3 Keys to Powerful Writing: Guest Post By Robert Hruzek

by Joanna on April 21, 2008

So you want to experience powerful writing? Hey, that’s great! Well, all I can say is, ya better snug up those knickers, Bubba, ‘cause you’re askin’ for it! Just so ya know, though (hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it – but my feet show it! Er, sorry), in order to experience that power, allow me to list three keys you’ll need.

Why don’t we take a few minutes, throw ‘em against the wall (sound of wet splat) and see if they stick?

Targets

Yep; sounds elementary, doesn’t it? But the sad truth is, when we write, most of us are guilty of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach. Now, this may actually be a useful method of accomplishing something (as a means of combating procrastination, for instance, it’s an excellent way to “get off the fence”).

However, powerful writing begins with the end in mind. See, what you write needs a goal, a purpose – something that lets you know you’ve a) started in the right direction, b) managed to keep on track, and c) accomplished the goal.

From the very first word, direct your readers toward the point(s) you intend to make. And, while good writing may (and should!) include illustrations, examples, facts, figures, etc., never allow them to lead your readers away from your target. Hey, nobody steps up to play darts by facing away from the target, right? So why should your writing?

Boundaries

You’ve heard of empowerment, haven’t you? Empowered workers, empowered decisions, etc. – I’m sure you know what I mean, right? Well, in order for empowerment to be possible, one must have the ability and the freedom to act.

For instance, when an organization empowers a worker, they give them the freedom to make their own decisions. But, mind you, it’s not total freedom; no, it’s total freedom within clearly defined boundaries. Otherwise, chaos would ensue.

Hey, it’s true! Just for fun, take a look around you, at folks you consider to be empowered. Notice how their empowerment (sometimes called authority) stems from the boundaries they operate within? But – and watch this – let them exceed that authority for just a moment, and suddenly there’s no power at all! Sorta like a cop trying to make an arrest outside their jurisdiction – it ain’t gonna happen.

The same thing goes for powerful writing. For your writing to have power, you must work within set boundaries – else it’s called rambling, and you end up writing like me leading your readers down an aimless path with no way out. Except, of course, to click away (or close the book, or… whatever) and never come back!

Gravity

Hey, I don’t mean you should always write with an extremely serious expression on your face, silly! (You’ll want to avoid a goofy one, too. People might start to wonder.) Nope, I’m talking about, as Monty Python was wont to say, something completely different.

You know how gravity works, right? It’s that unseen force that pulls things downward. So imagine this scene: you’re sitting on a bicycle at the top of a long grassy hill. You throw all caution to the winds and push yourself over the edge. In moments, you’re speeding insanely fast towards the bottom with no ability to stop whatsoever. That’s the gravity I’m talking about.

In the same manner, powerful writing can move the reader forward, almost as if they can’t resist; always moving in that direction you want them to go. And what’s more, you get to be the Master of their particular universe, regulating the pull of gravity (the flow and pace) in subtle ways. Calm and serene or heart-pounding excitement – hey, it’s all up to you. Now that’s powerful!

Is There a Formula for Success?

OK; I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always manage to get all three of these elements into everything I write – at least, not very well. (I mean, you have to make allowances for… well, you just have to make allowances; after all, I’m still learning.) Besides, it’s likely that not everything you write “fits the mold”, so to speak. (Although… if you leave it out in the damp air it probably will get moldy.) But that’s one of the best things about writing; you can pretty much find the room – and the freedom – for any style at all.

Why, just the other day, someone exceedingly famous, amazingly good-looking, and incredibly generous wrote this statement (aw, shucks; I know you were probably thinking of me – but it ain’t), and I believe there’s a great deal of truth to it: Success isn’t something you can copy. It is a process you have to understand.

BUT (and that’s a BIG ‘but’, baby!), if you’re aiming for powerful writing, well Bubba, like it or not you’re gonna need these 3 keys, and no mistake.


