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Station WIFM

radioThis morning was a bit of a challenge. With a house full of relatives – literally, someone was sleeping on every surface – we were woken up at 5am by our two 3 year-olds and had no where to go. It’s bad enough when they wake up that early on a regular day, but much worse when you have to try to keep them quiet and contained.

The only option was to get them out of the house as fast as possible, take them to the beach and let them loose. But, my very own inner 3 year-old wailed, I don’t want to do that!. I wanted to have my regular Monday morning – hang with the kids, yoga, rollerblade, shower, breakfast and then head to work. And the beach plan would only serve to steal my morning.

You see, when I looked at the beach option, I couldn’t see anything that I wanted for myself. Of course, any time with my family is a blessing, but my mornings are so important to me, I need a little me time in my physical body before I come to work and enter pure brain mode.

While some people are truly selfless, or so I’ve heard, the majority of us make decisions based on what return or benefit we’ll be getting from the choice. A former colleague of mine called it Station WIFM, or What’s in It For Me, and everyone’s tuned in. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we have needs, wants, desires. And we’d like them filled please.

This is a really important concept for writers to understand. Because every time you deliver something to your audience, you have to know they’re going to be looking for something for themselves, or simply looking for themselves, in your words. Doesn’t matter what you’re writing – tech manuals, novels, marketing materials, poetry, blogs.

I remember, in high school, when I fell in love with literature. It was because I had really great teachers that analyzed books with us in a way that made them come alive, uniquely, for every one in the room. The idea that the words one person wrote would touch so many different people in so many different ways…is there anything more luscious? more equitable? more eternal? There is literally no end to the ways people can be affected by your words; there are as many possibilities as there are minds.

You know I think you should write for yourself, first and foremost, or something mighty will be lost. When you do that, people are likely to react to your genuineness by connecting themselves to your work in their own way. Or they won’t. The rule of WIFM clearly tells us that we have no control over others, that everything they like or dislike is subjective, ruled – if you will – by hunger. Really, no control. As for ourselves, we do have control. Find out what’s in it for you, and, as you write, make sure you take it.

Image credit: Ian Hayhurst

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Debra Snider says:

    Enjoyed reading this post, Julie! Seeing the fact that we don’t control how others react as a liberating thing, a good thing, is such a great lesson. Of course, others’ reactions & needs must be taken into account, and accounting for them can help smooth our individual paths, but they can’t be allowed to rule. “Suit yourself,” as I would say, and both work and life fall nicely into harmony.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Exactly. Criticism is hard, even if it’s well-intentioned. But the truth is that we can never know why someone is having a reaction. A therapist friend once said, you could have someone say a sentence to 10 people – with the same tone, same words – and you would get 10 different reactions. It isn’t the speaker, it’s the reactor that holds the ‘why’ of the reaction.

  • Ari Herzog says:

    “What is WIFM?” I thought to myself clicking inside to read the meat beyond the title. “Did she intend to write WIIFM which a former colleague of *mine* used to post on a sticky next to her computer at work?”

    Great minds think alike — you and my former colleague. But you use different acronyms.

  • Julie Roads says:

    That’s just the way it was shown to me, but it’s funny because when I was writing this today, I thought about it. In the end, I decided that lots of acronyms leave out letters and radio stations never have more than 4 letters, so I let it go. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment…

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