I was teaching an online writing workshop a couple of days ago to Storytelling and Writing Workshops Amsterdam. I finish the session with a section called: 10 Rules for Writing. (And yes, if you’re wondering, Rule #10 is that there are no rules. However, this post isn’t about Rule #10. It’s about Rule #2).

As I was working my way through the rules, a participant asked me to double back to Rule # 2 and explain more of what I meant when I said: “tell the truth”.

Why being authentic matters in our writing

And I explained it like this: when writing (or presenting), it’s always better to go a little deeper, a little further, a little closer to the heart of the matter than you’re comfortable with. Don’t say the thing you think should be said, say the thing you mean.

Don’t say the thing you think should be said, say the thing you mean.

By speaking a bit more openly about what you really feel, everything shifts. You become more authentic, and access a greater connection. Because the reader or your audience will feel and respond to that sincerity. Even if they don’t know it consciously.

Here’s an example: I gave a talk last week at CreativeMornings in Amsterdam on the subject of “reverie” The subject of my talk was improv and how some of the improv mechanics that work onstage can work offstage. They certainly have helped me.

I also talked a little about a difficult time I had in my life, and how improv helped me steer out of it. Then I finished with a spoken word poem that summarized my talk.

Was sharing that vulnerability awkward for me? Most certainly.
Did performing that poem make me nervous? Oh, you bet it did!
Did those choices pay off? For sure!

Another example is my latest book, The Confident Presenter. At it’s core, it’s a straight-ahead manual for improving your public speaking.

But I also wrote it from as close to my perspective as possible, peppering in real-life observations and experiences. Here are some things that readers have pointed out that they’ve enjoyed

  • A reference Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush
  • An anecdote about a time I gave an extremely sarcastic thank-you speech
  • A quote from WH Auden that’s the epigraph to begin Chapter 12
  • A mention of Baby Bear’s porridge

All of these things don’t just illustrate my points; they also illustrate who I am and how I think. And while I think the expertise and the content are strong enough to stand on their own, the book is better overall because I share more of myself than is necessary.

Here are a couple of excerpts from five-star reviews of the book. I think they help illustrate the value of this approach

Reading the book is like listening to Ryan share his secrets of success in presenting with a close friend.” – Shauna

This no-nonsense guide is like having a personal coach by your side, cheering you on as you conquer your fears.” Abigail L.

I love reading the book and I think Ryan Millar is a great writer/teacher. I can not wait to finish this book and wait for another one to be published in the future.” – Jordana

So, what I’m saying is that any work will be improved by bringing more of yourself to it. You get out what you put in, so get into the work, and get into yourself and therein lies great work.

That’s what Rule # 2 is all about.