I’ve been thinking a lot about good writing lately.

Trying to read it as well, but thinking about it even more. And I have a feeling – no, I’m certain – you can blame Ann Wylie for that.

Ever since I attended this brilliant woman’s wunderbar writing workshop a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to pay attention to not just the words I use, but the picture they paint – not just figuratively, but literally.

Are they readable? Do they draw you, gentle reader, in?

Am I using the optimal number of words in a sentence (14), and in a paragraph (42) to draw aforesaid gentle reader in?

Am I using alliterative triads to their fullest potential? (Paragraph 3, Sentence 4: yes, I am).

I jotted down my impressions of Ann’s workshop a few days ago, and if you haven’t been able to attend one of them as yet, I strongly recommend you do so. It will change not just the way you write, but teach you to think strategically about writing, and when was the last time someone did that?

With Ann’s words of wisdom swirling in my head, it’s become even more difficult for me to not assess, in two or three seconds, the visual representation of words on a page, or a screen.

You see, I’m an avid, but impatient, reader.

If a wicked turn of phrase grabs me, I devour it. If the most brilliant prose is prosaic, I dismiss it.

With Ann’s readability tips having been granted green card status by my brain, I feel as if I’ve been given carte blanche to ignore anything that’s not immediately readable with a haughty, “I wonder what Ann would make of that!”

And then comes along someone who throws the mechanics of readability out the window, simply because what he writes is So. Frigging. Brilliant.

Let me introduce you to Brian Meeks, who goes by the moniker “Extremely Average.”

Ha. Average, Brian is not.

I first came across his writing when Lisa Byrne Amplified a post of his with this pronouncement:

With such a compelling headline, how does one not click through?

And then, I come across this, which Brian wrote as a guest post, titled “The Top 7 Things I Hate About Top 10 Lists“… on a building blog, no less.

It begins:

James Henry Winston, III always wore finely tailored suits, lived alone in a flat in London, and drove a vintage Jaguar.  He liked history.  He didn’t like change.   The sound of the metal lock clicking as he entered the flat always brought a level of comfort to James, as he liked security.

Once, a few years back, the cleaning lady who came every Monday and Thursday had left the door unlocked.  Though nothing had been disturbed, he had felt uneasy ever since.  And Mrs. Poleridge had been dismissed.

The locked door though comforting was offset by the feeling of horror which overcame him when he saw the tiny overcoat hanging on the 4th hook in the hall.  It was on this hook he had expected to hang his umbrella.  For a moment he was more concerned with breaking his routine and with being forced to use the hook next to it than he was with regarding the probability that someone was in the flat.

See what I mean?

The beginning of the post has absolutely nothing to do with social media. But it’s so interesting, that it draws you in, 14-words-to-a-sentence-or-not.

I’ve become fascinated with Brian’s blog which is about, of all things, woodworking, with a healthy dose of Dick Tracy thrown in for good measure. Read it. You’ll see what I mean. And I defy you to not want more.

I couldn’t tell

if Brian is a professional writer who enjoys woodworking, or a professional woodworker who’s a gifted writer, or neither, or both.

Fortuitously, we struck up a conversation on Twitter, and then on email, and turns out he’s …

Well, I’m going to share what I learned from him in a three-part interview over the next few days. Look for the first one on Thursday.

Working in PR, I come across good writers every day. But this is a great writer and gifted storyteller. I wish I could write like him.

And I know Ann would approve.

By the way, I have no idea why I picked Christina Castro’s Creative Commons-licensed image of Spiderman to illustrate this post. It just felt right.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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