Listen First, Then Write

Good writing is like a good haircut: it depends on the person doing it!

I was four months overdue for a trim, so yesterday I went to my favorite hair care place. It’s a chain, but my favorite hairdresser is consistently good. I wanted a couple inches off all around (think Dame Judi Dench in the Bond movies). I felt disappointed because Jennifer wasn’t in. I really needed the trim!

I decided to try another woman there. (I’ll call her “Eve” to protect Jennifer – and me.)

Eve asked me what I wanted as she led me to the washing station.

“A trim, razor cut, not scissors. No bangs, no blow dry and no mousse or anything like that in my hair,” I said.

Yes, as you can guess, she did everything opposite of what I wanted. When I called her on not using the razor, she said she was and showed me the texturing scissors. I sighed; I know what a razor cut feels like and she wasnt doing it. But, shed already begun cutting so I needed her to finish. She started blow-drying my hair; I told her I didn’t want it. She ignored me. She used the blow dryer to pull the bangs down onto my forehead. I pushed the short hairs back and she looked surprised.

“I don’t do bangs,” I said firmly.

“Oh.” She turned away and squirted something in her hands.

“And I don’t want anything in my hair.” This time I was more emphatic.

“Oh! You don’t want this?”

No.”

She wiped the foam onto a towel.

Eve gave me a discount (don’t ask me why; she never said and I didn’t ask). I gave her a tip out of habit.

While I walked away with a decent haircut, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It was serviceable; I didn’t have to “wait until it grew out.” It was… decent.

But, Eve hadn’t listened to a thing I said. She may have heard me, but she didn’t do as I wanted.

Now, what does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

As writers, we need to really listen to what our clients want. Not simply hear the words. Not put our own filters on what they say. Not assume we know what they’re saying. And we’d better not do the opposite of what they want. We need to listen and ask questions to fully understand what they’re asking for.

Our product is our ability to transform what they want into a piece that they’ll be happy with. We need to give them more than just a decent piece, more than a serviceable piece. Normally, theyll pay us even if all they receive is a decent piece.

But, they wont come back to us.

We want each of our clients happy with what they receive from us. We need to give them the piece they want so that theyll come back.

Ill still go back to that particular chain. However, Ill only stay if Jennifer is there. Im happy with how she cuts my hair.

What’s the most recent decent thing you’ve received, even if it wasn’t what you actually wanted? Leave a comment here and let me know.

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