By Kris Emery
Who knew there would be so much writing to do when you went into business? Blog posts, websites, newsletters, sales pages, guest articles, proposals, pitches, press releases, the list goes on.
I admit thinking: is there ever going to be an end to this? And I’m a writer for a living. I can only imagine how non-fun this list looks to entrepreneurs in other fields.
I’m an optimist though. Or at least, an ideas enthusiast. I felt there simply must be a way of making all this stuff more enjoyable, so I set about experimenting with making writing feel good again in my business.
As something of an expert explorer, I allowed myself to wander. There was no method, no structure, just a commitment to write again and a pledge to observe without judgement.
Let me be clear. I didn’t wake up one day and decide I needed to pull my socks up. I had to hit writing-rock-bottom before I was moved to act. That looked like a three-month hibernation in which a joint venture flopped - majorly - and my reasonable level of confidence went AWOL.
I was writing nothing. Yet one of the things I love about writing is creating something from nothing, so it turned out to be the perfect place to start.
I wrote at random. I wrote to a schedule. I wrote a little every day. I wrote once a week for a whole afternoon. I wrote with a pen, with a keyboard, with a voice recorder. I wrote when an idea struck, then without an inkling of what to tackle. I wrote in restaurants, in parks, on a ferry, in a ladies’ bathroom! I filled up notebooks and littered my desktop with half-finished thoughts. I wrote freely without stopping. I followed cookie-cutter templates and I went wildly off-piste. All in the name of finding out what works.
Here’s what I discovered in 4 simple steps:
1. Understand why you’re writing
The single biggest sabotage I see - in my own writing and my clients’ - is lack of direction. Direction doesn’t just mean figuring out what you want to write about, but why it’s important to you.
If the drive behind writing the piece is to sell more or make people sign up to something, chances are the writing will sound salesy or forced.
Your reason for writing has to be deeper. Why are you selling that product in the first place? What would it mean if lots of people signed up for your goodies?
Your readers connect with the emotion in your writing. Safe to say, we don’t evoke emotion by wanting to sell more. Emotion comes through the reader identifying with what you’re saying via shared experiences - experiences like love, freedom, fear, grief, peace, happiness, anger, anxiety, joy or security.
Figure out what underpins your writing from an emotional point of view and you’ll not only have direction and meaning, but ample ideas and stories to tell just from living your life.
2. Explore your voice
Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. There is so much writing out there already that the only truly unique aspect for each of us is our voice, our message, our story.
Voice shouldn’t be confused with style, tone, or language, which can all be studied and copied. I subscribe to the idea that finding your voice is a feeling. It’s when you know that what you’ve written represents your vibe and not just your knowledge of a subject.
A huge part of tuning into your voice is tuning out of all the noise whirring around you. So close down your comparison-inducing Facebook feed, unsubscribe from your competitors’ newsletters, and other bloggers’ blogs be gone!
Now, what do you feel the need to say?
3. Have an angle
I’ve never been afraid to have an opinion. It’s gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion, but I didn’t much care until I went into business. Running my own show, I became a lot more cautious for a while. Questions surfaced.
What if I write something and then change my stance?
What if this contradicts someone bigger and better?
What if this isn’t the conventional wisdom?
What if taking a stand makes me look unprofessional?
Lots of what-ifs. That’s probably the reason my writing fell off a cliff in the first place - fear of getting into trouble if I was too outspoken. And yet, it’s the exact thing you need to do to stand out.
I’m not talking about being deliberately controversial. I’m saying that I was much more comfortable creating awesome content when I stopped hedging my bets. Trying to please everyone pleases no one.
If content is king, then specificity is queen. Be explicit in what you stand for, but also know it’s okay to change your mind. Keeping your audience guessing is far more interesting than only ever giving them what they expect.
4. Everyone is different - test, test, test!
What works for me might not work for you. The only way to make writing fun is to do a similar experiment. Try all things. Notice what you like.
There are enough follow-my-advice professionals out there promising their method works. My take on that is no one way works for everyone. The fact there are so many models implies that no single model suits us all.
I suggest switching up some of these variables and keeping a record of what makes for a productive afternoon:
- Location - try in public, in private, somewhere buzzing, somewhere quiet, indoors, outdoors, somewhere familiar, somewhere new
- Time - this could be frequency, time of day, and duration of your writing sesh
- Tools - bash it out on your laptop, go back to pen and paper, play with apps and software, find a beautiful journal.
Experience writing afresh and give some of these a whirl.
Kris Emery is an editor of web words and language-loving communications creator. With her travel obsession and linguistics background lighting the way, Kris works with expressive entrepreneurs and writers to enhance their written copy and put their voices out into the world with style and confidence.
Best known for her programme Web Words & Wanderlust, everything Kris creates is infused with freedom and fun.
Need a secret weapon to become a superstar writer? Learn how to get your web words gorgeous by downloading your free copy of How To Cheat At Writing at KrisEmery.com.