The One Question Every Writer Should Ask First
Why do you write?
Is it because you want people to read your words?
Do you want to see your name in print?
Would you like to have a book to showcase on your profile?
These are all valid reasons to write.
Once you do these things, what’s next? How will you set yourself up for success again and again? What is the secret to writing stuff that people will care about, buy, and share?
The answer comes when you ask yourself one simple question.
It’s super easy to remember because it is just two words.
Are you ready for it?
Here it is:
Why You Should Ask
So What reveals the Pain.
There are all kinds of pain to choose from:
- Boredom — This is a challenge with smartphones and always-on Internet connections. But the need to fill all our time with something consumes us, so if you can fill the void, go for it.
- Physical pain — You can’t ignore it when your body hurts. You might be able to sleep it off, but what if you can’t? What if it has lasted way too long? What if you can’t figure out why someone as healthy as you is going through all this? When you can’t go on any longer, you look for a Savior to deliver you from the daily torment.
- Inadequacy — Education is the top remedy for people who don’t feel like they have enough to do what they want. Is there a secret? Do I really have to go to school for 8 years or is there a cheaper and quicker way to learn how? If you can prepare someone to succeed, you have great power and an even greater responsibility.
- Apathy — When you just don’t care, So What is the question you ask yourself all day long. If you can’t answer with more than a shrug, you move on to something brighter and more riveting.
Apathy is the most common objection people have for doing anything. It’s painful because it can feel like the valley of eternal hopelessness. And if you stay there long enough, you don’t care if you ever get out.
The only way you can grab this person’s attention is to disrupt them.
In fact, that is the only way you can move anyone to do anything.
The best Disrupter is the Amplifier.
If you really want to see something for what it is, you need a microscope.
Sometimes the Amplifier needs to focus on the future. You do this when Pain is on the horizon but it’s far enough away to go unnoticed. Life Insurance agents do this when they ask, “Do you know what your family would do if you died today? Would they be taken care of? Or would they be saddled with debt and sadness?”
The Pain in the picture here is:
- The cost of your funeral
- The payments your family still has to make on the mortgage
- The shock and emotional trauma your family will feel when you’re suddenly out of their lives forever
- The day to day cost of living that will go on after you’re gone
What the agent is doing is bringing that pain into the present so you’ll pay attention and hopefully do something.
Is it manipulative?
You might say that.
But it’s also the only way most of us feel moved to do anything.
What the agent is really doing is looking out for you. You might hate him for it, but if that scenario ever happens, you’ll thank him for encouraging you to do the right thing.
As writers, when we answer the question So What, we’re looking for the Pain.
Then we can deliver a written remedy.
Consider this your calling to be a Word Doctor.
So What is a Boil Down.
Here’s another advantage of answering So What.
You’ll boil your main point down to what’s really important to your reader.
As a writer, you’re a marketer. It doesn’t matter if you write stories or teach people how to do something. If you want readers, you’re in selling.
So What is your insurance policy. It forces you to dig deep. It moves you to make your words count for something. And every time you answer, you’ll add a foundation stone to a stellar writing career.
If you’re a storyteller, write a character we care about. Then we’ll care what happens when her life is disrupted. We’ll try to warn her about what’s around the corner. We may even pray she makes the right decision. And we’ll have trouble sleeping until we know she’s okay.
That’s the power of So What.
Boiling it down by answering So What is a Clarifier. It gives you a Central Theme to work from. It gives you the focus of a laser as you weave your story, your lesson, and prove your case.
And it keeps those rabbit trails from luring you off track.
What if the answer is Who Cares?
Then maybe you need a different focus.
Before you throw your whole idea down the drain, ask why anyone should care. And keep asking until you bore down to the Pain.
Then you can write an escape hatch.
We take water when we’re thirsty. We run when we’re being chased by a killer. We go through a door when it’s the only way forward.
Discovering the Pain is finding the Ultimate Trigger.
Pain is emotional. If you’ve read much about marketing, you’ve probably heard that we make decisions emotionally and justify them with logic. But if there is no pain, there is no gain for you.
No pain, no matter.
You’re not being manipulative here. You’re just using the mechanics of human nature to make a difference in people’s lives.
Are you up to the challenge?
Will you take a bold stand that changes your culture?
It may be scary and painful. But if you’re willing to guide us, you can be the Pain Reliever we all want.
Now go write something that matters.
Share your story in the responses and more people can feel relief.