I remember, very vividly, the time when I was paid less than $1 for a 400-word article. They were mostly search engine stuff that was churned out during a time before Google became so impossibly anal about SO many things. I’ve come a long way and I continue to carry those simple pearls of wisdom around in my head. They don’t get old.
So, if you’re struggling spin your own flywheel of creativity to come up with your own content or blog post, or ebook on a regular basis, here are 8 useful writing tips to remember.
Mind you, the list is endless so, if you have your own tips, please feel free to share!
Just effing do it from the heart
I am all too familiar with the feeling
of wanting to slam your head onto your table (or keyboard or wall)
out of frustration because the words I wanted to use were being coy.
And even when the ideas were there, the sentences were not coming
together the way my subconsciousness wanted them to.
Instead of stringing themselves together, they were all jumbled up in bits and pieces like breadcrumbs on the dining table after you’ve finally sent your kids to school after the battlefield that was breakfast.
The feeling of being stuck sucks. And based on my experience, there’s no ribbon in the sky. You have to literally unstick yourself and just start hammering away. That’s right, just get it on a piece of paper, on your phone, or laptop.
The first draft, KEEP REMINDING yourself about this, is almost always dog dung! But if you want to get moving, you have to put a mental blindfold on and leap.
I use Drive and Keep to track all the thoughts that have been through my head. Sometimes, I use the app to save articles that I’ve read, that I want to print out later on, or things I want to share later a suddenly insightful night out with friends. With a drinking-involved event, chances are, you won’t remember the question/answer the next day so, these apps are plenty awesome! XD
You’ll have to sit down and start hashing and rehashing some of those former thoughts to get them organized.
Have a notepad, a piece of paper, or an app to make notes on
And that’s also why I have a bunch of
notes in my handbag, on apps like Drive and Keep, and a marquee of
indiscernible documents on the laptop desktop home screen. I still
don’t know how half of them made it there.
When you’re at a gathering or networking event, people might ask you questions and you give them a good answer…and BAM. THAT’s an article.
These kind of content ideas are even more useful and significant because it’s right from the horse’s mouth. Instead of using tools to guess what people are typing into Google to find their answers, you’ve just been handed a golden nugget. An idea for a brand new article, blog post or content.
You can also visit sites like Quora,
Yahoo Answers, Digg, or Reddit where people are always free-flow with
their questions and answers. It’s a minefield of ideas, guys.
I’ll just make a note here to say that it doesn’t matter whether the content is in written form, a slideshow or a video. You do you.
Stay in the Know
This might sound like a given, and if you’re a busy person who is on-the-go from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you’re flat dead on your bed at night, this could be your poison.
What I do is to have a separate email address that’s used primarily for newsletter subscriptions and updates. Instead of clogging up my primary email inbox, I subscribe to newsletters and get updates from sights like Digg, CreateDaily, Quora, Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter using the ‘other account’. It’s a safe place where I feel ABSOLUTELY no guilt about deleting promotional stuff.
Sometimes, staying in the know is simply listening to others around you…including your own kids, parents, siblings, that annoying uncle at the bus stop, your 80-year-old neighbor, or the grocery store owner. Never underestimate the power of simple questions people have about something you might have inadvertently taken for granted.
For instance, the so-called muse for
this article was actually my kids’ assignment. They’ve got an oral
exam coming up soon (TOO SOON – HELP! #lol) and we’ve been putting
our heads together to come up with ways to write something good.
Being a content creator, blogger, writer with 2 decades of experience, it was time to pull up my sleeves. “Boys, THIS is my stomping ground, now, listen up”, I whispered to them with a knowing smile on my face.
In reality, it’s a false demeanor meant to assuage their anxiety while I tame my inner mental turbulence. But still, the point is that sometimes, the people who seem to know very little might have something to offer too
Start with a skeleton or point-form draft
Now, I’ll go back to point number 1 which was a simple ‘Just Effing Do it’. Most of us don’t start because the task looks daunting because you want something absolutely ornate. Our idea was to produce something so freaking awesome that everyone’s going to love it. Your grandma’s going to call you to congratulate you on it after reading it when someone shared it with her on Whatsapp.
If that’s your starting line, the chance of you starting is very low.
The way most of us do it is to start
from bare basics. Forget about being a raconteur and be like a
painter or an artist who starts with outlines.
