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There’s a reason why kids procrastinate on their book reports, influencers agonize over crafting a perfect Instagram caption, and adults dread responding to emails. Writing can sometimes feel like a chore—even when you’re trying to describe something you’re passionate about!
This is exactly why the writer-on-demand service that we offer at Content Cucumber has become so popular. While not everyone may be a born writer, you can take steps to make the writing process much less stressful. Here are our pro tips to ease your angst when you have no choice but to sit down and write.
Look to Your Audience for Inspiration
Sometimes bloggers get so caught up in keyword research, SEO strategies, and following the latest industry trends that they forget to consider what their customers actually want to read. That’s not to say that you should abandon your current methods or give up on SEO. Rather, you should put extra effort into ensuring that your content is meaningful and engaging to your audience. Thanks to social media, gaining valuable consumer insights has never been easier! Here are a couple of tips for engaging your audience for new content ideas.
Poll your audience on social media. Not sure where to begin? Start simple: log in to Twitter, ask your audience what they would like to read and see their answers in real-time. The feedback you receive can potentially save you hours of time and give you several new ideas for blog topics.
Send out an email survey to your list. One thing is for certain: everyone checks their email at least a couple times a day. Take advantage of this fact by sending out a survey to your current list of subscribers. Make sure that the questions are specific enough to yield the type of answers that will be useful to you. You might even consider offering an incentive for completing the survey (for example, a gift card or a nice discount on future purchases).
Know what your competition is writing about. Another cool thing about social media is that you can check up on your competitors. For example, say that you run a marketing firm and want to start a regular blog but aren’t sure what to write about. You can peek at other marketing firms’ websites to see what they are writing about.
One of your biggest competitors just published a blog entitled “Does My Brand Need Improvement?” You can offer your own spin on this subject by writing your own article. Keep it original and true to your voice; come up with a new title, like “Signs Your Brand Needs a Facelift,” or even something with a little more bite like “It’s Time to Reinvent Your Brand—Yesterday.”
While it may be obvious, make sure that the content you write is 100% original and does not in any way borrow whole paragraphs or even phrases from your competitors. Of course, you also need to cite your own external sources where necessary.
Don’t Fear Writer’s Block; Tackle It Head-On
No matter the subject matter, every writer wants to write work that is moving, informative, entertaining, and inspiring—so much so, that the stress puts them into a writer’s stasis. Writer’s block afflicts even the best writers from time to time. The important thing is that you find effective ways to combat it.
The internet has all kinds of advice for overcoming the plague of writer’s block but there really is no gold standard cure for it. Acclaimed novelist Graham Greene kept a dream journal, which always kept his mind reeling with ideas, even when a creative drought seemed inevitable. Other writers set time aside each day to write no matter how hard and exhausting their day was, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes.
The truth is, most writers will tell you that their way is the “right” way, but that is not necessarily true. If you subscribe to one strategy only and refuse to admit when it’s not working, you’ll probably just end up even more frustrated and you won’t have written anything. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the best strategy for overcoming your own writer’s block.
You might consider starting every writing sprint with a quick 5-10 minute exercise where you just write the first things to come to mind. Don’t judge what you write; just let the words come. Who knows? You might end up with something that you can use in your final draft, even if it’s just a single sentence.
Below are a couple of exercises you can try to get you out of your slump.
Pick up a favorite book and start reading. It doesn’t even have to be related to what you’re writing about. Research has shown again and again that regular reading enhances writing skills because it allows you to see effectively written sentences in action.
Turn to the news. Is there something in the news that greatly affects your industry? Consider bringing it to your readers’ attention. You can write a brief editorial stating your thoughts on a specific news article, or you can use multiple news articles as a springboard for your own thoroughly researched article.
Put on your favorite song(s). We all have that song gets us pumped to work out or clean the house. Why not put on some music to help get your creative juices flowing? Make a playlist exclusively for writing!
Go for a walk. Believe it or not, sometimes no matter how intently you stare at your computer screen, you just won’t get anything done. Allow yourself some time away from your desk and enjoy a brisk walk around the block or in the park. As you walk, take note of your surroundings, observe the noisy traffic and other passersby; you never know what might ignite your imagination.
Change your surroundings. Speaking of your surroundings, take a close look at your workspace. Your work environment can greatly affect your productivity; this is especially the case when it comes to something as creative and personal as writing. Ask yourself: Is your desk free of clutter? Do you have adequate light?
Consider changing up your surroundings a bit. Move your desk closer to the window for a little more light if possible. Add a bit more color with some artwork and other decorations.
You might even want to take a break from your usual workspace once in a while. Bring your laptop outside and sit in the shade, or head to your favorite cafe just to see something other than your own office walls for once.
Relax and Have Fun
While this might sound cliché, there is some truth to it, especially when it comes to blogging. You have to remember that you’re not writing a formal essay, and you’re not required to be strictly professional. The goal is to make people want to read your blog, so feel free to show off your sense of humor and share a little information about yourself. Your blog will seem like it’s coming from a human being rather than a faceless brand, which most consumers will greatly appreciate.
Here are some quick tips for making your blog fun, entertaining, and inspiring rather than stilted, academic, and boring:
Introduce yourself. When you are trying to sell yourself or your product to customers, it is tempting to adopt an air of formality impossible for anyone to penetrate. You might spout off industry jargon rather than communicate in a meaningful, clear way.
Instead of putting on a front, consider letting your audience know exactly who you are. Share what got you interested in the business, something about your background, list your hobbies and even a favorite food or favorite movie.
Don’t just talk at your customers; converse with them. A well-written blog can go a long way in engaging people and drawing them to your brand. However, to keep them invested, try starting a dialogue.
When you publish a blog post, you can end with a question related to the article. For example, if your article is about brand authority, ask your readers what companies they feel have are particularly trustworthy or influential, and encourage them to share their thoughts either in the comment section or on social media. This way, you haven’t spent the whole article telling them stuff; this lets your reader know that you’re also interested in what they have to say.
Lastly, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
In other words, keep your goal in mind when writing your next blog article. Do you want readers to learn something totally new and interesting? Are you talking to readers who already know what they want to learn and are just looking for information online?
When you’ve got your sights on your article’s goal, your content will be more readable, shareable, and—voila!—SEO-friendly. Go on, give your last draft another look. Is it something you would read and recommend? If not, what would you change?
If you’re thinking of handing off your blog to a professional writer, or if you just want more expert advice, click here to check out everything that Content Cucumber has to offer!