Robert Hruzek

Robert Hruzek

Howdy! I’m Robert Hruzek, and I’d like to thank Joanna Young for the opportunity to once again pontificate (which I believe is a Polynesian expression that means something like to blather on and on) over here at Confident Writing.

If you’d like (or if you dare; whichever is appropriate), drop on by Middle Zone Musings every now and then and pull up a chair; we’re always open.

Note from the Editor: I don’t think I can possibly add anything to this introduction! Just wanted to say thanks again Robert for joining this conversation on what we understand by powerful writing.

Joanna

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Damien Riley 04.21.08 at 5:46 pm

Hi Robert, I liked the boundaries idea. I have always believed that true art is done within limitations not without. Nice guest post.

Robert Hruzek 04.21.08 at 6:08 pm

Thanks, Damien; good observation, too. Another thing; without some form of boundary, no judgment can be rendered, either.

Brad Shorr 04.21.08 at 6:43 pm

Robert, excellent points - starting with your goal in mind is super important, but easy to forget. At least for me. Thanks for referencing me in your post, too. You sure you don’t have me mixed up with some other guy?? :)

amypalko 04.21.08 at 6:44 pm

Robert, I just love the way you write! You manage to entertain and inform at the same time - truly the best kind of teaching.
I think the key which I call on the most, particularly in my academic writing, is targets. I have very clear targets for the chapters of my thesis stemming from research questions I’ve spent a long time developing. In my blogging, however, I allow myself more freedom, and I do tend to be a bit more meandering. However, I wonder whether the target in my blog writing is more aligned to positive intention, as Joanna discussed recently here:
https://thewriterslife.net/2008/03/how-intention-a.html
You once wrote on Middlezone Musings about the internal compass (which you can see here:
http://middlezonemusings.com/never-lose-your-way/ )
and I think it is this which guides my writing for Lives Less Ordinary.
Anyway, a great post wonderfully written. Thank you!

Ellen Weber 04.21.08 at 6:47 pm

Great post and thanks Bob and Joanna. Bob, one of the talents I see as a backdrop to all these keys - is your amazing talent for story and humor! Ok, I added two more keys to your cool list.

I love the way you toss in stories that “make sense” and also the way you “mix senses up” for a good laugh to pop a point home!

Robert Hruzek 04.21.08 at 6:50 pm

Brad, anyone who throws caution to the winds and volunteers to pick me up from O’Hare airport earns the badge, Buddy! Be seein’ ya soon at SOBCon!

Robert Hruzek 04.21.08 at 7:00 pm

Wow, Amy; you really know how to make a fellow feel valued! I appreciate your words more than you can know.

I see your point about how ‘targets’ are absolutely essential in your thesis writing. And sure, we can generally relax a bit when we write here in the blogging world.

But if you want your writing - an writing - to be really and truly powerful; well, you’ll have to make sure all three are there.

Robert Hruzek 04.21.08 at 7:01 pm

Ellen, thanks for the kind words, too! Over the last year I’ve come to discover that’s where my real talent lies - storytelling. Glad it’s working!

Joanna Young 04.21.08 at 10:02 pm

Robert, thanks again for coming up with a guest post for us - this one’s a stormer!

I liked the boundaries point too. Someone said something about the 4 x 4 sources of inspiration meme that has stuck with me - the generative power of form. I think that’s why people are responding to the challenge of coming up with a definition in 30 words or less too - it’s as if the form, the boundaries, generates the words, the ideas (and the power).

Amy: you know I’m a big fan of the power of intention. For me that works as a more powerful framework than a target as such - but maybe that’s just words (I have a bit of an aversion to ‘targets’ Robert after too many years in a targets driven organisation)

Ellen: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with one of Robert’s key skills - mixing the senses up - it’s a way of taking us with him (through the senses) but mixing it up (to make us laugh and keep us intrigued), with a wonderful blend of non-sense and total, perfect sense.

See if we keep this going we’ll get him seriously blushing yet.

