If there’s no lotion in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.
Not because I’m obsessed with lotion. I think I could safely last an eternity without lotion. It’s because of my wife. In the short time I’ve been married, I’ve discovered a wonderful truth: there is no ill that lotion can’t cure.
Whenever I misstep, instead of turning to the liquor bottle, I turn to the lotion bottle to cure my troubles. Works every time. And even though I think my wife has figured out my little trick, it still seems to work. Thank you, lotion.
And get this: I learned recently that lotion doesn’t only save me from the dog house–it’s the perfect utensil for writing engaging content, copy, and love notes. And here’s why:
1. Lotion makes your writing slippery
The first thing you want to do when writing is to pull out a bottle of lotion and apply a generous amount to the page. (If you write digitally, you can do the same to your keyboard, though you might find less than satisfactory results.) By adding lotion to your writing, you make it slippery, and a slippery piece of writing is exactly what you want.
What does it mean to have slippery writing? Slippery writing is writing that is easy to slide down, from the beginning all the way to the end. There’s a simple test to know how slippery your writing is: the first sentence test.
First, put on your impartial face and take off your rose-colored glasses. Read the first sentence of what you’ve written. Does that sentence make you want to read the next? If it does, great. How about the second sentence? Does it make you want to read the third one? Yeah? Golden.
This is the flow you want to continue all the way through your piece: a slippery slope. I can’t claim credit for inventing the slippery slope–many others have talked about it before me. I might be the only one that uses lotion to make my writing slippery, though.
2. Lotion will make your writing sticky
After you’ve doused your page in lotion, start rubbing, preferably in tight, controlled circles to rub out the knots. After a little bit, you’ll notice the lotion starts to get sticky. That tacky feeling on your skin is good–you want your writing to be sticky.
What is sticky writing? It’s writing that stays with the person. Something they remember and share. A great example of sticky writing (or stories) are urban legends. Urban legends are the epitome of stick–they die hard because they’re so vivid and fun to tell. (Read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath to learn more about why.)
How can words be slippery and sticky at the same time? The secret is in the lotion–if someone walks away with enough lotion on their hands from handling your work, they’ll have enough to pass on to someone else till it sticks to that person too.
3. Lotion smells good
Let’s stop talking about lotion for a second. Instead, I want to introduce you to something serious: a court ruling based on a Darth Vader Toothbrush.
Not long ago, psychologists performed a study in which test subjects in a faux trial were asked to judge the quality of parenting based on testimonies of the parent’s behavior. Each set of test subjects sat in the jury box, breathing the smell of courtroom wood and listening to the stenographer type in the background, as they were told stories with varying levels of details.
One group was told a story with both positives and negatives, without much detail. Another group was told the same story, but with vivid details to emphasize the positives. Specifically, they were told that the parent made her children brush their teeth with a Darth Vader toothbrush. The test subjects leaned in as they heard these details.
The result? Wherever the storyteller applied vivid details, that’s where the people swayed. Vivid positive details yielded positive outcomes. That’s what the people remembered. The more the details appealed to the individuals’ specific imaginations (particularly when related to the five senses), the more they were influenced by the story.
So remember, lotion smells good and will help people remember.
By this point you’ve applied so much lotion you could drop freelance writing altogether and take up massage therapy. Or you’re so sick of this bad analogy that you might smash your keyboard.
I confess that this post isn’t really about lotion. It’s about taking risks with your writing.
Taking risks is what I frequently invite writers to do. At my current day-time writing job, I was involved in the interviewing process for a new writing intern. As we sat in our chairs facing each other, I asked, “How can you take risks as a writer?”
I got some good answers–I think pretty much anyone could give a half-decent answer to this question. But it’s not the answer that’s important, but rather the question. Do you frequently take risks when writing?
Risk isn’t inherently bad. Risk can be very good, when it swings in your favor. But you’ll never know unless you write something that’s totally outlandish. Like a blog post about lotion, for crying out loud.
So take some risks. Write a totally absurd headline. Shove that envelope right up to your editor’s face and see what they have to say. You might have to scale things back, but you also might write something they totally love. When you do, writing will be so much more fun.
Risky writing doesn’t have to be completely in your face, either. You can be more subtle about it with a little dry humor or tongue-in-cheekiness. Try something you might not normally do and see what happens. You may strike unexpected gold. Or lotion.
Excited to hear about the risks you take! Please comment below.