Lots of talented people I speak to in the course of my work share the same problem. They have a huge desire to produce written output but they don’t know where to start.
Often they want to create some content alongside their day job, or without having to take a break from their busy schedules. They know they would benefit from having killer copy for their website, or evergreen reference material for their growing client base, but they hate the thought of sitting down to write.
Maybe you identify with this too. Maybe:
- you’re a coach with a busy practice. Your clients keep asking if you have any written output they can read between sessions. You know a book would be the answer but you can’t afford the down-time
- you’re a budding entrepreneur, building up your ‘side-hustle’ while you work a nine-to-five. You want to get your website copy and first few blogs written before you launch, but your time is really tight
- you know you need to get that book you’ve been telling everyone about down on paper, but you hate those days where you stare at your laptop screen, vainly trying to force yourself to produce 500 words.
If this is you, change the way you think about how you write and you may find your content writes itself.
“When it comes to writing great content, the planning stage is essential. Do plenty of research to see what angles have already been covered by others, and try to determine how you can put your own take on the topic and improve on what has already been done. When doing this, also remember to make notes of anything relevant as you go along; in many cases, you’ll find that the content has practically written itself when it comes to actually producing the finished product!”
I share this eight-step approach with my clients and contacts and I think it could work for you, too:
- Find yourself a reliable, multi-platform note-taking and web-clipping app. I’m addicted to Evernote and OneNote, although there are other products on the market. You may need to invest to get these but if you get into the habit of using them, you’ll think it was a small price to pay.
- Use your app regularly, little and often. As soon as a thought about wording, or structure, or even why you’re writing it in the first place, crops up, open a new note and jot it down.
- When you see some stunning content on the web that resonates exactly with the messages you’re trying to create, clip that to your app too.
- You’ll soon start to build up a repository of other people’s work, for inspiration, and your own thoughts, which are your embryonic written output.
- As your amount of content grows, you’ll benefit from getting organised. Figure out how you can place your content into different virtual folders or notebooks, within your app. For example, if you’re planning a website, you may have a notebook for each page on your site. You can start to cluster your thoughts around the pages.
- You can also use tags to help you organise your content. I use tags to capture the keywords of each piece of content, as I see them. For example, an article about communication might contain some great insight for leadership development; coaching; one to one conversations. I would note all those themes as tags attached to that post. When I next want to find some inspiration about one to one conversations, this post will come up in a tag search, even though that’s not mentioned in the title.
- Keep going – keep writing down your thoughts and the turns of phrase you stumble on that you know you need to recycle.
- When you’ve got a significant body of notes and writing, start to synthesise. Work out how the notes connect and can be merged into more rounded thoughts and observations. Cluster your content around themes or tabs to see how much insight you’ve already got there. Basically, join it up together like a jigsaw to see how whole your picture is looking, and identify where you may have gaps.
You’ll now be well on the way to completing your writing project. You’ve done this by taking a few minutes here and there to gather your thoughts together organically, rather than force yourself to find your muse to a timetable.
You will also have been benefitting from life along the way. Every time you’ve thought about which tabs or notebook to use, you’ve been reviewing your structure. Every time you’ve captured something new that occurred to you spontaneously about your project, you’ve expressed your own creativity.
There will still be plenty of work to do to organise and finesse, but your vital raw material will already be in place. Besides, most people find editing a narrative a lot easier than writing one on a blank page.
I’d love to know if this approach works for you, or if you have other tactics for successful writing. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts.
This blog was first posted on 16 November 2017