Maybe it’s just me. But when I decide to see someone speak about great writing at a marketing conference session, and as she brings up the topic of practice, she advances her PowerPoint slide to reveal a photograph of Allen Iverson, I know I chose the right session.
Frankly, she could have stopped right there and going to the conference might have been worth it. Reference lost on you? Play the video.
Now let me hit rewind and give just a bit more context. I spent three days this week attending the Inbound conference in Boston. The conference is put together by HubSpot, a company I’ve been mildly infatuated with for about 4 years now, so expectations ran high. And as it turned out, the conference shattered those expectations. Not because of one single thing about the conference, but because of dozens of things—one of them being Beth Dunn’s 20 minute talk entitled, “How to Be a Writing God.” (if nothing else, I knew Beth had confidence)
I had expected to go listen to Beth dispense advice on developing punchy sentences, pinpointing perfect words that evoke the senses, unlocking clever turns of phrase.
She didn’t do any of that. She told it straight. As Beth put it, writing brilliantly—doing anything brilliantly—all comes down to something much simpler and much less glamorous. It comes down to practice.
Beth told the story of a young comic, Brad Isaac, who happened to be in a club at the same time as Jerry Seinfeld. Sensing he had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask a legend for advice, Brad did just that. And what great wisdom to Seinfeld dispense? Basically this: Write a joke. Every day. Then never stop. (Here’s a more detailed story from Brad Isaac himself)
Beth told another great story, this one more personal. Beth—like so many of us—decided last summer that she was going to go on her umpteenth health kick. She’s had dozens of short-lived bursts of interests in getting in shape. They generally ended up with her back on the couch. Undeterred, she resolved she was going to start running. And when she was done with her first run, she took a photo of herself— referred to as a “selfie” by the hip set. And then she got out there the next day and ran again—and took another selfie. She started her own little movement—the Beth Dunn #SweatieSelfie movement (which appears to even have evangelists now). She’s been running for about a year now. She’s lost around 80 pounds. She plans to run a 10K soon. And remarkably even to her, she actually loves running now.
Moral of the story: Be it writing, telling jokes and running, there aren’t secrets. There’s just practice. Unless of course you’re Allen Iverson.