Many professional writers are offended by the idea that people ‘unqualified’ to publish written content are doing it. Not only that; many are doing it well. It’s threatening professionally.
Having said that, as a writer, I built a coffee table recently. I have no experience with coffee tables. I have no formal training. I even put a liftable lid on it, and a storage section where I keep DVDs. I stained it. I varnished it. And now it sits proudly in our lounge room. It’s had coffee spilt on it, food dribbled on it, and it’s withstood the daily beatings my 15 month old daughter dishes out. Carpenters everywhere are outraged. Not really.
As John Lennon famously sang, ‘there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done’. Nothing is sacred and everything is available to you, to at least have a crack at. Do it well and you can even profit from it.
Large businesses, small businesses and sole-traders everywhere are starting to really invest in the idea that producing content gives you a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. Business educators are sprouting loudly the successes that many of your competitors are already having by communicating with their markets, offering engaging content and leveraging that into sales and brand loyalty.
But the glaring question is what do I write about? Or, what do I talk about in my blog? I’m always disappointed to hear the responses that these people are offered by the many experts selling this stuff.
“Tell your business’s story,” they say. “Well, ok. People ring up and ask us for product and we sell it to them.” Cool story.
For the average person who is running a business, the thought of sitting in front of a computer and churning out copy is akin to sitting in front of a blank canvas with a paint brush and some water colours. What do I paint?
Producing a blog, like speaking (and painting for that matter), is very simple when you have something to say (or paint). It’s true in any form of communication. As someone who has written professionally for many publications, I’ve never suffered from writers block because I don’t write when I don’t have anything to communicate. Perhaps my output as a result of that is far less than it could be if I just sat down every day and produced content. The secret I’ve learnt is, instead of failing to write when I don’t have anything to say, focus on having more to say before you sit down to write.
Success in this area really is about consistency and that’s where some guidance can be really helpful. The idea of writing a weekly blog seems impossible when I’m struggling with even my first story. So the first question shouldn’t be, what do I write about? The question should be, what are some story ideas? Or, what are some blog ideas? If someone handed you a pile of wood and some tools and said make me a piece of furniture, you’d probably sit there for hours. But if they also gave you a picture of a coffee table and said can you make that, or if they even gave you 10 pictures of 10 different items and said make one of those, all of a sudden you have something to achieve. You might do a terrible job, but you will start it and you will finish it, because you have something to make.
This is not a goal setting exercise as much as this might be implied. I’m not asking you to commit to writing a story a week, although you should hope to achieve that. I’m asking you to come up with something to write. More than that, focus on coming up with ten story ideas relating to your business. Or 20. Or even 50. Then of that 50, pick one that you really want to write today and do that. Then print out the others and stick them on the wall. Right there, you have an editorial calendar. If you have 50 solid ideas, you now have content for almost a year’s worth of reading.
Writing may well be a craft, but when it comes down to it, it’s just a vehicle for communicating something. Focus in on what it is you’re communicating rather than the process of writing, and it will seem a lot less daunting.