How the contents of my handbag help me to write

I’m currently reading a book by writer and consultant John Simmons, Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity At Work, which has got me gripped. As an instructional designer at Saffron, my job involves writing – and lots of it. Every course I write is on a different topic and therefore demands a different style and tone, focused towards a particular audience. My aim is to always write the content, regardless of what it is, in a light, positive and conversational way so as to engage the learners and motivate them to want to take the training. But it can be tricky to strike a balance between making sure the right message is conveyed and trying to banish the business speak and avoid switching the learner off.

So I turned to John Simmons’ book in the hope it would not only help me become a better writer, more able to conquer various styles of writing, but also inspire me. Like John, I believe that creative writing in any business is relevant and essential for business and personal development, and I know that it’s only natural that my writing incorporates some of my own personality – as well as that of the company I’m writing the course for.

Something that John encourages really stuck a chord with me. One of his principles of writing is: ‘Transform the most unpromising materials. Not even lists can be boring.’ So I challenged myself to write a list which embodies my personality, and which conveys something about me to the reader. Here goes:

The contents of my handbag

Memories captured on paper, a flash of colour as I open my wallet,
photos reminding me of the places I have been.
A bundle of jingling keys, my trusty pen and notepad just in case a thought strikes.
Wild strawberry lip gloss to brighten up the day, Ibuprofen, mascara.
Excitement for the Friday night ahead as I find my camera. Mirror.
Pennies breeding in the bottomless pit, my eyes in liquid within a plastic case; my favourite scent in a bottle. A friend gave me the purse in which I find a camera battery and a business card. The iPod which keeps me sane on public transport. A Guatemalan worry doll, tucked away safely in the depths.

Hopefully that made you smile and warm to me as a writer because I expressed something individual, something that goes beyond providing straightforward information.

Can we do this at work? Of course we can. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do – it’s hard to think of a job that doesn’t require the use of words. As John points out: ‘The reality is that if we write at work on behalf of a company, organisation or brand, we are being asked to carry out a creative writing exercise.’

As for e-learning, if even a list of what’s in your bag can be engaging, why can’t compliance training be engaging? Shouldn’t businesses embrace the opportunity to convey their personality through their induction training? What do you think?