My friend and colleague Téa Silvestre of The Story Bistro asked a great question on Facebook the other day so I’m going to pilfer it wholesale and ask you the same thing.
When it comes to blogging for business, where on the spectrum do you fall?
A) *Knows* that blogging would be helpful for growing your business, but struggles to make it happen on a regular basis;
B) *Knows* that blogging is helpful AND blogs on a regular basis;
C) Blogging? What the heck is that?
If I had to guess – and Téa’s results bear this out – the majority of people fall closer to A.
How about you?
Are you pretty sure that a blog could bring you some business? But do you sometimes have trouble deciding what to write? When to write? WHY to write?
Maybe you’re a little bit like me and obsessed with the perfect noun so that your drafts can take hours or days to complete?
If that sounds like you, I’m going to give you my very own super-secret secret sauce recipe for creating kick-butt content in no time. But don’t tell anyone because then everyone will be creating great content and making money and enjoying success. And that would just be crazy.
If you’re serious about creating content that will drive business and doing it without pulling your hair out, listen to Episode 63 of The Nuclear Chowder Podcast where Mike Brooks, Ralph and I have an in-depth conversation about content creation.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #1: Find Your Creative Zone
The way to create content is to stop thinking about it as a chore or just another to-do item on your list but rather as a creative process.
You are, in fact, creating.
That means that if you force yourself to sit down on someone else’s schedule, at a boring desk in an ugly room with a “gotta do this %$#@” mindset, you will fail.
If you really want to create, then find a place that inspires you to do so. That means finding an environment that puts you in a “happy place” – your kitchen table, a café, the park. Buy some flowers. Make a great cup of tea. Get into your pink fuzzy slippers and relax.
It also means surrounding yourself with the right tools. Sometimes that doesn’t include your computer. Get a real, live notebook or sketchpad. Buy some crayons… I have a full box at all times. I also have a chorus line of Hello Kitties on my desk that makes me pretty happy.
It’s in your best interests – before you think about what to write or how to say it – to find a place that you want to be when you do it.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #2: Free Associate Ideas
Eventually you should have a long, long, very long list of ideas. But assuming you’re just starting out, I want you to grab a pen or keyboard and start jotting down everything and anything that comes to your mind about your business.
What you know. What you wish you knew. What you wish you didn’t. Questions your customers ask you so many times that it makes you want to pull your hair out at the roots.
Problems, rants, random thoughts, pet peeves.
There is no such thing as a good idea or a bad idea. And there should never be such a thing as a deleted idea. I’ve had some ideas on my list for years. Maybe one day they’ll speak to me. Maybe they never will.
Any time you need food for content, revisit your list. Some people call this a “swipe file” – basically you swipe ideas, whether they’re from your head, or from something you read online, in a book, in a magazine, overheard at the grocery store – and plunk them down in one place where you can reference them later.
Once you have a document like this, add to it often. Never judge the quality or usefulness of an idea. Something that was a fragment of a thought today may inspire something brilliant later.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #3: Make A Date With Yourself
When you have a doctor’s appointment or you know you have to drive the kids to soccer practice or the guy is coming to fix your boiler, what do you do? Do you put in on the calendar so you can keep the commitment or do you leave it up to fate that you’ll remember and constantly cancel and reschedule and miss events?
I bet it’s the former.
Treat content creation time the same way you would treat any appointment. Make one and keep it!
Designate a time that works for you. An hour a day. Two hours on Saturday. Thursday night. Whatever that is, put it on your calendar and stick to it.
Friday is our writing day at Web.Search.Social. We don’t schedule client meetings. We don’t schedule phone calls. Our philosophy is, “If it’s not on fire, it can wait until Monday.”
In the meantime we write and prepare our content. It may take some discipline but if you think of it as a calendar event that you simply attend regularly then you’ll be a lot less likely to constantly prioritize something else.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #4: Use Tools That Work For You
Tools are awesome. No matter what you want to accomplish I bet that there is, in fact, an app for that.
But tools are only as good as your ability and willingness to use them.
I’ve had a personal journal since I was 13. It started in a spiral notebook, written in pencil and more than 30 years later it’s still in a spiral notebook, although sometimes I write with colorful pens.
I’ve bought many beautiful journals. Journals with fancy covers and inspirational phrases imprinted on elegant paper. Big one, little ones, lined and unlined.
They all sit, neglected, in a cabinet. I’ve scribbled in a few, torn pages out of some to write a shopping list. But no matter how I try, I can’t write for real in anything but a spiral notebook. Single subject.
The point is this: notebooks are great. Mindmapping software is great. To-do lists and swipe files and tickler files and editorial calendars are all great.
But if they don’t work for you, the way you work and are most productive and creative, then ditch them.
Forget what you heard you’re supposed to do or how you should get organized. If you work best with a 30-point outline then go for it. If you prefer to scribble your thoughts on paper with crayons, do it.
Only use tools that make your life better and never for the sake of using a tool.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #5: Try Something New
We used to have an editorial calendar. I loved it. For a couple of years it worked like a charm. Then things changed and suddenly the editorial calendar became a burden. I found myself back-filling more often than not. What was that thing we wrote about yesterday? Oh yeah, fill that in…
Eventually I realized that instead of helping us create content, the calendar was actually a sticking point. It took time I could have been creating and instead had to micromanage.
If you find yourself using a tool or method just because “you always have” then it may be time to reconsider. If filling out a calendar is stopping you from sitting down and writing then throw out the calendar. If you can’t function without a mindmap today then suddenly find it overbearing tomorrow, get rid of it.
You’re not stuck in one place so don’t feel compelled to keep going down the same path just because that’s the direction you’ve always been heading.
Same with your environment. If you love writing in a café and then one day you hate the sight of those beige walls, get up and leave!
Figure out what isn’t working and change it.
Super Secret Sauce Ingredient #6: Make Friends With Your Audience
When you write, you’re not writing for an abstract, ethereal being. You’re writing for actual human people who will read what you have to say and either be compelled to stick around or take off for the hills.
And just like any other relationship, the one with our readers follows very human rules. People don’t want to be talked at. They don’t want to be bored silly. They want to feel special, recognized, noticed. They want to relate to you and your stories.
And how you do that is that you don’t write something for readers but rather you have a conversation with a friend.
Next time you’re ready to sit down and write, I want you to imagine the person you’re going to be talking to. Your favorite customer. A hot prospect. A reluctant prospect! Someone on your email list.
Then write as if you’re telling them whatever it is you want to say. If it helps, actually say it into a recorder and write it later.
Don’t try to cast a wide net by speaking generally to a vague audience. Narrow your focus and your writing will not only be a lot better but you’ll be a lot more likely to actually reach someone.
A Timely Opportunity
I wanted to let you know about a blogging mastermind and coaching program that my friend Téa is offering but it starts Wednesday, September 10 – that’s TWO DAYS from today so if you answered “A” to the question at the beginning of this post then this opportunity is for you. You’ll get personal attention to help you improve your writing skills, so jump quick, like right now.
In this program you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to create great content of your own, from the art of storytelling to the science of composing an effective marketing message. Téa delivers tremendous value with everything she does so if you’re struggling to create content then this program could be just what you need to get started and keep going.
And let me know what you thought of the podcast – better yet, let Mike Brooks know by giving him a rating in iTunes.
And if you get stuck or need help, let me know. I want to help you find your happy place so you can take that content to the bank!