Casual Friday: In which I write about things that are a bit more personal.

Some of you may know that, in addition to my work as a legal/business writer, I’m a playwright.

Well, as some who are close to me (and who don’t think I promote myself nearly enough) would nudge me to say: I’m an award-winning playwright.

Although the play referenced in the previous paragraph, In Times of War, is only one of several that have won various prizes, it happens to be the only play I’ve written in the genre occasionally referred to as “courtroom drama.” Probably no surprise, given how much time I spend working with lawyers… That particular play was a fictionalized exploration of an actual, World War II-era Supreme Court decision that later played a key role in building the legal foundation for the post-9/11 creation of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the military tribunals of suspected terrorists.

Why do I mention this, other than to point out how my professional and artistic lives cross-pollinate occasionally? Here’s the short answer:

Everything is storytelling.

Whether writing a play, creating a press release, developing a practice-group description, writing a journal article, pulling together an RFP response, or simply jotting a quick email or handwritten letter to a potential client contact, you are telling a story.

In fact, you’re telling a story whether you intend to do so or not. Human beings are neurologically wired for stories. That’s how we make sense of the world. That’s why inkblots and cloud formations are fun to look at. That’s how we communicate with each other — through stories. In fact, the next time you pick up the phone, use part of your brain to listen to what you’re actually saying; even the shortest, most informational conversations usually involve some kind of a story.

This happens even when neither party is fully aware of the fact that a story is being told. Your listener or reader will take the bits and pieces of what he or she is hearing (particularly those things that are particularly salient to him or her) and craft a storyline — consciously or unconsciously — no matter your intentions.

The question for you is this: Do you want your reader to determine the story that’s being told, or do you want to maintain control of the storyline? As crass and unartistic as it may sound, playwriting is an exercise in audience manipulation.

Legal/business writing is no different.

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