Chicken Scratch to Aha: The importance of sharing the story

Published by Dan on

…do you mind if I use your anecdote in my email newsletter and credit you? I love it.


Ann Handley, one of the nicest, smartest people I’ve met sent me that note last week. If you’re not familiar, and you should be, Ann is a writer, a best-selling published author, and speaks in paragraphs so eloquent I wanted to capture her comments verbatim when she spoke to the RISE community recently about how she writes first drafts long hand.

Her talk inspired me to try writing a draft instead of typing. After scrawling four pages of half-formed thoughts, I used GPT-4o to transcribe the handwritten text, then told the story of the process in a LinkedIn post.

Ann saw the post, loved it, and asked if she could use it in her bi-weekly newsletter, Total ANARCHY. After I picked my jaw off the keyboard, I said yes. 

Here’s what she did with it:

Screenshot of a newsletter section titled '✨ EVERYBODY WRITES TIP OF THE FORTNIGHT ✨'. The section describes how Ann Handley writes her first drafts longhand with a Sharpie pen on paper. It mentions that Ann shared this practice with her friend Dan Christ, who suggested using ChatGPT to transcribe handwritten notes by taking photos of the pages. Dan Christ is quoted as saying, 'The text won't be perfect, but it's pretty good.' The section praises the combination of analog and digital methods, calling it a 'mashup of ancient and new, timeless and timely, slow and fast.'

When I read that, I felt a few things. Elation. Gratitude. Excitement. And aha.

My approach with the LinkedIn post – Do something. Say something. – does not come naturally. It’s a step I often don’t take. I did in that instance, and look what happened!

I usually focus on the work, completing projects, achieving goals. Talking about what happened and the obstacles overcome along the way isn’t usually part of the equation.

A recent post by Deb Lin, “Four communication problems you need to address,” helped me understand why this may be difficult for me. 

Executing well is my jam, but success isn’t just completing the work. Success also includes telling the story with enough context for it to be acted upon.

At work, for the research studies my team and I conduct, we need to be able to communicate insights in easily understood language which can facilitate taking an action. If we don’t connect the dots, the picture never comes into focus. We don’t truly succeed.

Outside of work, the same principle applies. I can have a spicy take on a popular topic or a unique approach to solve a problem, like using AI to convert my chicken scratch notes to text on the screen, but if I don’t get it out of my head or my journal, it will have no impact.

The aha moment was that if I keep communicating, keep sharing what I think and believe, then anything is possible.

Thank you, Ann, for helping me link those ideas. You rock!