Monday, June 9, 2014

Show, Don't Tell

By Margot Starbuck
Though I'm not proud of it, when I am really passionate about communicating something, I create merch.
Since I'm a stinky salesperson, these inspirational products eventually get jammed into nooks and crannies around my home. In closets and under beds are stashed countless bracelets that say "Beloved," t-shirts that command "Live Love," hats that instruct "Walk With the Lord" and buttons that announce "I Am For You."
This morning I noticed a cutie pin-back button I designed to inspire writers, and snapped a pic to post on Facebook.
The small turquoise button proclaims "Show, don't tell," and my caption simply offered, "For my friends who write..."
What writers have been told, and what readers know implicitly, is that "telling" quickly becomes wearisome. When a writer "tells" too much, readers shut off their kindles and go pour themselves a Diet Coke. "Showing," though? That's where the magic is. When a writer shows-through vivid stories and dialogue and description-readers keep reading.
One of my most visionary friends, Kenny, left a comment on Facebook below my photo, adding:
"For my friends who present. For my friends who lead. For my friends who sell. For my friends who parent. For my friends..."
You can bet my blue button I've been noodling on smart Kenny's insight all day.
Kenny had opened my eyes to the fact that what I knew to be true about writing well is true of speaking well. Leading well. Selling well. Parenting well. Whatever opportunities we're given to influence others are enhanced when we show. Not tell.
Writing a book to tell my neighbors how to love their neighbors-which, with the best of intentions, I actually did-may not be as effective as learning the names of grocery checkers and Target cashiers and speaking to them by name when I'm out doing errands with a friend.
If my neighbor Donna wants her fifteen-year-old daughter to keep her paws off her cell phone when she gets her driver's license next year, telling her isn't as effective as Donna burying her own phone in the glove compartment.
The sellers of Vitamix blenders know that paying staff to demonstrate their product in the aisles of Costco-where potential buyers can see and hear and touch and smell and taste-is much more effective than trying to talk customers into buying a Vitamix.
Whatever opportunities we're given to impact others are enhanced when we show. What does showing look like in your sphere of influence this week?
Margot Starbuck's most recent book, about the face of God that smiles on us, is called Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. Connect at

No comments:

Post a Comment