Some people don’t think they’re “creative,” or that they can’t write. But I believe that the average person can be and do both of those things, especially when they care about the subject they’re communicating about.
No matter what you’re writing – an email newsletter, website copy or even social media posts – you may run across challenges. I can relate. As someone who writes for a living, some of the most common challenges I face are:
- Deciding what to write about/finding inspiration.
- Making it meaningful.
- Motivating myself to actually do it.
- Making sure it matches my messaging and brand.
Problem #1: Finding Inspiration
When I have a hard time deciding what to write about, it’s usually because I don’t have a good idea to start with.
Keep an idea file. Use Google Drive, Evernote, a note-taking app on your phone or old-fashioned paper and pencil, but have a system for keeping track of your potential topics. Once you start writing regularly, ideas will come to you at random times – while you’re driving, in line at the grocery store or while you’re working out. Have a system for collecting all of them so you can use them later. Speaking from experience, if you don’t compile them, you will inevitably forget some of them (and curse yourself later).
Related tip: Create a folder on your browser to save links to articles you want to read more in depth or that you may want to link to in your writing.
Problem #2: Making It Meaningful
I have a hard time writing about a topic because it doesn’t seem interesting, helpful or new.
Once you have your list of ideas, pick some of your favorites. Then ask yourself: so what? Look for the ideas that can stand up to this question. You want your audience to feel inspired, like they learned something new or that they now have a solution to a problem. At the very least, you want to make good use of their time.
If you don’t have a good enough topic, keep looking. Read blogs and publications related to your industry. Follow thought leaders on Twitter. Set up notifications on Google Alerts for your industry, or use tools like Swayy, Flipboard and Zite to keep up-to-date on the latest trends and news.
Once you set up your system, your problem is usually having too many ideas to write about. Then the trick becomes picking the best ones.
Problem #3: Motivation
I have a hard time actually motivating myself to write.
First of all, think of creativity as a muscle. And just like physical muscles, the more you work out your creativity, the better shape you’ll be in. So even if you aren’t feeling “creative,” go through the motions anyway. You will get something out of your writing session, and then you can revise what you have and make it better.
A few other tips:
- Try writing at a few different times during the day. You may find you’re at your most productive in the mornings, or maybe it’s evenings. Experiment to see what works best for you.
- Once you have figured out your most productive writing time, schedule it on your calendar. As with any other activity, once writing becomes a habit, it’s easier to face the blank page.
- Try writing without other distractions. Don’t check email or browse the Internet. Don’t answer your phone. Use your writing time to do just that – write.
- Make sure you leave enough time to revise your work.
- If you’re still struggling, give yourself a deadline. See what you can do in 15-minute or 30-minute chunks. Sometimes the relentless ticking down of a timer will help you shake off the procrastination and get some words on the page.
Problem #4: Consistent Messaging or Branding
I’m not sure if the content I’m working on matches my messaging or brand.
Hopefully you have some guidelines, as well as an overall strategy for your company or a period of time (like the calendar year or for a specific campaign).
For guidelines, create a cheat sheet for yourself including your official business name and tagline (if you have one), and be consistent with how you refer to yourself and your business. For more developed guidelines, you may have a campaign theme or more detailed messaging points that you need to include.
For strategy, take a look at how to use Tactics, Tools and Strategies. Ideally, your content (tactics) should track to one of your higher-level strategies for your business.
With time and practice, writing on cue (and deadline) becomes easier. And if you decide you don’t want to go through all the work, let us know and we can handle it for you.