Before I became a stay-at-home-mom and Beautycounter Consultant, my business was education; I was a high school English teacher for ten years. The most common writing advice I ever gave to my students was this: write about a pebble. The idea comes from educator Nancy Atwell’s book In the Middle, and essentially means to think smaller and be more specific. Don’t try to write about all the pebbles on the beach; write about one. The result will be a much more vivid, descriptive and meaningful piece of writing.
I gave this advice recently to the daughter of a friend working on her college essay. Born in Columbia, she wanted to share her struggles with her identity as an American immigrant, and ultimately how she came to embrace this identity and help others in similar situations. Her 500-word draft attempted to cover her entire life, generalizing her feelings and experiences and summarizing the lessons she learned along the way.
I told her to write about a pebble. Instead of writing about her whole life, I told her to focus on a moment. She mentioned in her essay that she was a member of her school’s muti-culturall club, and mentioned a multi-cultural fair which she had helped organize. I told her to talk about that moment: describe the room, the people, the food, the conversations and her reflections on how she came to be there. That moment should be her essay. What resulted was a much more detailed and unique piece of writing that would set her apart in a crowded field of applicants.
In my work now with Beautycounter, I think about pebbles often. Instead of memorizing the 1500 chemicals on our Never List of ingredients, I focus on educating my customers about fragrance and other endocrine disrupting chemicals because eliminating those ingredients was what led me to Beautycounter in the first place. I don’t have to be an expert on 1500 chemicals. I can write about a pebble and speak from my own healing journey.
A health coach I met through Evolve mentioned to me over coffee one afternoon that she was not going to venture into social media just yet. Her focus instead was face-to-face meetings and networking. She was focused on that pebble and making space for the richness of building meaningful relationships.
Where in your life or your business can you think smaller or be more specific? Where can you write about a pebble?
Is your goal to eat healthier? Focus on breakfast. Find 5 recipes that look delicious and add those to your repertoire.
Want to move more? Walk, run or jump rope for ten minutes a day.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the information you want to share about your business or products? Start asking questions to potential clients to see what they want to know. Let them tell you what specific information they need, and then share that pebble.
Don’t be afraid to think smaller. There is magic in those small details just waiting to be discovered.