Do you 'optimise' more than you'd like to think? Are you a regular 'utiliser'? Then it's time to kick the habit, says the late great Herschell Gordon Lewis.
No writing or creative skill needed, but it almost always works.
Let me take you back to my youth, before time began.
The motor car was a far more capricious creature than now…
And at no time was it more capricious than when you set out on a trip.
You didn’t just press a button confident the car would start.
You could be immensely frustrated by its reluctance to perform.
It might splutter a bit and die; it might be sullenly silent, you might find yourself banging the steering wheel in fury.
In extreme cases you’d have to go to the front of the car and use a starting handle at the risk of putting your shoulder out.
But one way or another, the engine would splutter into life.
In short, there was a period of uncertainty when it came to getting going.
This usually happens when we write.
Eager to get going we jot down the first thing that comes into our heads and hope it does the trick.
But though it may be the first thing, it is rarely the best thing.
And that is why your first sentence, or even first paragraph is often what you banged out just to get you started.
Often the point you really want to make only starts in the second sentence, paragraph or even later.
This is fatal.
People are very impatient. You may have seen the research that says they often stop reading after a second or two.
If that second is occupied with waffle while you’re trying to get your shit together you’ve lost your reader.
So this is my childishly simple advice to you.
Go through whatever you have written and scrutinise the opening with a beady eye.
You will find if you cross it out you’ll make your point far better.
That’s my advice for the day.
And by the way, the most common pointless first sentence in emails is the totally insincere “I hope you’re doing well” to people you don’t know.
This article was originally featured on Drayton Bird Associates.
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