I was 8 years old, sat in classroom 2GC, petrified. I had writer’s block. The brief was simple: write a piece of creative writing on any topic and I couldn’t do it. The end of class bell sounded and I was terrified as Mrs Barton walked over and saw my blank sheet. She asked me to stay behind as the class filed out and I awaited the obligatory abuse.
Instead, she took me out the class room, over to the tuck shop and bought me a 10p Matchstick sweet. She told me to go back to the room and come back out once I had written my assignment. 2 minutes later I made the conscious decision to let go of my fear and 30 minutes later I produced copy.
Columnist Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. “Why, no,” dead-panned Red. “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
So please believe me, all writers struggle. Getting started is about the hardest thing and I thought I should share my personal tips. Remember though that writing is a deeply personal thing. What worked for me might not work for you. Do what feels right.
1) Just do it
There are many reasons to procrastinate and many more important things to do. But if I want to produce content I create a time box and I write – and stop writing when I’m finished. Sometimes for example I have a 40-minute commuter train which is a 40-minute time box.
Also don’t put barriers in your place like creating a site. I didn’t create this site until a year ago – 18 months into my writing. I used to write on SAP’s Community Network and my corporate blog and only later did I create my own blog. I set it up in 2 hours on a Sunday morning.
2) Write about what you know best
Writing about things you don’t know about requires research and I wouldn’t recommend this as a means to get into writing. Instead, write about what you’re deeply acquainted with: write about your specialism.
3) Write about what you’re passionate about
Again, you may not always have this luxury but it makes writing so much easier. You will likely find that the words flow off your fingers and onto the page.
4) Be experiential
If you look at my early material it is actually copies of my own personal notes on documentation on how to do technical stuff. Interestingly some of that is my most popular content because it was simple stuff that people appreciated knowing about.
This material will also naturally be SEO-optimised because it will contain the terms that people are searching for to find solutions to their problem.
5) Let go
You may be thinking that you could never write as well as Dave, as much as Julie. Or perhaps, you do not have the best experience in the market and there are better people. Trust me, those are all just excuses.
6) Keep writing
Your early work may suck but it doesn’t matter because the only way to get better at it is to practice, practice and practice. My early work sucks and I’m still embarrassed to read my own content.
7) Use your personal style
In combination with (6) don’t worry about any rules of blogging: that can come later. There are tons of blogs on what to do and how to write and it can be intimidating. My style for example is just to create a piece of content and move on.
Good friend Jon Reed creates structure and thought processes and then often pulls an all-nighter to get it out. Incidentally way that’s why his content is so well structured and his point so well made. For yourself, focus on what feels right.
8) A blog on the site is worth 10 in your mind
The world is strewn with partially completed blogs in people’s minds and draft boxes. Focus carefully on starting a piece of content that you will complete. And if you get part way through and don’t want to complete it any more, then make the conscious decision to trash it – and find a new subject material.
9) Focus on quality language
Use a spell checker – and quickly scan the document for organism vs orgasm. If your English is poor then use a friend to proof read it. On our corporate blog our marketing department will help with this.
But don’t think that your content has to be vetted by an expert. I often get blogs sent to me because people feel they should get my blessing. I scan through them and let them know if I believe they are crap, but other than that, the publish button is the best thing to do.
10) If you promise 10 tips and only think of 9, don’t worry
Just press the publish button. See what I did there?