Show, Don’t Tell

Women in Leadership //

weekly refill welcome


By Margot Starbuck

Though I’m not proud of it, when I am really passionate about communicating something, I create merch.

Since I’m a stinky salesperson, these inspirational products eventually get jammed into nooks and crannies around my home. In closets and under beds are stashed countless bracelets that say “Beloved,” t-shirts that command “Live Love,” hats that instruct “Walk With the Lord” and buttons that announce “I Am For You.”

This morning I noticed a cutie pin-back button I designed to inspire writers, and snapped a pic to post on Facebook.

The small turquoise button proclaims “Show, don’t tell,” and my caption simply offered, “For my friends who write…”

What writers have been told, and what readers know implicitly, is that “telling” quickly becomes wearisome. When a writer “tells” too much, readers shut off their kindles and go pour themselves a Diet Coke. “Showing,” though? That’s where the magic is. When a writer shows-through vivid stories and dialogue and description-readers keep reading.

One of my most visionary friends, Kenny, left a comment on Facebook below my photo, adding:

“For my friends who present. For my friends who lead. For my friends who sell. For my friends who parent. For my friends…”

You can bet my blue button I’ve been noodling on smart Kenny’s insight all day.

Kenny had opened my eyes to the fact that what I knew to be true about writing well is true of speaking well. Leading well. Selling well. Parenting well. Whatever opportunities we’re given to influence others are enhanced when we show. Not tell.

Writing a book to tell my neighbors how to love their neighbors-which, with the best of intentions, I actually did-may not be as effective as learning the names of grocery checkers and Target cashiers and speaking to them by name when I’m out doing errands with a friend.

If my neighbor Donna wants her fifteen-year-old daughter to keep her paws off her cell phone when she gets her driver’s license next year, telling her isn’t as effective as Donna burying her own phone in the glove compartment.

The sellers of Vitamix blenders know that paying staff to demonstrate their product in the aisles of Costco-where potential buyers can see and hear and touch and smell and taste-is much more effective than trying to talk customers into buying a Vitamix.

Whatever opportunities we’re given to impact others are enhanced when we show. What does showing look like in your sphere of influence this week?

Margot Starbuck‘s most recent book, about the face of God that smiles on us, is calledNot Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. Connect at MargotStarbuck.com


FullFill is a FREE online resource that mobilizes to women recognize, utilize, maximize and mobilize their influence for God’s kingdom purposes. Under the leadership of its Publisher, Elisa Morgan, FullFill offers a digital magazine with embedded video training – perfect for personal reflection and small and large group training. You’ll enjoy articles on leadership development, spiritual formation and everyday influence from a wide array of leaders and authors. Unapologetically feminine. Uniquely influential. Refreshingly biblical. FullFill. Check it out and enter your email address to receive your own Weekly ReFill each week at www.fullfill.org or text REFILL to 22828 and live out your influence. It’s FREE.





About the Author

Margot, a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Seminary, is passionate about communicating to individuals, in print and in speech, the promise that because God, in Jesus Christ, is with us and for us, we're made to be with and for others. (#neighborlove) Her first book, The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching For a Father Who Does Not Fail, was awarded the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association’s best nonfiction book of the year for 2011. She’s also the author of four other books about giving/receiving God's love. Margot is represented by WordServe Literary and is a member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. Margot is a regular contributor to Today's Christian Woman and an editorial advisor for Gifted for Leadership. She is the confessions editor for Geez Magazine's Sinner's Corner and hosts an interview series, The Red Carpet, at Red Letter Christians. Margot enjoys connecting with audiences on campuses and at conferences, retreats and festivals. Some clients include Messiah College, Wheaton College Center for the Application of Christian Ethics, Friends University, MOPs International, Young Life Women’s Weekend, Urban Promise Ministry Summit, Lifest and the Wild Goose Festival. For five years, Margot coached Special Olympics basketball in California. After seminary, she worked in New Jersey as a chaplain among folks living with intellectual and physical disabilities. Now, at home, in Durham, North Carolina, Margot serves as a volunteer among friends with disabilities through www.RealityMinistriesInc.org. She also lives in a beautiful new community being built around friends with disabilities, in Durham. Dreamy, right? As a speaker advocate, Margot’s also pretty tickled about the work which Compassion International is doing in the world. Connect with Margot on facebook at www.facebook.com/MargotStarbuck.