Joanna

Nick Betten 04.21.08 at 11:20 pm

First, thanks Joanna for having Robert on. I’ve enjoyed his blog for a couple months now. It’s great to see good people collaberate and become bigger than themselves.
Robert,
This is certainly a crystal clear guide to go by. Totally reminds me of my publc speaking class. As uncomfortable as it can be at times (trying to writing well) putting a plan like that into action helps achieve our goal.

Robert Hruzek 04.21.08 at 11:44 pm

Aw shucks, y’all! It’s always fun to “come out and play” at someone else’s place for a change. Besides, I think I still have a few more hours before those guys in white coats catch up with me and take me back to the funny farm…

Joanna, as always, you’re a wonderful hostess, and I truly appreciate your aversion to ‘targets’. But let’s just call it semantics; you always manage to hit yours, whatever you call ‘em.

Nick; it’s always great to hear from all my, er, fan. Hopefully you’ll never be disappointed at the Zone - and if you are, that it’s just a moment of insanity! I think you captured the essence of guest posting well with that comment: “… collaborate and become bigger than themselves.” Notwithstanding the inevitable image of “the Amazing Colossal Man”, it’s quite true, and the reason it’s so enjoyable.

Thanks for droppin’ by… and a tip o’ the hat to ya!

Joanna Young 04.22.08 at 9:35 am

Nick, the collaboration and becoming greater point is a good one.

It works for the host or hostess too. The first time I handed over my keys to the blog it felt very scary, but I’ve learned each time I’ve done it, the blog has had new oxygen blown into it, and I’ve developed some very strong connections with those authors who’ve chosen to share their words here.

Joanna

Cath Lawson 04.22.08 at 4:56 pm

Hi Robert - I had no idea that was a Polynesian word.

This is interesting stuff. I’m struggling with the gravity bit right now. I did learn this week that shorter sentences work, when you get to an exciting part and want to push your reader along quickly, so I’m experimenting with that.

Joanna Young 04.22.08 at 5:34 pm

Hi Cath, good to see you. Your experiment sounds interesting. Are you experimenting on your blog or via other writing formats?

Joanna

Karen Swim 04.22.08 at 5:59 pm

Robert, these are great keys to keep in mind. I struggle with boundaries, which probably speaks volumes about my personality. lol! Your point though illuminated it in a way I had not considered. This will help me color inside the lines a little more often. Thank you!

Robert Hruzek 04.22.08 at 6:14 pm

Howdy Cath! Yes, it really is a Polynesian word - trust me! Or maybe it’s Greek… I forget.

I’ve read often enough that shorter sentences are so very much better than long ones for reading flow (it’s something Seth Godin espouses often enough), but for the life of me I can never seem to make my sentences all that short; they just seem to keep going and going like the Eveready Bunny - (sound of blunt object hitting back of head)

Uh, anyway, I think you’re right. Shorter sentences should “pull” a reader more quickly through your story. :-)

Robert Hruzek 04.22.08 at 6:16 pm

Karen, glad I could help. That’s probably my biggest problem, too. It’s so easy to get off track and start to “wax eloquent”.

Joanna Young 04.22.08 at 7:00 pm

Longer sentences have a part to play Robert. We keep hanging in there to see if there’s going to be a point! (And even if there isn’t, you’ll have made us smile - think - wonder)

Joanna

Robert Hruzek 04.22.08 at 7:18 pm

A point… yeah, that’s the ticket! I knew there was something missing… :-)

Robyn 04.22.08 at 8:58 pm

Hi Bob, you have three very powerful tips to write. I enjoy the third one because you are often able to achieve gravity, though you bring in a round of humor as only you can do! In my mind that’s what makes your writing powerful. Thanks for a great guest blog.

Robert Hruzek 04.22.08 at 10:13 pm

You’re welcome, Robyn! I appreciate the kind words. It’s good to know that maybe I’m kinda sorta successful in practicing what I preach. Dodged a bullet, there! :-D

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