Great writing and amazing content that suits does not appear out of thin air. Which is a real bummer, if you ask me.
Yes, playing with words is a core part of my profession, and a large part of my career is engineered by an insatiable passion for helping others understand how to tell their stories more effectively.
Again, while there is no content wizard in the sky ready to “make it rain” polished prose for you, I have spent a significant amount of time trying to find ways to streamline or jump start the writing process, without having to go back to the old secondary school days where merciless English teachers would force us to write summaries of funny stories.
So there are eight specific blogging hacks I want to share with you today that will immediately remove some of the pain you’re experiencing when you create content, and make the whole process go a lot faster.
1. Stop telling yourself you can’t before you even start
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re reading this post, you’ve probably made a commitment to create more or at least better content in 2019, 2020, and beyond.
(If you don’t have that resolution, I hope you can feel my death stare across the expanse of cyber space.)
However, even the most well-meaning content creators arrive at the keyboard with a set of fears that can undermine their potential, making the whole process way harder than it has to be, before they’ve even struck their first keystroke.
“I don’t have anything interesting to say.”
“I’m not a writer.”
“What story do I have to tell?”
“This is not my job — I’m not good at this.”
If you’re good at your job, trust me when I say that little voice is wrong.
In fact, it actually became a running joke with myself awhile back that when a client would tell me, “I don’t really have anything to write about,” they were almost guaranteed to become the team contributor with the most compelling insights to share.
Whenever you sit down to write, and you hear that nagging voice in your head, tearing you down, remember this:
People are literally (and figuratively) searching for your expertise in an industry or area that probably has zero to do with writing, not the next literary classic.
That’s why you don’t need to be Desire Kings. You just need to be you.
2. Decide on your topic at least one day before writing
After fear, the worst thing you can do to yourself is not decide on a topic before you sit down to write.
Seriously, it amazes me how many people complain about how long writing a blog takes them, only to find out it’s because they have to spend half of that time going through the basic step of figuring out what it is they’re talking about.
Of course, blogging is going to feel like the absolute worst when you do that.
So, at least one day (or few days) before you want to start putting your piece together, decide on your blog or content topic and write it down somewhere you’d remember.
I don’t care how or where you write down your topic, the important thing is that you get the idea out of your head and document it somewhere. Otherwise, the idea will remain abstract, which doesn’t count.
It doesn’t need to be a pretty title, and it may change, but it needs to be specific.
For example, blogging about persuasive writing in general is interesting, but too broad of a topic. But blogging about tips for being a better persuasive writer is a much more well-defined option.
But if you’re anything like me, once you zero in on an idea for a title, your brain will passively flesh it out, mull it over, and shape it, while you move onto other things.
Think of it like giving a computer a complex equation to crunch as a background process.
By the time you sit down to actually do your content thing, your topic might still be in tact, or it may have changed. It doesn’t matter, because you’ll have given yourself a head start with days of subconscious legwork already completed.
3. Use my helpful content framework to plan out the overall direction of what you’re writing
One of the most challenging parts of writing for me, anyway is to get my head around the basics of what I want to cover. For every topic, there are so many ways I can choose to address it, including an endless sea of anecdotes, recommendations, lists, and so on.
But I can’t treat every article I write like the kitchen sink. There has to be some organisation and purpose to what I put in, and I want to make sure that everything I write is as effective as possible.
It takes between 10 and 20 minutes to complete the above grid; although now it takes me about five minutes to run through this mentally.
You fill it out in this order:
What are you talking about exactly, in an uneditorialised, uncontextualised way? For example, this article would be “blogging hacks.”
Do not simply drop in “CEO Craig” or some other buyer persona nonsense here. Get specific and ask yourself, who is it exactly you are trying to reach? Why do they care about this specific topic? What is their urgency around it? Do they have unspoken fears, concerns, or questions? And finally, in their words, what would make an article about this topic successful for them?
The “why” bucket simply asks the question “Why you?” Why are you qualified to address this topic? Is it a summary of experiences? Is it a specific experience or story that makes you uniquely qualified to not only show you can relate to their situation, but also help them solve their problem? Is it both?
