Dissecting Seth's Blog - Part 1 - Fences

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm a big fan of Seth's Blog and I'm going to take a closer look at what he does. Partly for my own edification and partly because I think it is worth studying a master's style.

Here is the first post I want to consider (it's very short, click the link and then come back):

The Invisible Fence

Why this post in particular? Well, because this is something that I try to talk about regularly in check-ins and mentoring with colleagues and employees. So, it speaks to me. And it does it in an interesting way.

For the record, I've never conveyed it as eloquently as this. See the quotes below to get a better sense of how this has gone for me.

Seth, in a very concise and inviting way offers his vision. That fence is in your head. What makes it easy to hear when he says it?

This is the narrative structure of these three sentences:

  1. It starts with the concrete. A fence starts out just being a fence. Which leads to 2:
  2. Where's he going with this exactly? There's a small amount of suspense about the fence and where this particular post is going.
  3. Next, he turns this somewhat obvious statement about a fence as a deterrent (can't really stop you) into what it implies metaphorically inside the reader - we are conditioned by fences to obey fences.
  4. Oh, this is about me you say? That's surprising.
  5. Which leads to the last part - you (the smart one reading this) can see the fence for what it is. What are you gong to do about it?

It works a lot better this way than simply saying: "Those things that your boss does are not really impeding you, you are impeding yourself."

Because, with that approach the person you're talking to is inclined to say, "No, it's not. My boss really does those things and it's hard."

By doing it this way it starts out not being about you the reader at all, and only becomes that way once you identify with it.

What makes this all work:

  1. It is about you the person reading it, but it doesn't come out and hit you over the head with it in the first sentence.
  2. Slowly it reveals itself as being about the reader. It does this in the gradual progression from sentence to sentence. Sentence 1 no obvious pronoun, general statement. Sentence 2 uses we - so we are all in this together at this point. Sentence 3 now it comes out and hits you with you - you ignore that fence. OK?

An excellent piece of writing, packed into a small space.

  • Enjoyed this post?
    Consider sharing it.