Your work does NOT speak for itself (sorry) - The Write Idea

Your work does NOT speak for itself (sorry)

By Renae Gregoire

I have two short-short stories to share with you.  

Story #1  

I found a yellowed piece of paper in my daughter’s room.  

On it was a handwritten poem:  

Stephen kissed me in the spring,  
Robin in the fall,  
But Colin only looked at me,  
And never kissed at all.  
Stephen’s kiss was lost in jest,  
Robin’s lost in play,  
But the kiss in Colin’s eyes,  
Haunts me night and day.  

Awww. Isn’t that sweet?

She even scrawled her name at the bottom of the page.

But wait a minute — who are all these guys my daughter is kissing?!?

I better have a chat with her this evening.

Even so, the poem is pretty good.

Excellent even.

Maybe we can get it published in a literary magazine.

Maybe it could even win a prize!

(Mom the entrepreneur … always looking for ways to monetize!)

Story #2

I found a yellowed piece of paper in an antique shop.

On it was a handwritten poem:

Stephen kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me,
And never kissed at all.
Stephen’s kiss was lost in jest,
Robin’s lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin’s eyes,
Haunts me night and day.

I recognized that poem!

It is by the American lyric poet Sara Teasdale!

And that scrawl there at the end must be her signature!

If a handwriting expert confirms it … whoa …

I could sell this paper for a great deal of money!

The same poem. Two stories. Two assignments of value.

In Story #1, the paper holds a cute poem by a young girl.

Would you pay me $100 for it? Um … no.

$1,000? No way!

$10,000 for it? Are you crazy?!?

But what about the value of the paper in Story #2?

It’s higher.

And depending on your research and an appraisal, maybe a LOT higher.


Think about this: the value of the poem does not lie with the poem itself. The value has nothing to do with particular words, the rhymes, even the “ahh” that happens when you read the last two lines.

The value lies with THE STORY around the work.

In Show Your Work, author Austin Kleon recounts a similar story that ends with $128.74 worth of insignificant objects — trinkets —being sold for $3,612.51, simply based on made-up stories about the objects.

The lesson? I love how Kleon puts it.

Words matter. Artists love to trot out the tired line, ‘My work speaks for itself,’ but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, [which in turn] affects how they value it.

So go ahead! Tell stories about your work.

If you’re an artist, tell us where the idea for that painting came from. Show us your studio. Tell us about the time when your cat jumped onto your painting, ruining it, or so you thought: when inspiration struck later, you played with that ruined painting some more, making it your highest-value piece sold, ever!

If you’re a health coach, tell us why you’re a health coach. Tell us about the new veggie dish you discovered that tastes like 1,000 calories but has only 250. Tell us how you’ve overcome your resistance to an exercise routine.

If you’re a business strategist, tell us how that book you read changed your opinion about online marketing. Show us what your office looks like. Tell us about that client who experienced a major win thanks to your work.

Bottom line?

You’re the one who gets to decide the story — and therefore the value — of your work.

So tell your story!

Value up!


About the Author

Hi! I'm Renae Gregoire, a digital conversion expert improving the performance of digital marketing content, including websites, landing pages, sales pages, online courses, blogs, and email sequences. If you're a coach, consultant, or other expert having trouble getting people to click, sign up, subscribe, or buy, I can help. My work typically involves a blend of strategy, design guidance, and wordsmithing, with a heavy focus on how your materials look, sound, feel, and function—all from your reader's perspective. Contact me to see how I might be able to help improve your conversions.