Should You Write with Your Head or Your Heart?

Should You Write with Your Head or Your Heart?

Have you ever looked over a piece of your writing, only to realize that something’s missing? It’s so easy to get caught up in all the tips, tricks and techniques:

  • Write a great headline – a number, adjectives, a clear promise
  • Have a gripping introduction to draw the reader in
  • Make sure you spell out a benefit for every feature

All of this is good advice. But in itself, it’s not enough.

Head-First Writing Falls Flat

In the first month of my creative writing Masters, both my tutors told me that I wrote too much from the head. I’d gotten all the technical stuff right – I could construct a plot, write good dialogue, and so on – but there was no heart behind my short stories.

They were right. I was trying to follow all the rules, but I didn’t really care about what I wrote.

The same thing happens to a lot of online business owners. We tend to get caught up trying to get things perfect … but this results in copy that’s either bland or trying too hard.

There’s no real energy or excitement behind our words. So we fake it by throwing in lots of extra adjectives and exclamation marks.

Yes, the technicalities of writing are important. If your sales page is poorly constructed and riddled with grammatical errors, you’re going to put people off.

But when you sit down to write your first draft, you want to use your heart, not your head.

How to Write From the Heart:

  • Focus on the why. Think about how much your product can help people. Think about the reasons you set up in business – the things that truly matter to you.
  • Just write. Don’t get hung up on how to express yourself. Imagine you’re sending an email to an old friend, telling them all about what’s going on in your business.
  • Choose to write on topics you care about. If you’re a freelance writer, you might not have total control over what you write about – but you can choose to specialise in something that’s important to you.
  • Get interested. Any topic can excite you, if you let it. Look for a way in or an angle that allows you to say something heartfelt.

Your heart-felt piece is going to be powerful and raw … and it’ll need some shaping to make it as good as possible.

Heart-Centred Writing Needs Editing

There’s nothing false or fake about editing carefully, even if you’re writing something that’s deeply heartfelt.

When you wrote your first draft, you may have fumbled around for words. You might not even have known exactly what you wanted to say until after you’d said it – many people think things through while writing.

Editing lets you clarify your message.

You want to convey your emotions to your reader, but that means polishing up your writing so that the reader gets it. Clunky sentences and distracting typos aren’t going to help.

How to Edit With Your Head:

  • Let your work sit for at least a day. If you’re working on a big project like an ebook, try taking a whole week away from it. You’ll be able to see it more objectively.
  • Print your piece out (or turn it into a .pdf). Read it through and get hold of the big picture. Watch for any major problems, like whole sections that need to be cut, or subtopics that you’ve missed out.
  • Pay close attention to vocabulary. A particular word might resonate with you, but will it work for your reader? If you overuse certain words, look for synonyms.
  • Ask a friend for feedback. When it comes to editing, two heads are always better than one. A writing or business friend can give you a fresh perspective and honest advice.

I know it’s tough to reach deep and put your heart on the page. Every single time I write something that seems a bit too close to home, I’m reluctant to hit “publish”.

But when I do, I’m always overwhelmed by the positive response from readers.

Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. That blog post about something dear to you will touch others. That section of your ebook where you confess your own hang-ups will help people. That sales page which is honest and forthright will reach your ideal customer.
I’m no braver than you. But I ditched those short stories three years ago, and spent the rest of my Master’s degree working on a novel – something I really wanted to read. I ditched my first blog that was all about trying to make money, and started a real business around what I love – writing.

I found my voice by finding the courage to put my heart onto the page.

If I can do it … you can too.

Want to learn more writing techniques that help you reach your ideal customers where it counts - right in the heart? Check out Damn Fine Words, the innovative writing course for business owners. You'll fall in love - AND you'll get great results for your business!

Post by Ali Luke

Ali Luke has just launched her debut novel Lycopolis, available as an ebook from Amazon. A supernatural thriller with a hefty dose of geekery, Lycopolis has been described as “fast and furious” and “absolutely gripping” by readers. Find out more – and get the first five chapters for free – at Lycopolis.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Little bit of both, though depending on what you write, you might want to focus on one or the other. I write a lot of corporate material, so definitely need factual stuff. But I indulge my heart in my free time with my own little (unposted) ramblings which I capture in my blue notebook ;)

  2. There’s a great line from one of my all-time favourite monvies, “Finding Forrester”:

    “You write your first draft with your heart, but you rewrite with your head.”

    Follow that advice a lot these days.

  3. There is no any other way something dear to you can touch others if it is not being honest within your story. though I am a man of few words, but I know , I’m not braver than you. But during my 15 years of journalism experience I managed to ditch those short stories including yours that can really touch me either.

    Try to be honest whenever you write something, then it will touch others.

    Ntarugera François

    • Thanks, Ntarugera. I agree that putting honesty into your writing (whether it’s fiction or non-fiction) is the best way to make sure that it really has an impact on other people.

  4. Honestly having another eye is so important, and I’m glad you brought that up.

    I, too, leave a blog post sit for a day and then read it again in the morning — only to find tons of mistakes and confusing sentences.

    Nice post Ali

    • Thanks, Paul. It’s amazing how hard it is to spot your own typos — I’m great at editing other people’s work, but I really have to focus if I’m editing my own writing!

  5. When I am writing fiction, I write my first draft from my heart and then construct an outline from what I’ve written. The outline serves as an organizational tool as I’m working on the editing stages of the piece. With respect to nonfiction writing, the process may be slightly different in terms of creating a structure beforehand, but even then, the bulk of the writing should come from the heart. Ali’s article says to write from the heart and edit with the head, and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the insights!

    • Thanks for sharing your process, Doug! I’d be interested to hear how the fiction draft followed by outline works for you — do you end up cutting out a lot of the first draft? (I always do, but I figure it may just be par for the course.) Glad you enjoyed the article. :-)

  6. An all around interesting article. I did find the “write about what you care” tip particularly important. I find that if I have to write about something that I’m not interested in it becomes hard to fake sincerity.

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  1. [...] them an email. Keep it short and to the point, but make it stand out. Write from the heart. Tell them why you’re reaching out to them and make sure to highlight what’s in it for them. [...]

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