What a fun week, eh? I love hearing from authors themselves about their process or what drew them to a subject. Even in the small sampling we have had this week, what variety in subject matter—healthy marriages on the field, tent-making singles, non-fiction, fiction, and poetry.
You know about the book I authored, Looming Transitions, because we read it together last May:
In particular, the last three posts lift the curtain and share the back story with you. So, I thought today we would look at how we are all authors because of the need to communicate with supporters. I am in the process right now of editing my next book—Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters From China—which is written with all of us in mind.
I believe there is much shame and uncomfortableness around newsletters overall; instead of adding to the shame with more “you shoulds,” my hope is that we can all feel empowered and (dare I say it) a bit excited about writing them when finished reading.
All this to say, I’ve been thinking about, studying, and writing tips for newsletters since last summer. In preparation for this post, I thought of 5 tips I would like to share today.
Make it easy for supporters—This first one is born out of my own personal experience this year as a supporter. I have started supporting someone who moved to the field a few months ago . . . at least I think she did since I have not heard from her. Recently I was meeting with a young man who is in the process of raising support himself and I told him this very tip: make it easy for supporters. “Take our mutual friend, I haven’t heard from her.” He looked at me confused, “But she blogs.”
Clearly I am a fan of blogging, as you are reading this ON A BLOG. A blog can be one tool in communicating with supporters, but here is why I believe it cannot be the primary tool: you are putting the responsibility for communication on your supporters. Now that I know the gal I support has a blog, guess who is a tad annoyed that I have to track down the info to hear about her? Yup, the person she wants not to be annoyed over something trivial, like tracking down a url.
If you use blogs as your primary way of communicating, may I offer two additional tips? First, still have an email list and quarterly send out an email with links to the blogs. Deliver the news to them; put the onus for communication on you, not them. Second, blogs (unless password protected) are public, very public. This is a neutral fact. You can share more when you know the whole world is not going to be reading it.
Show, don’t tell—Telling informs the brain, showing involves the heart, moving you in some way. Too often we communicate as if we are writing a grocery list.
I went to Bigiwawa. I gave seven presentations. I renewed my visa (PTL!!).
My brain is tracking with what you wrote, but my heart? She does not care and is now thinking about dinner or a sporting event or the kids homework or about anything but you and your ministry. She is not moved to pray for you.
Having taken a seven hour bus ride (complete with a crate of chickens who didn’t know they were supposed to stay in the crate!), Jason and I . . . now, as a supporter, I am more engaged and therefore, more likely to pray for you and can picture you amongst the free-range-bus-chickens.
Use strong verbs—Let’s be honest, weak verbs are easier to write. They just are. So, instead of stressing over your verbs and getting all in your head, write your newsletter and then go back. Go back and look for two weak verbs and make them stronger. Don’t strengthen every verb. How to kill the joy. Right? But over time, slowly, your verbs will get stronger.
What am I talking about? Look for this phrase: There was. Or some form of it (there is, there were) because it is a weak verb alert.
There was a man on the bus who was getting in my personal space.
Instead of “was” (a weaker verb), how about: On the bus a man encroached on my personal space. It took every fiber in my being not to back away; I kept uttering the pre-field training mantra for personal space in this country: “my space is your space.”
In the battle between Was vs Encroached, it is not even close.
Consistency is more important than content—Let’s be honest again, given how much time we can spend on newsletter writing, don’t you kind of hope your supporters basically memorize them? Or at least do more than scan? When I met with the young man raising support last week, I stressed, “If you ask people a year later what you said in July, they probably will not remember. But if you asked them if they hear from you, that question they can answer.” Do not overthink what you are going to write. Just write something and ship it. Get it in their hands. Trust that the Holy Spirit will give you an idea for your next communication if you think this letter wasn’t great. Move on. Live, minister, write, rinse, repeat.
Two books you need to read—Writing is now a part of your job. As with any other skill you need in your job, we can all improve. But newsletter writing can be more than “a part of your job”; it is also part craft and part calling, as you minister to your supporters. If you are “not a writer,” I have two book recommendations for you:
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print—Even though we aren’t fiction writers, this book helped me so much with elements of story telling and self-editing.
- The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life—In part, newsletters are a form of memoir. I had four takeaways from this book that directly apply to communicating with supporters. This is a must read and short :)!
Until next letter,
Which tip can you apply right now? What would you add to the list? Do you love or dread communicating with supporters? Leave a comment and you could win either the electronic or audio version of Looming Transitions. If you already own LT, enter and tell me who you want to give it to 🙂 — I’ll send you the audio version and you can tell me who want to give a copy to (either electronic or audio).
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.