Recently, ArcStone’s marketing team held a workshop on content marketing, sharing information on how to engage your website viewers and finding new ways to create content. One of the biggest hurdles when creating content is blog writing. Even with many great ideas in your head, the fear of writing a post that needs substance and will live out in the world can be daunting. The secret is to equip yourself with the right tools, making it a lot easier to sit down and start typing.
Step one: Create an Outline
Before I write each post, it’s important that I draft an outline. It need not be elaborate – often it’s just bullet points with a descriptive sentence – but it helps me clearly map out what I am trying to convey in my post, and it’s something I can revisit when I stray too far from the original idea.
A few tips on getting started:
Write down your specific subject first. This shows the purpose of your post and will help you stay on track.
Don’t worry about the introduction when you begin. Coming up with the perfect intro can cause writer’s block, so wait until you’ve written the post to sum up and introduce the piece.
Talk it out. Some people are better conversationalists than they are writers, so get out a recorder and get your thoughts out that way. There are currently many apps available for smartphones. I use VoiceRecorder on my iPhone – a bonus, it's free!
Work within the piece. When I was learning how to sight-read sheet music in junior high school band, we were taught to play the parts that came easily, then go back and work on the more difficult parts after the first run. It’s easy to get stuck on small details when it comes to wording. When you come to a spot where you’re unsure of how it should sound, type out the idea and then highlight it to come back to later. As Bob Ross says, “Sometimes when you’re painting, you stay too close to it, and you really can’t see it.” You have to take a step back, and it may come to you when you revisit it.
Step two: Focus on things you care about
When you have to do a lot of research on your topic before you open up a blank page to begin, writing can become a chore. Instead of seeing it as a huge hurdle, find an area of focus that you can be passionate about. When I care deeply about something, I’ve found it’s been a lot easier to write, because I’m not agonizing over the content. If you find you are stressing too much over your pieces, it might be a good time to remember the greater purpose of your blog or brainstorm new, creative subjects for posts.
Step three: Use different formats
Writing the same type of blog posts can often be monotonous, so it’s important to change things up by using different formats. Tell a first-person story, produce an instructional post, make lists, have a roundup of the best posts this week/month (in case your audience may have missed something). This gives you the freedom to get creative and a chance to think outside the box.
Step four: Invite guest writers
Do you have a blogger that you admire? Invite them to share their insights on a certain topic. Guest posts can open you up to a wider audience – conversely, it can also open up your guest writer to your audience – and it saves you from writing another post. If your guest is crunched for time, you can ask to repost one of their published pieces that is still relevant and link back to the original post.
Step five: Use an alternative format
Blog posts don’t always have to center around writing. Consider vlogging or podcasts as alternatives. This may mean involving a production team, but if you have a lot to say on a certain subject, it may be more effective to have an audio or visual aspect.
Step six: Edit, edit, edit
Before you publish, read through the blog post first looking for any grammatical errors. Then read through it again, this time trying to see it through the lens of a reader who doesn't know much about the subject. Last, have another writer read through the post for edits, whether it be grammar or comprehension. A good editor will be able to pick out sentences that need to be restructured, or they can help catch errors. Ultimately the more critique on your writing, the more you'll improve as a writer.
Step seven: Just do it
Heeding the advice of Nike®: Just do it. The best way to overcome a fear of something is to just dive right in and not worry about the mistakes you may make. I once interviewed Jeff Bridges (you can read the full interview on the City Pages site), and I'll never forget this analogy:
“[Starting something is] like jumping in the ocean. That first wave, you have to let it go over you and swim around. You were asking me about advice a little bit ago. Don't worry about mistakes; there are none."