Or is the creative writing process like pulling teeth without the novocaine…? For many of the professionals I work with, writing is time consuming, and even painful… like fingernails scratching across a blackboard.
It's hard, slow work giving birth to a piece of content that will solve a problem and entertain at the same time. In a recent Copyblogger piece, The Three Essentials of Breakthrough Content Marketing, Sonia Simone writes:
"High-quality content trains your readers and listeners to keep opening your stuff. It rewards them for doing what you want them to do. That means that every piece of content you write has to either solve a problem your audience cares about or it has to entertain them. Preferably both."
Sheesh. I know what you're thinking. "I'm a consultant, coach, … expert in xyz, not Hemingway!"
I'm not either, but what I've learned about writing on the web and content marketing isn't rocket science.
I struggle with finding things to write about on this blog. I've written a ton of information here about writing great newsletters and blog posts, as well as white papers and articles to increase your visibility. Sometimes it feels like I've already written as much as I have to say. There's nothing new, it's been done before.
But then I remember that people forget and new people come to visit all the time. How can I keep my blog posts fresh and interesting?
The whole point is not to become a Pulitzer-prize winning writer. It's to excel in your niche, doing what you love. You can't do that without clients and finding clients online is done through quality content.
Attract with content, build a list with content, sell an information product, and eventually sell your big-ticket services or products.
So what are the best ways to get going, to find an idea and craft quality content? I share with you here what I went through this morning.
I've been up for an hour and a half and it took me an hour of web surfing to come up with inspiration for this post. I'll spare you some of the details, like trying to get out of bed without waking the kitty, pouring a hot cup of Cafe de Olla, squinting out at the bright sun coming up over Lake Chapala … I digress.
- Find out what others are talking about. Open up the Internet and go to an aggregation site where you can get the latest news. Choices: any news site, Twitter, any social site, or your news feed reader to look at your favorite blogs. I use Alltop.com, and in particular my own Alltop page where I can aggregate my favorite blogs on a variety of topics.
- Look outside your field. You may find something inspiring in your field of expertise. But I often find an inspiration in an outside topic, then find a creative way to apply it to a niche.
- Find relevancy to your audience. After spending some time reading other people's blog posts, come up with your own unique spin, and write it on your own blog post. Save as a draft and re-read it and edit it after letting it rest for a while.
- Edit twice, for relevancy plus entertainment value. Re-write your post with fresh eyes, usually later in the day. This will ensure that your writing is sharper, removing excess words, adding brilliant metaphors, or new material to make it more relevant to your readers.
The creative writing process is a mix of right and left brain activities. That's where the problem solving and entertaining parts are developed. And that's why I use two different writing times. One for creativity, and one for checking problem-solving relevancy. It's hard to do both of these tasks in the same writing session.
Actually there are three important writing phases:
- The web-searching for inspirational ideas
- The first draft writing for getting the ideas down
- The second draft editing for relevancy and entertainment value
You can also edit once for entertainment value, and come back later for problem-solving relevancy editing.
Let me add here, just for entertainment value, the following story about living in a foreign country (Mexico). It turns out that people who live abroad are better at problem-solving and creativity!
This is the article that inspired me to write this post. It no longer seems that relevant to what I've said here, but my point is this:
When you are inspired because of a news article, that inspiration may not actually fit into your content piece. But there are universal principles that apply to any niche, any field. Find out what those nuggets are and write about them.
Here's the Scientific American article that triggered this post:
For the recently graduated or retired—or those who have some unexpected free time thanks to the recession—consider the benefits of an extended trip abroad.
A study published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found evidence that living abroad enhances creative thinking.
Researchers tested the creativity of business students. Students were given a candle, box of tacks and matches, and were told to construct a way to attach the candle to the wall, so that wax would not drip on the floor.
And it turns out that the length of time spent living abroad is a significant predictor of coming up with the most creative solution.
But, it was only living abroad that rewarded students with increased creativity. Two weeks of hostel hopping don’t count.
And it’s not that creative people are more likely to live abroad. Access to different culture and novel ideas increases both new ways of problem solving, as well as the willingness to actually apply novel solutions. Such as emptying the box of tacks, hot waxing the candle to the box and then tacking the box to the wall.
So here’s to science for bolstering the argument for living in Costa Rica until the recession is over!
Change that from Costa Rica to Ajijic, Mexico! The next time you wake up and your head feels like the desert, look for the hidden fruit under the prickly spines. Find your juice.