Being good at what you do is a major source of deep fulfillment, not to mention a prerequisite for keeping employment and earning a paycheck. Let me ask you this, then:
What are you doing to improve your writing skills?
No matter what business you're in, especially if you're using the Internet as a marketing tool, you've got to improve your writing. Especially if you don't outsource your content marketing, you must learn to write interesting content that showcases your expertise and value to readers on the Web.
Yet very few professionals spend practice time to improve their writing skills. You can't assume that even if you got an 'A' in college English you write well for the public, the people who are surfing the web to find solutions to their problems.
It's Practice, Not Talent
I am fascinated by Geoff Colvin's new book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else (Portfolio, 2008) because it's got examples of how top performers spend hours practicing before they get good. And it seems the rule of thumb is 10,000 hours of practice.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers reports the same thing:
My favorite story in the Talent Is Overrated book is about how Benjamin Franklin improved his writing by copying phrases out of the top journal of the time, The Spectator. He would then deconstruct those phrases and rewrite them using his own material.
If this sounds familiar, it's what we do when we copy and paste something into a "swipe file." If you're not keeping a swipe file or folder, you're missing out on a valuable learning tool.
If you like something you read, keep a copy of it. When it comes time to write something new, open your swipe file and use it for inspiration.
Here are my personal favorite tips for learning how to write better for all your online content marketing:
A. Improve your reading
- Read all the time. Read books. Carry as many books as you wish with you on a Kindle, so anytime you're caught having to wait, you use that time to your advantage.
- Read with an eye out for phrases that capture your attention and stimulate your thinking. Pay attention to transition phrases. Anytime you can't put a book down, you should ask yourself what it is about the writing that works. Highlight phrases for your swipe file/folder.
- Read online content marketing that works. Keep a list or bookmark those sites and blogs that consistently capture your attention. Pay attention to those authors that you want to emulate and learn from and read other things they've written.
B. Improve your writing
- It's not enough to read good writers. Copy and paste phrases you like and then insert your own materials into the phrase. Try out different styles and move out of your comfort zone. Beyond where you feel comfortable is something called a learning zone. Go there.
- What better place for you to practice writing than on a blog? When you publish a blog, you have the opportunity to write daily or every other day. The more you write, the better you'll get.
- Caveat: You only learn when you're re-reading and editing your stuff. You can go back and edit posts as often as you like, even after they're published.
- Feedback: You can't expect to learn unless you get some feedback. There are writing coaches, but depending on the goals and purpose of your writing, there are also content marketing experts. Get a content marketing audit.
C. Improve your community
- Many writers operate in a vacuum. But there's no excuse today for isolating, since the advent of blogs and social networking sites.
- Get over to Twitter and start connecting with others. Find out what they're doing, ask questions, get connected.
- The more you do, the more you'll be able to address your readers' wants and needs.
What are you doing to improve your writing? Are you reading the best blogs and authors? Are you editing and rewriting?
Most of us have put in far more than 10,000 hours honing our crafts…the question is are you spending your time improving or not?