I heard it 100 times.
There were times, sitting at our dinner table, when my dad would ask me how my day went. Or what we'd done at school. Or if it was the weekend, he'd ask me to tell him about the movie we'd seen.
It was my time to talk at a dinner table where the rule was that you didn't speak unless you were invited to speak.
So I would start talking. I would start explaining the movie.
But I was a kid. I wasn't good at storytelling and I would mess up. I would say things like, “oh, wait, before that, I forgot to tell you…” and say things out of order.
My dad's response (other than being frustrated with me for communicating poorly) was to say the same thing every time.
Think before you speak.
He said it without being mean. He was telling me that if I was going to communicate with him, I needed to think ahead. I needed to focus. I needed to be clear where I was going and I had to work hard to get there quickly.
He didn't want flowery language. He didn't want wasted effort. He needed me to get to the point.
So I learned, over time, to think before I spoke.
Note: I still have a hard time not saying the same things to my kids when they tell me a poor story. Sometimes I fail and just repeat what I heard from my dad. But other times I know there will be time later to teach them. For now, at their ages, I just want to embrace the fact that they want to share something with me.
“Think before you speak.”
I heard it 100 times. I'm sure I heard it more than that. And it shaped me.
Plan before you write.
Another way to say the same thing, when it comes to blogging, is to plan before you write.
I've shared with you the power of frames when we tell stories and write posts.
I've shared those posts with you, about framing, to help you write faster, but also to help you structure your posts so that you know where you're going. So that you're planning and getting to your point.
Have you ever had to learn a game?
I've been in the room when people have tried to explain bridge, spades, and Cards Against Humanity (yes, I play that game) to others. It's horrible if the wrong person does the explaining.
They're all over the map. They mix objective, with strategy, with tactics, with shortcuts.
Sometimes I just have to step in because it's killing me. It's like they started to talk without thinking.
It's like they started without a plan.
Write with one point. Have a plan to get there.
However you write your posts, however you think about preparing for a talk, my only suggestion is that you have a plan.
Think about what you want to say, and create a structure that lets you say it. I'm not saying you have to share everything in the first 3 minutes of your talk, or in the first paragraph of your post.
But don't meander. Don't just talk. Don't just write.
After all, what if it's my dad that shows up on your site? What if he only has 30-45 seconds to decide if he wants to keep reading?
Trust me, he'll appreciate that you thought before you wrote. He'll appreciate that you had a plan.
And if you tell a good story without frustrating him, I'll be proud to say I know you.