The Golden Intersection: You Are Not The Main Character. The Reader Is
How to talk about yourself without talking about yourself.
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
All memorable writing sits smack dab in the middle of what I like to call The Golden Intersection.
The Golden Intersection is what you get when you answer a reader’s question while simultaneously telling them a personal story.
For example, if you were to tell the reader about something that happened to you when you were in high school, and how your friends ditched you one afternoon and how that made you feel, well, that’s great and all but what does that have to do with the reader?
What can they take away from this story you’ve chosen to share with them?
Conversely, if you were to give the reader actionable advice about what to look for in a friend, why should they trust you over all the other people online giving advice about what to look for in a friend? What’s special about your writing? What’s something emotional the reader can hold onto?
The answer is: The Golden Intersection
When you tell the reader a story, give them something they can take away for themselves at the end.
And if you are going to give the reader some sort of advice, tell them about a moment in time where you learned that same piece of advice for yourself.
Tell them a story & give them the takeaway.
That’s what The Golden Intersection is all about.
The reason this is such a crucial part of writing things readers care about is because stories are how we understand each other and the world—but only if we can draw the parallel between the story and our own lives. Nobody enjoys listening to someone ramble on and on about their life. But if the stories being shared give us insight into our own lives, we’re hooked.
Similarly, being given advice on a topic is helpful, but what’s more helpful is understanding where this insight is coming from in the first place. As readers, we want to know how you learned what you’re now professing as wisdom. We want to know who you were before, during, and after. We want to see how you were transformed—and we want details! We don’t just want you to say, “Here’s what I know.” We want you to tell us (quickly) of the time when you didn’t know—and how you moved from there to here.
The way you accomplish all of this is by playing at The Golden Intersection.
Tell a personal story x Share actionable advice.
But there’s a secondary benefit to The Golden Intersection, and it’s this:
You are free to talk about yourself without talking about yourself.
Imagine for a moment you’re at a dinner party. You walk up to a beautiful brunette in high heels and a bright red dress, and you say, “How’s it going?” And without even hesitating, she just starts going on and on about who she is, where she’s from, how she works down the street, “You know, at that big building on Sunset? The one with all the movie posters outside?” And for the first minute or two you’re being nice, nodding your head, acting interested and trying to make conversation. But by the five-minute mark, you can’t stand it anymore. She hasn’t asked you a single question, and you have no idea how you even got on the topic of botox, so you decide to chug the rest of your drink and then shake the glass in front of her face signaling it’s time for another—before speed-walking away.
This is how readers feel when all you do is talk about yourself.
This is also how readers feel when you sit there for seven paragraphs trying to explain to them why your new book, course, widget spinner, or consulting services agency is the greatest thing since gluten-free sliced bread.
They don’t care.
But alas! At a dinner party, and certainly in your writing online, you still want to be able to talk about yourself a little, right? You want people to get to know who you are. You want to be able to mention you just finished a new book and maybe they might like it. There’s nothing wrong with talking about yourself—it just takes a bit of finessing so that you don’t come off like a rambling mess.
The Golden Intersection is a secret framework for accomplishing this successfully.
Let’s go back to that nice dinner party we were enjoying. And this time, when you approach the brunette woman in the red dress, she introduces herself, shares a bit about where she’s from, how she works down the street, “You know, at that big building on Sunset?” and then immediately draws a connection between what she’s talking about and a detail you had already shared with her—”We make sci-fi movies, which I’m sure you would love, being a writer and all!”
Suddenly, as the listener, you’re not as bored.
And as the conversation goes on, the more she connects her stories to your stories, the more you find yourself enjoying this little dialogue.
The way readers read your writing is exactly the same.
If all you do is talk about yourself, the reader is going to get bored—fast.
But if you use your personal stories as CONTEXT for the thing you are sharing with the reader, all of a sudden, you’re not really talking about yourself. You’re talking about the reader! You’re just using your personal experiences as a way of grounding the story for them. (They see it as a gift, not a distraction).
So, what does this look like in practice?
Let’s say you want to tell readers about how great your company culture is, with the hopes of attracting some new applicants.
Instead of sitting there writing an entire article about how great your company is, start with the reader:
- What do they care about?
- What would they want to read about?
- What would be valuable to the type of person we want to reach?
When you start with the reader, first, you realize that their interests are usually very different than your own self-interests. But that’s OK!
Here’s how you bridge the gap.
Say you want to reach talented graphic designers. You should write a piece a talented graphic designer would want to read, like If You Have One Of These 7 Skills As A Graphic Designer, You’ll Make 10x More Money. Right? Because if you’re a graphic designer, that article speaks to YOUR own interests.
Then, inside the article, you would use your super-great-amazing company as CONTEXT for the thing you’re giving to the reader. Again, this goes back to The Golden Intersection:
Tell the reader a personal story x Give them something actionable to take away.
Here’s what that would look like in one short paragraph:
Graphic designers today who are fluent in Sketch are exponentially easier to hire. Reason being, the company doesn’t have to spend as much time getting them up to speed. For example, right now we are hiring graphic designers for our mobile division and one of the very first things we look for is whether or not applicants are familiar with Sketch. If they are, it’s almost guaranteed they will be given a follow-up interview. So, if you’re determined to make more money this year as a graphic designer, learn Sketch!
We just said exactly what we wanted to say (“We are hiring graphic designers”) without making the reader feel like they got stuck talking to the wrong person at a dinner party.
Remember: nobody wants to hear you talk about yourself all day.
Always bring it back to the wants, needs, and desires of the reader.
Nicolas “It’s Not About Me” Cole
PS - Enrollment in the next cohort for the daily writing challenge Ship 30 for 30 is open! And if you want some proof this daily writing challenge is for real: