If you listen a little, you can hear a lot, my grandfather taught me. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to live by, in my personal life and especially as a professional writer.
For a journalist, no skill is more important than critical listening. By listening without judging one is able to bring nuance and depth to topics ranging from politics and diplomacy to the arts and difficult social phenomena.
Same goes for ghost writing. In contrast to the journalist or analyst, who are often tasked with drawing conclusions, the job of a pen for hire is to talk to people, to help them understand and crystallise their thoughts, and then to polish them into compelling prose. Or, in other words, to listen to their thoughts and needs and to convert them into strong written messages.
Public relations is different… and not. The PR professional is tasked with understanding an organizations’s culture and message, crafting a media strategy and ultimately representing the group with a clear, focused, inspiring message… all of which stems from listening closely to colleagues and administrators, and converting their thoughts into clear messages.
So what makes good writing great? Nuance. Passion. Depth. And especially listening.