All posts in Writing

  • Four Quick Steps to a More Creative Blog

    post-its
    image courtesy of Krissy.Venosdale

    These steps make up a non-negotiable practice you must implement if you’re serious about making your blog great. I learned/am still learning it the hard way, and I’d bet plenty of bloggers can relate.

    1. Pause EVERYTHING to Record a Post Idea

    YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER. Never, ever ever. If you don’t get it out of your head and into writing, the idea will be gone and will never return. It blows my mind how easily a “perfect” blog post topic can leave me. Accept the inconvenience and commit to interrupting anything and everything–your workout, a fancy dinner, a nice shower (write that shit down naked, I’m serious. It’s worth it.)…

    I’m caught jotting down ideas in the weirdest of scenarios.

    2. Use Your Phone

    You can keep a notebook or something to physically write down your thoughts if you prefer, but using my phone is much easier for me–who doesn’t always have their phone on them? No one I want to be friends with, that’s who. If I have the time and patience, I’ll open the Google Drive app, and record my musings in my “Post Ideas” doc; otherwise, I just email it to myself.

    I know a lot of bloggers rave about Evernote for collecting and organizing their notes, but I’ve yet to give it a try. I hear good things, though.

    3. Keep it to Two Places, Max

    Have designated “potential post topics” areas, and use them consistently and nothing else. If you’ve got post ideas on your phone, in your inbox, in a notebook, and on pieces of scrap paper on your desk, you’re going to lose your mind trying to keep track of it all.

    I mentioned I use a Google doc–this is my master list of ideas, and it’s (sort of) organized by category. Ideally, I’d always stop to consider the best category and angle for a new topic, pull up my list, and record accordingly…but fuck that, you know? Emailing a messy bundle of thoughts to myself is much easier, and when I have time, I sort them out a little and transfer a slightly better version to the Post Ideas doc. (“Slightly” being the key word here. It’s way more important to be thorough with the details than to aim for something well-written, which brings us to…)

    4. Leave No Detail Behind

    Completely empty your brain of all thoughts associated with this idea you have. You’re not going to remember these either, I promise. You think you’ll look at the topic you wrote down and recall precisely how you wanted to present it and the points you wanted to make, but you’ll actually remember like a quarter of what you were originally planning. WRITE ALL OF IT DOWN, and don’t stop until you can think of nothing else related. Realize you can throw out any of the crap you’re recording later. It’s much better to have too much to work with than not enough.

    ***

    Discuss

    How do you ensure you never forget a post idea? What method(s) do you use to keep track of potential topics?

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  • Marketing for People Who Hate Marketing: A Better Strategy

    funny sign
    image courtesy of **viv**

    I haven’t exactly kept my distaste for marketing a secret. In an email to Penelope Trunk, I described myself as “a marketer who hates marketing.” It’s true—it’s a terrible fit for me.

    Well, most of it. But we’ll get to that…

    Even if you don’t actually work in a marketing position, you’re quite likely marketing if you’re part of modern working society. If you’re not marketing your company’s stuff, you’re marketing your own stuff. Or, you’re marketing yourself to an employer. In some way, we’re all doing it.

    And a lot of us despise it.

    Why We Hate It

    I think my own loathing of the practice can be boiled down to two main issues, which I’d be willing to bet most marketing haters can relate to.

    1. It Feels Shady

    At least most of it does, right? It feels so WRONG to me. It feels like trickery. And it makes me feel so dirty that I’m good at it. I can use certain words, deliver a message in a specific way, display content in a psychologically appealing fashion—I can get you to take the action I want.

    Gross, who am I?

    I hate that I’m influencing buying decisions like this. I feel like I’m effing with you. And I don’t want to eff with you, friend. I want you to know the facts and have all the information, and purchase (or not) at will, with no prompting from me.

    2. It Feels Unnatural

    I don’t set out to deceive people in my everyday life. I’m, like, the most honest girl ever. I almost can’t not be honest. Most marketing efforts run counter to my natural preferences for disseminating truth, and for helping people (not getting them to buy my shit).

    I also don’t really try to stand out. I’m not shy or anything, but I’m not looking for attention, which is exactly what I feel like I’m doing when I’m marketing. It feels jarring against my M.O.

    Why We Need to Stop Hating It

    Let’s assume you have something worthy of others’ investment. Something that really is great (like yourself) or that really will help people or make them happier. Now, people don’t magically know you exist, or that your company/product/service/website does. That’s the gist of it, ya know? If you build it, they won’t necessarily come—you have to tell them about it.