With writers, we start with a skeleton, a basic idea, or a point form. Those points or skeleton will be your beacon, the lighthouse for the entire piece of content. It will be the driving force and essence. The map.
It’s common to get lost in the middle of writing or producing the bit, but if you used the content guide, you’ll find yourself back on the right track.
Putting on someone else’s shoes
Put yourself in the shoes of whoever you’re actually writing for. Keep them in mind always. If you’re writing for an established power player in real estate, write as such. If you’re writing for a harried mother who does not have the time to scroll through your list of ABSOLUTELY powerful list of advice, write it as such.
Using the right tone of voice and manner of talking/reading is crucial in helping them connect and relate to you. And if we’re really honest about it, the only way to differentiate real writers with ‘other writers’ out there is to be as relatable as possible.
The good news is this: if you have
(more or less the same experience), this is a walk in the park. But
if you’re writing about space travel and you’re not a scientist…you
either have to really study the subject, read up a whole lot about it
or GIVE UP. #lol
BUT, if you spend some time really consuming all the stuff that is out there about the topic, it can be tweaked and retweaked over and over again before it goes live. No one on this planet who has ever ventured out of his or her comfort zone can say that they’ve never screwed up. In fact, I would be highly suspicious of people who say that they’ve never failed.
It’s part and parcel of LIFE and I don’t like to read stuff from or work with zombies.
Believe that you will screw up and the punishment is NOT death
So, get this into your head – you WILL fail. In copywriting and internet marketing, thankfully, the stakes are lower than in most industries. You won’t cause an accidental nuclear launch nor will there be an earthquake. A small mistake is not going to destroy your firebrand reputation as a published author or award-winning journalist. Even CNN makes mistakes these days.
There are ways to minimize the
mistakes, though. For one, have a friend read the article over. It’s
hard to see our own mistakes and that’s why editors and proofreaders
are highly-paid people. They arm themselves with the much-needed
critical eye when they’re going through your stuff and they’re stingy
with their praises. It’s a good thing!
Another way to do is to, of course, in this modern day and age, use an app like Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, and Scrivener. We all know everyone’s probably out there trying to sell us something. At this point, even Google hates overselling (except their own, of course). #eyeroll
Tone down the sales pitch
Let’s face it, it’s a huge turn-off even when your aunt or uncle is VERY OBVIOUSLY trying to sell you their healthcare supplements, Tupperware or heal-all 100% pure, organic essential oils on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
One word of advice to Facebook users: if you’re trying to sell something, no one is going to fault you for it. Everyone’s trying to survive and make a living and social media is THE Free Pass to Go and Collect-$200 marketing platform.
But tone down the badassery and use it more effectively by having a Facebook page instead. Trust me, your friends and family will have a deeper appreciation for your #soblessed posts thereafter.
When you’re copywriting an ad, posting an update on social media or uploading an ad-centric video on Instagram or YouTube, it pays to remember that the most important question in your viewers’ minds is this – “Oh no, what’s this, not again, what’s in it for me?” I am not talking about just recommending your own line of organic turmeric powder or dental services. If you know of someone looking around for a birthday gift for their niece, share the link out. Share insightful, useful articles, videos, and maybe recommend something else along the way. The line between helping people and being the best salesperson on Planet Earth is really razor thin.
Just do it, send it out, recommend it, spread the word
There’s a friend of mine who works in
an amazing way – he helps as many people as possible, even if
there’s nothing in it for him.
He once sent me a lead for something that he is already (kind of) doing but what he had in his mind was to help the person find the most suitable business partner. He didn’t mind if he wasn’t the one for her because he sent her about 10 contacts, some of whom were within the same industry.
By the time I called the woman, she was
overwhelmed but extremely grateful. If she didn’t remember his name
before, she does NOW. He went out of his way to help her find someone
right even when he stood to lose.
Sure, it’s time-consuming but it’s way better than churning out keyword-packed articles that only adds to the swamp of words that Google is already struggling with.
In summary, here are some of the things you’d have to remember when you’re punching away at the keyboard, trying to keep your website, social media pages, and blogs alive.
- Just effing do it but do it from the heart
- Keep notes of everything, or use an app or a conventional notepad. Anything that works
- Stay in the know. Never let things go to your head
- Start with a summary, synopsis, skeleton, or point-form draft
- Put yourself into your readers’ shoes
- You WILL screw up. Embrace them, damn it
- Tone down the sales pitch
- Send it out, recommend, spread the word, be kind