This week I’ve had a bunch of clients “confess” how much they really hate writing. You can hear the stress as they say things like, “I know. I know. I ‘should‘ be writing more because of…” You can fill in the blank with everything from, “SEO”, to “maintaining their brand”, to “audience engagement”, or even “because everyone says so”. The first thing I remind them is,
Always question your “shoulds”
My clients are invariably creative, brilliant, hard-working people. Hard-working people often get stuck in their “shoulds.” However, as creative folks we get to hack away at those “shoulds”, reframe the task, and get to doing the work that lights us up! Personally, I actually love writing but I get stuck too. I’m constantly experimenting with my process to write more effectively. Here are some of my current “hacks” you might find useful.
1. Leverage what you are already doing. This can work in multiple ways. You can curate your blog posts into a book, talk, or webinar – or expand a talk into a book. A client conversation or project can also lead to key insights for a content series. In another post, I’ll tell you about how your intake process can drive content. The benefit of working iteratively is that you can test your material and learn what resonants and what doesn’t.
2. Make it an interview – This is great for folks who are oral storytellers. In “Big Magic” Liz Gilbert wrote that Brené Brown did a version of this for one of her books. If you can’t get someone to interview you- consider interviewing yourself. Use the “Voice to Text” on your phone to capture your thoughts. I love this because my best ideas come when I am walking or driving, and can’t stop to easily write. (There is actual science behind why this works.) You can invest in software but the hacky version is to open up your email, click in the body, hit the little microphone icon and talk. Fifteen minutes later you should have at least 1000 words. That’s almost an entire first draft! I also recommend getting some leverage. Send your draft to an assistant or teammate for feedback or edits. You may even ask them to …
3. Apply a standard outline – For an average post I generally include:
- A hook.
- A summary / Why they care
- Details & examples
- Wrap up with a “call to action”
It’s your basic outline for every piece of non-fiction (see articles, clickbait, essays, white papers, academic papers etc.). If I’m feeling inspired I’ll layer in some storytelling color (i.e. dialogue, description, emotion etc.).
4. Pay Attention to what hooks you – Nowadays, I’ve curated my list quite a lot but I still occasionally click on newspaper and Medium articles. I pay attention to why I clicked and what I liked about their writing.
The one thing I did not talk about is agonizing over edits and making it perfect before you share it with anyone. I think the reason for that is obvious, there is no good reason to agonize. Your job is to come up with great content. Self-editing is a slow inefficient, painful process and probably not the best use of your time. If you enjoy it, great, but if you don’t get help, or find an audience that appreciates great (if it’s imperfectly edited) content.
Writing this I used at least three of these techniques, can you tell? If this was useful you may want to check out this post or sign up for my email list for monthly updates and a free copy of my e-book, “What’s Next.”