    And there’s so much noise out there—so many marketing messages competing for our attention—that unless your goal is to fail, you have to find a way to capture some of that attention and let people know about you and your offer.

    Allow Me to Make Your Day By Saying This: Inbound Marketing

    We get to stop screwing people, you guys!

    The inbound marketing philosophy can be simplified this way: instead of pushing your message on people, you’re pulling them in. And a big part of pulling them in is providing super-valuable content (a.k.a content marketing)blog posts, how-to guides, checklists, whatever. You’re being helpful, and they’re coming to you as a resource, and then they trust you, and then they buy your stuff, which is good stuff because you’re a good person… IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

    Write applicable articles. Develop handy whitepapers and reports. Be useful and generous on social media. Give your people the information and guidance they’re looking for, and the selling will take care of itself.

    This is good marketing. This is effective marketing.

    This is marketing we can stop hating.

    ***

    Discuss

    How do you feel about marketing? Have you tried any inbound marketing tactics?

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  • Bloggers: Your Dinner Habits are Sabotaging Your Creativity (or Why You Must Deliberately Unplug for Success)

    candle-lit dinner
    image courtesy of ser_is_snarkish

    You have to be so fucking good at generating ideas to be a successful blogger.

    Think about it: If you’re really trying to make your blog legit, you’ve quite likely committed to a regular posting schedule. And because of this, you need new content all the damn time. You’re writing all the damn time. And this stuff has to be fresh and new and inspiring/insightful/informative/whatever resonates with your audience, so you know simply having an idea isn’t enough; it has to be good.

    And if you’re an efficient blogger, you also know you may even have to scrap the good stuff.

    So to keep pumping out content–good quality content–you’ve got to have a gigantic pool of topics to choose from. You’ve got to have a gazillion ideas at the ready.

    But how do we cause more ideas to happen? How do we set ourselves up to crank out possible post topics?

    My Brain Exploded Over Dinner

    I’ve been attempting to eat dinner without distractions lately. I eat breakfast, lunch, and snacks in front of my laptop, but at dinnertime, I’m really trying to sit at the table and eat and that’s it. If John’s home, I’ll eat with him. Otherwise, it’s just me, my food, and sometimes a little classical music (which maybe makes me a tool, and that’s fine). This is a difficult thing for me to do–my computer and phone are lovely dinner companions–but overall, I’m liking it.

    And you’re thrilled for me and you’re hanging on my every fuggin dinner-related word, I know, but here’s where I get back to the point:

    I began noticing that as I sat there with just my food and myself, my brain was going crazy. Like, it was just rapidly wondering and philosophizing and imagining and analyzing…and I started coming up with post ideas left and right. One after another, they just kept coming. And it wasn’t an isolated incident; it happened repeatedly over several distraction-less dinners.

    Other Surges of Creativity

    This fascinated me (and also pumped me up, because I was like, this is BEAUTIFUL. I will blog brilliance forever because I’ll have an endless supply of awesome–all I have to do is eat dinner!!!!!!!!), and like everything else that fascinates me, I started to analyze it. (Also–and I hope this doesn’t blow your mind–I added this concept of an accelerated process of developing possible post topics to…my list of possible post topics. And this post is that post. You’re reading it right now ARE YOU OK?) Why was this happening? What was causing these bursts of inspiration at dinner? How random, right?

    Maybe not.

    I wondered further if there was any pattern to my idea-producing behavior. I developed a list of other situations in which I seem to always be thinking of possible posts: at the gym, in the shower, on a walk, lying in bed.

    What was it?

    What’s Really at Work Here

    The common denominator was the absence of mental stimuli. I came to this conclusion by conducting several tests and experiments based on years of professional research training.

    Jokes! I’m naturally a genius.

    Anyway, I’m possibly addicted to reading, and could realistically lose DAYS immersed in books, blogs, magazines, and websites. But when I’m consuming all this information, my brain is focused on it–and nothing else. It’s not free to explore the musings that are already in my mind, but are being pushed below the surface of consciousness because I’m giving all my attention to information outside my own brain (still with me?).

    When I remove the stimuli and am forced to switch from sitting back and letting my mind be entertained, to actually actively thinking, I start dreaming up all kinds of good shit. In the situations above in which I’m always pulling out my phone to record post ideas, I’m never reading. Working out, showering, trying to fall asleep…these are all times my brain is left to wonder.

    So really, my fellow bloggers, it seems the key to being an idea-having machine is not about adding anything to your environment or routine.

    But rather, removing.

    ***

    Discuss

    How do you think of post topics? Have you noticed any situations in which you’re particularly inspired? What can you remove that may be stealing your attention and creativity?

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