I wasn’t planning on writing today. It’s the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S., and although I have a meeting today, along with some other business tasks. I was going to take it easy. It’s been a nice sunny day in Orlando and I was just going to enjoy that.
But then Meghan Markle’s heart-wrenching personal essay in the New York Times Opinion section changed my plans.
If you haven’t read it, go read it now and come back.
I was especially compelled to write about her today because last night I finished the latest season of The Crown on Netflix. Holy frijoles, was that a wild ride through my childhood!
Anyway, there are a few things that you can glean from this piece for your own writing, even for your business and beyond the takeaway message of just being kinder and more empathetic (that will also help your business).
Meghan sharing her miscarriage in the first few paragraphs of this essay was exceptionally disarming. I was not ready.
I knew this would be about COVID and just how tough it’s been this year with the title “The Losses We Share” (which, by the way, is doing double work there. She’s sharing about her loss, but she’s also talking about collective losses). This piece was the first time that she has publicly discussed it. And she started with an ordinary summer morning with her child which ended up heartbreak for her and for her husband Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.
It wasn’t just the emotions that she invited us to feel. It was all the sensory details. You probably felt like you were in her home and in her hospital room. You probably can feel Harry’s hand. By using those type of details you can bring people into your world and your mind. It’s also easier for people to understand where you’re coming from.
This type of vulnerability takes guts. Miscarriage is something that Americans don’t typically share openly, because of all the judgments placed on parents, which then turn into self-judgments. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend recently opened up about their miscarriage of their third child, Jack. They were bold in how they told their story in photos on Instagram and Twitter.
If you can go there about a taboo topic, then go there. You’ll be remembered (and mostly rewarded) for your boldness and bravery. All the things you don’t speak about in polite company, speak on it. Playing it safe, especially in these times, is not going to get you anywhere.
Specificity is king in writing, as Meghan depicted in her essay. But she took her lens which focused on her loss in July and zoomed out to when she was pregnant with her first child while on a grueling tour of South Africa, and how the simple kindness of a journalist disarmed her. The core of her essay is about checking in on each other to promote healing.
She zoomed out even further to talk about other losses — deaths from COVID and from extrajudicial murders of Black people by the police, along with the loss of community that stems from our increasingly polarized nation.
You can talk about yourself in your writing. You can be personal. But remember that your story is a part of a bigger story. Make sure you connect your story to other stories.
You can summarize Meghan’s essay into one sentence: “Are you OK?” Even I have a problem with just sticking to one idea, one take-home message. Meghan’s is about looking out for each other, knowing that many of us are suffering in silence. She boldly brought her suffering and grief into the spotlight, knowing that she’ll probably face more scrutiny from the press, from the public, even and especially from her prickly in-laws.
These four ways is how and why Meghan’s essay is being shared like gangbusters all over social media — not just because she’s famous.
You don’t have to share even as deeply as Meghan to connect to your audience. What you can do is ensure that your writing some level of vulnerability, of boldness, with a focus on one take-home message, and that your story links up to a bigger picture.
Remember that with whatever you’re sharing, we’re all people here — with feelings, families, fears, hopes, histories. If you keep people, your audience, in mind, you’ll have much greater success in getting your point across and to leave a lasting impression.
Don’t be afraid to share of yourself, to go there, and to move people to action.
If you need help with crafting your message to your ideal audience, I can help you plan, strategize, and create customized content that connects you with real people. Contact me today to learn how I can help.
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