You know when sometimes things get a bit much. Everything’s whirling round your head. You just need some time to think, some space, some relief.
When my best friend feels like this, she goes for a long run. Some people will reach for a glass of wine (ok I must confess to doing this, occasionally). Some people may book a session in a spa or a relaxing massage.
What helps me, is to write.
Even if I go for a run, I write in my head and then get home and have to type it all up. If I grab a glass of wine, I’ll often sit at the computer typing whilst sipping it. During a rare treat of making it into a steam room, I’ll still invariably be thinking about a client brief or my next blog.
I wake up at night and have to email myself notes and ideas. I have resorted to carrying a notebook around at all times.
Now, not everyone is a write-aholic like me. Some of you will find it hard. Many of you will find it impossible and a dreaded task. But even for me, an arguably natural writer, blank page syndrome is an occupational hazard and an all too common occurrence.
So when you’re next faced with the open, empty, Word document of doom, here’s some useful tips to fight the word demons and start scribing.
- Stop staring at the empty Word document. In fact, move away from the computer. Starting writing should never really start with the words, but with the idea. The purpose and the plan. I actually do start with a blank piece of paper. Ideally a nice big page of A3. Divide the page into four columns.
Column 1 is what you want to achieve from your article/blog/letter/piece of marketing. Clients to simply know more about what you do? Customers to respond to an offer and pick up the phone? Raise awareness and engagement of your brand? Educate your audience on an industry matter or new part of your business? If you’re not clear on this, you simply won’t know where to start.
Column 2 is the key content. Brainstorm the key elements, the offer, your selling points, what you do that’s so great and what makes your company stand out from the rest.
Column 3 is keywords. If you’re in catering, chuck down key words like ‘food’, ‘cuisine’, ‘aromas’, ‘delicious’, ‘tempting’ etc. This will help you to vary your language and use relevant and engaging terms throughout the piece.
Column 4 is evidence and stats. Research and information. Solid and tangible evidence that backs up why your audience need to listen to what you say and act on it.
- Think of a good title. If it’s a blog or an email marketing shot, the title is key. It needs to be short, punchy, engaging. It needs to promise something useful and beneficial to the reader or demonstrate a risk of not reading it that will be detrimental in some way.
- Research the market and the industry and read other blogs and articles. Don’t copy them! But pick up inspiration and information that will help you gain confidence that what you’re writing has a place and will be of interest.
- Decide on your tone. Are you going to try to be funny? RISK ALERT! Unless you are truly, naturally funny I would go for light hearted rather than all out funny, as one person’s humour could be another person’s absolute turn off. Are you going to be controversial to provoke a response? Make sure your facts are straight so that you can start from a position of credibility and not run the risk of criticism. Writing a letter or a blog? Make sure you use the right level of formality/informality in accordance with the type of communication you are creating.
- Remember being back at school. Use adjectives. Try not to start every sentence in the same way. Use column 3 of your plan to embellish your content with interesting and relevant words and phrases.
- Finally, end your piece of writing on a strong tip, statement, question or call to action. Leaving the words hanging is the written equivalent of not closing a sale.
So for the non-writeaholic, these tips should help get you started. For me, rather than fighting it, I’ll accept it and embrace it. Whether I’m cross or happy, stressed or inspired, writing is my release and my therapy. It’s easier than running. It’s healthier than wine. And it’s cheaper than the Spa.
Phew, glad to have that off my chest. Now, what shall I write about next…