This week’s guest blog is from Villu Arak, a communication strategist, creative consultant and writer who helps ambitious organisations ﬁnd their voice and create understanding with those who count. He’s the founder of General Speciﬁcs.
Writing good stories is easier than you think. You’ve written your life in a series of moments and choices. Millions of them. Yet when you look back, they’ve melted into a journey that makes sense. One that created the person you are, and led you to the right now.
Moment by moment. Layer by thin layer. That’s how nothing becomes something. Stalagmites and 3D printers know it. That’s also how writing works. Look at the world that now includes your little one. And when a moment feels like a memory you’d like to keep, take wordshots. They’re akin to snapshots on your phone, but instead of pixels, you’re using words. And unlike pixels, the fewer words the better.
“A snowﬂake fell and it felt like a kiss,” Glasvegas said. An entire world of emotion distilled into one breath. Once again, less is more. Or take this screenshot sent in by a Lifecake customer. She doesn’t load her post with ballast, but picks the fewest details for the most impact. She sets the scene and shares Leo’s whisper.
You can almost hear a snowﬂake fall in the silence. A little slice of life that says quite a bit about quite a lot.
Your own wordshots may be bulky at ﬁrst. But as they say, ﬁlms are made in the cutting room. So grab a cursor and remove, slice, and hack away until you’re satisﬁed. And mix it up: fun, doubt, beauty, sadness all add variety, depth, and meaning to the long string of moments that will self-organise into a story full of colour and insight.
16-year-old Stephen Fry wrote a letter to his future self. Then, 35 years later, he wrote one back. A thing of beauty and tenderness. If you decide to write one to your child, I applaud you. My parents didn’t write such a letter, and I’ll never know what went on in their inner world when mine was still a primordial mess.
Wordshots or letters, they capture the present and send it to the future. One day, they’ll be opened like a time capsule. And the second your words are read, the long-gone now will come to life again. It is a Holodeck moment of privilege and magic.
So who do you write for? Your child, that drooling bundle of nappy joy (and future academic heading the Cyclical Universe Research Project at Fermilab)? Your future self, aged 78? Your parents? Curious great-grandkids in the 22nd century?
Pick one. Or all of the above. Speak to historians from planet Zpork. If responsibility to future readers feels paralysing, screw ‘em. You shouldn’t market-research your writing to death. Just do your thing, be yourself, and let the people of the future deal with coded references, inside jokes, and ancient slang.
For others, keeping future readers in mind may boost performance. Today’s newborn will yearn for your thoughts from all those years ago. Myself, I hope to share experiences, lessons, and encouragement without sounding old-fart-like. (Then again, a vintage patina of schoolmasterly grump may get some laughs in 2054.)
Speaking of old farts, under your beautifully moisturised skin hides a stowaway. A patient pensioner who will get out one day. When you write as a new parent, give your future self an occasional wink. That’ll bring a few warm smiles when the time comes.
But your life pulsates in the right now. Live it. Write it. Pen to paper, tap to screen. One wordshot at a time. Be honest, emotionally and intellectually. Let it all out. Embarrass yourself, if necessary. It’s all good.
You won’t have to do it all on your own, either. “Before the child speaks the author is the voice,” says Nick the Lifecake co-founder. “After the child speaks the child is the voice.”
You’re all storytellers.
(As I said, it’s easier than you think.)