How is the pay-off. Now that you know what you’re talking about, who you’re talking to about this topic (and why they care about it), and why you’re the one who should be addressing it, you’re going to outline how you’re going to address it. For example, “I’m going to list a few different blogging hacks, including stop telling yourself you can’t write, picking your topic a day in advance, the helpful content framework, and more. I’ll probably also relate to the fact that much of the writing process we’ve been taught is not fun, and even though writing is my job, it is hard for me, too. Maybe I can find a story in that.”
I want you to think of the above tool I created like a compass. Upon completing it, you will have an 80,000-foot-view of exactly where you want to go with what you’re writing, which makes it a lot easier to either dive into outlining (if that’s your bag) or immediately into writing your first draft.
4. Create a simple “road-map” of what you’re going to say
Even though I’m a writer by profession, I’ll be honest. There are some days when the words flow with ease, and there are others when I need a trigger before the words flow.
For example, have you ever opened your mouth and started speaking with no end game in mind? But you forge ahead with your well-meaning word salad, hoping that you magically figure out where you want your words to go as you speak?
I do this all the time, which probably says all kinds of things about my personality, but whatever. If you relate to this, you know how awkward it is. Even if you somehow manage to blindly find your way to a point.
This same logic can apply to writing.
While I do fully subscribe to the notion of free-writing as an exercise, writing a full outline as a first step can be just as demoralising as writing a blog, and it’s not always that necessary.
Instead, I like to create what’s called a “road-map” for my blog. To show you what I mean, here’s the road-map I created for this post:
Content Hacks Road-map
- Intro– Good writing doesn’t happen overnight.
- Kill the fear
- Decide on your topic
- Content Framework
- start with the easy stuffs
- Intro and conclusion
- Outro– Something smart and inspiring
In short, a road-map is a method I use when I’m feeling lost with a topic to plot out the beats I want to hit in a blog post and it doesn’t need to seem like it makes sense (Just look at that compelling conclusion, am I right?)The purpose of a road-map isn’t to do all the heavy-lifting for me before I start writing.It’s to give me confidence that, from an 80,000-foot view, I’m going somewhere with what I’m writing, and I have a path to get there. (It also helps me keep on track with the point I’m trying to make, when I’m tempted to stray or go off on a tangent.)If you want to continue to refine and add detail to your own road-map to make it more of an outline, however, don’t let me stop you. (In fact, if you are working on a long-form piece that requires lots of detail, it may be a smart move.) It’s simply my preference that, from here, I get down to business.
Once you have your road-map in place, here’s one of my favourite hacks: You don’t necessarily have to be begin your content in order.Instead, look at your road-map and pick the spot or section that seems to come easiest. Then, after that, the next easiest, and so on.I love this strategy for a few reasons. First, it allows you to break up writing your post into manageable chunks over the course of a few hours or even a few days. Second, it has empowered me at a more global level to realise that the best work I’ve created typically comes together in pieces I work on out of order.As I mould my content into its final form, I’m able to step back and evaluate what needs tweaking and fixing to get it just right, without getting hung up on whether or not I’m doing things in the correct order.
Finally, save what is often the worst for last.One of the most unpleasant parts of writing for me is when I know what I want to write about, but I’m stumped when I try to write that first sentence; that hook that makes me people go, “Wow! I need to read this.”In those cases, I won’t tackle writing the introduction and conclusion until after everything else is written. Unless, of course, I have the usual divine inspiration. After I write everything else, I’ve usually spent enough time with my overall writing topic to know how to kick it off and wrap it up effectively.I feel like I should have more to say about this hack, but that’s really all there is to it.
There’s this particular timing and environment that let’s the ideas and words flow speedily from my head to my fingers. For me it’s from 12 midnight way down till morning, well positioned on my sofa. for some others it’s any cozy environment,. Discover yours and let the words flow.
The reality is that creating content takes time and effort. Moreover, the fact that sometimes you need to sit down and think, and occasionally get stumped should not be a signal to you that you’re not good at creating content. It’s simply part of the process and we all go through it.That said, I hope you find value in the tips I’ve shared here. They’ve helped me tremendously as I’ve continued to refine and “hack” my own process over the years. Just remember there’s no blanket blogging solution that will apply to everyone. So much of finding what will ultimately work for you will require you to commit to the practice of creating content and maintain awareness of the specific challenges you’re encountering along the way.