What writers can learn from Michelangelo

Word count:  560

Estimated reading time:  4 minutes


19 August 2010 



‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

                                                     --Michelangelo, 16th century Italian artist


Michelangelo was an artistic genius. Unlike many (most?) artists, he learned how to leverage his talent to satisfy the demands of his customers, the political and religious elite of the day. This made him a marketing genius.


These two types of genius resulted in great success: satisfied customers, works of art that are still among the world’s most famous, and the distinction of being one of very few artists who lived long enough to see biographies written about him.


What can Michelangelo teach us about writing?


Focus on your core message

Michelangelo knew what that piece of art would look like when it was finished. Like him, we need to see the ‘angel’ – the objective for what we need to write.


To identify that objective, that core message, take a few moments to think about what you must accomplish with a piece of writing. Then write it down to give yourself a clear focus.

--I want to announce a meeting.

--I want to suggest new ways to cut costs.

--I want to request budget information for 2011.

--I want to instruct people on how to use the new system.


Focus on your customers

Our readers (customers) don’t usually dictate what we write the way some of Michelangelo’s patrons ordered the works he produced. But to achieve results, our writing still has to connect with readers.


In the previous two posts we talked about how to connect with readers to sell our ideas – by connecting with emotions and with mutual interests. If you haven’t read them, take a look for some tips on how to do that.


Focus on results

Along with your single core message, also write down what you want the reader to do.

            --Please let me know if you can come to the meeting.

            --Please adopt some of my cost-cutting suggestions.

            --Please send me your budget information by this Thursday.

            --Please follow these instructions and let me know if you have any

questions about them.


If you know your core message and the results you want to achieve through the reader’s action, you will know which details you need to include in the document.


That’s the next step – list the specific details necessary to achieve your objective and enable the reader to act.


Then as you write your first draft, keep looking at your plan (the core message, reader’s action and details) to stay on track and save time.


Carve away (trim) the irrelevant

A paraphrase of Michelangelo’s quote is this: I carved away whatever didn’t look like an angel – and was left with an angel.


When you’re ready to trim your document, again look at the sentence that states your core message. Then re-read the document. ‘Carve away’ whatever doesn’t look like that single point to keep the document concise and relevant.


Now read the action statement and again read through the document. Does it have enough relevant detail so that the reader can act? If not, then add what they need.


Does it include irrelevant points that might confuse the reader or cause them to do something wrong? If so, then carve them away!


By trimming irrelevant and confusing details, you’ll set your ideas free to achieve your objective and get business results.

Copyright 2014 DeGolyer Associates Ltd |  Contact Deborah at:  writewithtaste@me.com