bug to start writing and publishing again.
Writing to help churches through a pandemic
As the pandemic ramped up, I took to writing to help as many churches as possible. The things I was discussing with my churches were things that every small church needed to know, whether they could pay me or not.
I started blogging from clearchurchcomms.com little articles of clear thoughts to try and help small churches find the right technology, and continually adapt as we go from live worship, to online gathering, and back to some form of in-person gathering again.
The articles I wrote crisscrossed the United States and were read 1000’s of times. Hundreds of people shared that handful of articles on social media, putting them in front of even more eyes.
One person commented on one of the articles, “A very reasonable thinker.” I might put that on my gravestone.
If I didn’t have the bug to write before, seeing my words help church leaders pushed me over the edge. Just by jotting down my thoughts and publishing them online I was able to help churches across the United States.
I felt humbled and emboldened.
Twitter as Inspiration
Later, I found myself spending more time on Twitter. At first, it was mindless scrolling to pass time. That changed when I found new accounts to follow.
First, was Matthew Kobach (@mkobach). Matthew is the Head of Social Media for the New York Stock Exchange. In addition to the NYSE accounts he manages, he also has a prolific personal Twitter presence.
As he puts it, he tweets “observations about life disguised as observations about marketing, content, and creativity.” Much of his tweeting revolves around what motivates people, clear thinking, and writing.
Next, was David Perell (@david_perell), the “Twitter Writing Guy.” David’s entire presence on Twitter is based around writing. Becoming a better writer, writing more, writing for an online audience, and more. David convinced me I need to start a new personal website to publish what I write (ta-da!).
What I learned immediately from both was Twitter is an incredible place to hone your writing. Given a character limit, and an environment more focused on words than images, every word counts. Tweets have to be clearly thought out, simply stated, and laid out for ease of reading.
Do I Tweet well? Meh. I’m learning a lot and taking some swings. I don’t care much about the number of followers. But, if that’s an indication of some swings connecting, I’ve had the biggest increase in followers in the last 30 days than I’ve had since I joined in 2010.
It’s not a life-changing number, but it’s significant in my context.
Here comes JG Writes
Recently, I have pushed myself to write roughly 500 words per day. At first, I tried to make everything related to Clear Church Communications for the purpose of growing that business. It was a struggle and a bit deflating when not able to come up with something insightful every day.
Last week, I decided to write about anything that came to mind. It started by writing about my childhood and then my bout with deep anxiety the first few weeks of the pandemic (more to come in a later article).
Writing about those topics was cathartic. I have to say, I felt great after each writing session. I was hitting more like 1000 words each day because it flowed naturally.
Call it writing therapy. Somewhere between a memoir and a journal I suppose.
So, here we are. A new blog for the sole purpose of trying to become a better writer.
My only theme, “Any topic. Any time. As long as keep I writing.”
No topic restrictions. No boundaries. No word count minimums or limits. No consideration of the Google Search gods.
Write. Edit. Publish. Repeat.
If you made it to the end of this post, welcome! I hope this is fun and maybe inspires others to write as well.
Leave comments with your critiques, thoughts, and your own experience with writing. Let’s grow together!