Can I Tell You A Writing Secret? (a weird gender experiment)
Are you ready for a weird experiment? :)
Here we go...
Let me start by saying...
I've always admired feminine writing.
I'm frequently impressed by how a woman (like my wife, for example), is able to fully inject herself into her narrative. It's like she's standing in the center of a hurricane, even when she might appear to be in the most mundane of circumstances.
What she does is something that I often struggle to do myself.
I guess I find it hard to talk about me and to find myself at the center of even my own story. I even feel vacant at times.
Yet, when I indulge myself with the seamless and flowing lines of woman's writing -- I sense something so tangible in the words. Something beautiful, vibrant and fragrant.
I sense... heart.
I suppose I've often wondered if there's something to this... some missing part of me that other people have and I do not... maybe something that I'll never have.
I've wondered if I am doomed to a life of voiceless, detached rambling where I convey emotionless information to (you) my poor reader, leaving you desperately thirsting for a drop of humanity in a desert full of empty words.
"Why... oh why... can I not pour out my soul?"
Which brings me right up to today's experiment...
There I was, cooling down my nerves in the wake of a new product launch for one of my clients. I'd just added the finishing touches in Kajabi.
Page design? Check!
"Techy" stuff? Check!
Links in emails? Check!
Downright delicious copy? Check! (or so I hope)
Everything was working correctly. My tests were complete, and I was sure that my client wouldn't lose momentum coming out of her live presentation, which would start in less than an hour.
Sidenote: Launches like these are a RUSH!
As the dust was settling, my way of exiting the wake of this mad dash to get everything ready was to learn about something NEW. Anything really, but this time, I chose to learn something related to writing.
And in that search for knowledge, I stumbled across some interesting research about a frequently mentioned (but seldom understood) part of writing:
Specifically, I was reading research about the difference between how men and women write. After all, if I could figure out HOW to write in a more feminine voice, there might be more heart in my writing, right?
Maybe people could see me?
Maybe you could see me?
Probably not. 😅
But I thought it was worth a few minutes of my time to find out if I could at least take some pointers from my wife's writing style. And what I found was rather shocking...
In a study performed by Shlomo Argamon and some others from the Illinois Institute of Technology, the writing styles of an identical number of men and women were analyzed to discover differences and disparities between them.
He and his colleagues discovered that feminine writers (like my wife) often use pronouns differently than I typically would. A quote from the research abstract states exactly what I already suspected by intuition alone.
Before I show you the research, I want you to know that I can't count how many times I've told my wife things like:
"Babe... I LOVE your writing... it's SO good! You're always right in the middle of it and your emotions are all right there. It's just so real, and raw, and you're connected with things. I wish I could write like that."
And now, research has shown me HOW!
Here's what Argamon and his colleauges distilled for us:
Quote: "...it is found that even in formal writing, female writing exhibits greater usage of features identified by previous researchers as 'involved' while male writing exhibits greater usage of features which have been identified as 'informational'."
And just like that, I finally understood why it always seems like my wife's writing is so much more grounded. She uses more of a specific set of pronouns than men!
Evidently, women use more pronouns like...
Whereas male writers use more words like...
As you can see, the first set of words require the writer to exhibit a personal, 1-on-1 relationship in which they interact with their circumstances and the people and events within them. You simply can't use words like "I" and "me" THAT often without putting yourself right smack dab "in media res" (in the midst of things).
The second set of words create a sort of "distance" between the writer and the reader. I feel strongly that if we only used the second set of pronouns, we'd probably never divulge anything meaningful about who we are, regardless of the amount of information we deliver.
It's as if as if we're sticking out our arms and telling our reader, "Halt! That is close enough! You need not see there is a human in here! I am not VULNERABLE!"
But even though I often use the second set, I see now that there is very little heart in it...
While it comes more naturally -- it's also not the way I want to be...
Life is far too short, and I want to experience it more fully. It's so important to build meaningful relationships, but how can anyone build a relationship with someone who is seemingly "unreachable" -- sitting atop a lofty mountain of exclusionary and impersonal pronouns.
How can anyone see inside my heart when I'm choosing to communicate with words that create distance -- rather than closeness?
So... through writing this... I intended to put myself more in the center of my own focus simply by choosing different pronouns -- and as I wind to the end, do you know what I've found?
My thinking has actually changed. I feel more able to see within myself and to connect with myself -- and to be honest, I wasn't expecting such a profound internal effect.
There is something rewarding about having cared for and focused on myself, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a strange satisfaction from unabashedly putting myself in the focus of attention... even though it's something I typically find very, very hard.
Are you still here with me on this journey?
Then here's my advice to you...
Become more aware of how you choose your words. It can change the way you think and consequently transform who you are.
And if it changes how you think and who you are -- then it can change your direction and where you end up.
So it matters.
It can truly alter your future.
And I know I'll be paying more attention to it from now on.
Thanks for hanging in there,