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November 5th, 2007

Writing With Humanity During Difficult Times

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published September 4, 2005. My editor’s note in that issue read:

I’ve been sitting here at the keyboard for over an hour–completely unsure of how to write today’s issue. What do I say in light of the disaster left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? How should I “behave”? Are you, my reader, even really up to read about newsletters today?

Perhaps you’ve experienced this same difficulty in writing your own newsletter in the past week–deciding how to balance professionalism, and compassion. It’s a fine line between hand-wringing and sympathy-extending!

And that line is made all the more difficult when you make your newsletter your own. After all, if you’re just the Corporate Voice, you don’t *have* to extend any sympathy. You don’t have to be human.

In today’s issue, I’ll share with you the only technique I know for making the writing a bit easier at a time like this.

As I said in the introduction, today’s issue has been very difficult to write. I’ve been sitting here, flipping through other websites (mostly cnn.com), trying to gather my thoughts.

One thing that keeps coming up for me is that being human in your newsletter is one thing when times are good, when business is rolling along, when life is full of joy…

And, yet, when something frightening, or awful, or just-plain-bad happens, we are often left at a loss for words.

Something that sometimes helps is to see if there’s a way to connect what’s happened to what you usually write about–the way I’m offering you an approach for writing your own newsletter in a time of difficulty. That can make it a bit easier to write your issue, because you can keep your focus on helping your readers.

When that’s not possible, or when that feels insincere, there’s only one thing you can do: acknowledge the difficulty and do your best.

Some people are gifted with astounding eloquence, they have an ability to write or speak in times like this with such compassion and wisdom that they make people feel significantly better.

The rest of us can simply do the best we can.

So, in this coming week, that’s your “assignment.” If you have a newsletter issue coming out, simply do your best, and know that even the smallest step in the right direction is still a step that makes a difference.

Your challenge: Don’t be afraid to be at a loss for words in your newsletter. If that’s where you’re at, then that’s where you’re at. Simply do your best this week, and every week thereafter.

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