Good news for me, bad news for many business people: my stock-in-trade seems to be everyone else’s Kryptonite. A big part of my job involves writing and I really love to write.
Well, let me amend that a bit. I don’t always love the first bit of it. The part where you have to drag yourself to your computer, to turn off the TV and the Facebook, and really set down to nothing but write. That is where this Writing 101 guide comes in handy.
Because writing is thinking! It’s nothing but collecting your thoughts and communicating them as clearly as you can. The first part, that ‘being alone with your thoughts part’ is the doozy.
For the unpracticed, being alone with one’s thoughts can be a very uncomfortable place indeed. Most people I know can no longer do things like walking the dog or cooking a meal without piping a podcast or talk show or audio book into their heads. Contemplation is hard. Thinking, analyzing, writing is hard.
But as I’ve said ad nauseum on this site – you have to write.
YOU have to write. (You can’t farm it out all the time.)
You have to WRITE. (Fresh content is key for both SEO purposes and strong branding.)
So writing is something every small business owner has to find a way to get good at…or at least not utterly loathe.
And you can’t phone it in. Writing poorly online is worse than not writing at all. You don’t have to be a poetical genius but writing is a skill you must embrace. It’s as essential to growing your business as learning to drive a car is to living in the 21st century.
Dorothy Parker said it best when she said —
I hate writing, but I love having written.”
And that’s often how I feel. Cranking up the engine is often a small bit of torture. At least until I get past that first paragraph or so. Once I do that, it gets faster.
More fluid. Easier. Dare I say…fun?
So today I’m going to share with you a list of tips that will help you get writing faster, better and hopefully with much less stress.
Tips to Help You Write Faster and Better with Less Stress
1. Think Benefits, Not Features
Marketing 101, I know. But a lot of good writing happens before you even type word one. The kind of writing you’ll be doing for marketing purposes on your blog, social media or even website itself needs to have the correct core.
The core should always, always, always be about the benefits your customers will reap. Not the fabulousness of you and your products.
2. ABB / Always Be Blogging
Remember when I mentioned that people don’t walk their dog these days without pumping loud music or funny podcasts into their heads? Few are those who rely on their own brain for entertainment. It’s like silence is a dirty word these days.
That’s a shame, really, because I find I come up with the best topics when I walk my dog and just turn my smartphone off. (Heaven forbid!) The silence plus the motion gets me in a Zen headspace and allows my creativity to blossom.
I really do most of my ‘writing’ when I walk my dog. By the time I get home, all that’s left is to pluck the often fully formed topic from my brain and commit it to keyboard. But that’s not even writing, at that point. It’s just typing!
3. Research Once and Only Once
The quickest way to stall a great blog post midstream is by fact checking. So don’t. Do all of your research first. Bunch it all up at the start and have your facts, quotations, and dates ready to go.
The absolute worst is when you finally get into that writing slipstream where it all seems to be flowing like crazy and then – vinyl record scratch noise – you have to stop and check if magazine X or book Y was where you read that particular statistic.
Literally have ALL your facts straight and written down somewhere before you actually begin the writing process.
Once you have a word count in mind and you’ve ‘walked your dog’ (or whatever topic consideration you have done) and done your research, you’re ready to write.
Well, almost. Before writing comes the outlining. Trust me when I tell you that if you take this extra step, not only will your writing flow faster but also your blog post will be more engaging and useful to the reader.
Outlines don’t need to be long, or elaborate. They simply need to be clear list of what you’re going to talk about, and in what order. For instance, for this blog post, I simply wrote a list of two or three word phrases that would ‘tick off’ each tip.
Then I rearranged them in a way that made sense to me and that would hopefully build chronologically for you, the reader. Once I had that outline I set, then I began to…
5. Write, write, write
Get it going. Fingers flying, no backspacing, no spell checking. Tune into the voice in your head and what it starts saying you about each of the points on the outline.
DO NOT edit at this point. Just write like mad. You can edit, spell check, clean up, and refine on your second and third pass. The trick is to just get the bulk of the writing down.
Think of this process like sculpting. First, you need to create enough copy to establish a ‘base.’ That should be fast, fun, freewheeling. Then, and only then, should you go back, pick up the chisel or file and start carving, rounding and sharpening the piece into a work of art.
That is where the magic happens and that is where you should slow down. But first – create that big, beautiful bulk as fast as you can.
6. Set A Time Limit
One very effective way to complete a piece is to time yourself. If you’re a competitive person, this is a no-brainer. You’ll already be accustomed to thinking in terms of “personal best” and trying to beat your last time. But even if you don’t consider yourself a competition hound, you’ll be surprised how well this tactic works.
I do this and it always surprises me how easy it is to ‘trick’ my mind into cranking out copy. I tell myself, “In one hour, I want to have X amount of words done.” Often times, as I near the 45 min point I glance at the word count.
I’m usually so close to the finish line that I make myself put off that bathroom break or email check so I can try to actually get those X amount of words done by 50 minutes versus 60! It works every time for me. Magic!
7. Set Yourself Up For Success
Speaking of bathroom breaks, I’ll tell you something that seems obvious to me but apparently is not to others. My (otherwise brilliant) friend will inform me she’s going to knock a blog post or email out before lunch.
I’ll peek in on her 30 minutes later and there she sits, on the phone to a utility company, with the TV news muted in the background. How the heck is she hoping to knock anything out with all those distractions?
So keep the hour or two (or however long you need to devote to writing) holy. Clear the decks of any urgent phone calls. Hit the restroom now. Grab a bite first if it’s nearing lunchtime. Bring a glass of water with you back to your desk. Turn off any TV and, I recommend, any music with vocals.
I can’t work in total silence but I find lyrics distracting. So whenever I know I want to go into writing mode, I turn on my Mozart and zone out. (Or try Focus@Will.)
In other words, clear the decks of any and all distractions.
Here’s An Extra Tip — Accountability Assistant
That friend? The one I teased when I found her on the phone and watching TV when she was supposed to writing? There was a reason I teased her. She’d asked me to. I think it was something along the lines of “I need to get 500 words banged out in the next hour or so. Give me hell if I don’t, okay?”
Smart girl. She signed me up as her “AA”. Her Accountability Assistant. By telling someone – anyone – that she was going to get some writing done, she set up an external accountability reminder.
You should do the same. It really helps! Say you are 5 minutes in a writing session and you normally would drift off and check your phone or email then. The thought of that person asking you if you’re done can be a powerful pull back to the task at hand. And again, it tickles that competitive/pride thing in us all.
Who wants to admit they didn’t stick to their word? No one.
So pick anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone you work with, or even someone in the same physical vicinity. Heck, you can ask your out-of-state mom to call you in an hour and find out if you have finished your blog post.
(In fact, your mom might be the best person to choose. She gets an excuse to talk to her beloved kid and you get effective flashbacks of childhood accountability!)
What works for you? What doesn’t? What do you hate the absolute most about writing? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll help you with some tips or tricks.
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