How can we make writing easier? For content marketers, writing is a must-have skill, without which we really can’t connect with our audiences. We need to blog. We need to write website copy. We need to compose effective emails and product descriptions. Even when it’s writing down what we’re going to say aloud during webinars or videos, we’re writing. Almost by definition, every entrepreneur has to be—or hire—a writer.
And it’s not enough just to be able to write correctly and with clarity (though that’s a definite must). We have to be able to write a lot. To market effectively, we have to be professional, productive writers. We have to be efficient writers who can produce the amount of content required to maintain our relationships with customers. We have to produce quality and quantity.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be born with some literary bug to be an effective writer. You just have to get in the habit of articulating your views on paper (or on your laptop screen). There are ways to do this. I’ve used them myself. In fact, these 4 little tricks are so effective that you probably won’t have to use them for long!
Consider them your writer’s training wheels. They’ll help you develop the mindset and habits that make writing a snap, banishing all sense of “writer’s block.” Once these strategies get the ball rolling, you’ll know intuitively how to create the momentum you need to fill pages.
- Start at the peak.
This technique comes from Chase Reeves of fizzle.co. First, you identify the main idea or overall point of whatever it is you’re writing. What is it you want the reader to get out of this? What’s the grand takeaway? If a blog or other piece of writing is a mountain to climb, this is the “peak.” Once you know what that is, you simply write that part first.
Yes, you’ll still need to write the introductory and contextualizing stuff. You’ll still need to write a conclusion. You’ll still need to produce the rest of the mountain. But the peak is really the easiest part. It’s the meat of your story, the thing you’re really trying to say. If you don’t worry about finishing the writing or meeting a word quota or anything else and just let it flow, it will. And once you’re done, you’ll probably have half the desired length completed.
From there, it’s easier to build an introduction that works the reader up to the peak, and to summarize and contextualize it all into a strong conclusion. Doing so with the “peak” already in place is a breeze.
- Say what you want to say-literally.
For most people, talking is simply easier and much more natural than writing. Maybe it’s because we get more practice communicating that way. Maybe it’s because there’s no “middleman” in the form of a keyboard between our thoughts and our words. Whatever the case, saying it doesn’t seem like as much work as writing it.
Thing is, there’s no difference! The words are the words. Yes, we don’t pay as much attention to grammatical rules and structure when we talk, but that’s window dressing that anyone with an 8th grade education can apply. If we could simply find a way to put our spoken words onto our computer screen, nothing but a little editing would stand between us and completion.
Fortunately, we can. Transcription is easy, whether you do it yourself or hire out for it. iOS has a great dictation app available to anyone with an iPhone. Digital recorders (both of the hard and software varieties) are ubiquitous. You can even have the actual transcribing of an audio file done for pocket change on fiverr.
Once you’ve recorded and transcribed your talk, the hard part’s over. Editing what’s already on paper is much easier than filling a blank page. One of the great secrets of the writing world is that so many authors do this, like our one-time guest teacher Tucker Max. Entire bestselling books are “written” this way.
- What, Why, How, Your Thoughts
Before you begin the actual writing process, it can be very helpful to establish these four basic parameters. This will help you boil all your thoughts down to what matters, eliminating much of the rambling roads that take time to write (and ultimately end up edited out anyway). Literally write down these four categories as a precursor to the rest.
First, what are you writing about? Define and describe the subject of your writing. Whether it’s customer onboarding or content marketing, construct a concise definition of it for the reader. Second, why share it? Why is it important to the reader? What problem are you solving for the reader? What’s the writing’s ultimate value? Tailor everything else to this objective. Next, how does the reader apply this? This is the “peak” we mentioned before, the part the reader really came for.
Finally, what are your thoughts on the topic? Add your personal take to whatever it is you’re addressing. Share the opinions that make it truly your perspective. Without this unique, humanizing aspect, your writing will lack the personal aspect that forges a bond between you and the reader.
Neville Madhuri writes about AIDA in his book This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. It’s a recipe for almost any kind of writing. First, you write something that will grab the reader’s attention—a hook, something personal or bold that makes the reader want to know more. Then, you develop their initial interest with facts, stories, and supporting details.
From here, you move towards the “peak.” You encourage the reader’s desire by presenting a solution to their problem—the “Why” of the What, Why, How, Your Thoughts technique. You send a message of hope that speaks right to the desire that brought the reader to your work in the first place. Finally, you move to action, or the “how” part. You give your reader something concrete to do, some actionable steps towards their own goals.
That’s only a brief summation of the AIDA method. For more detail, I highly recommend picking up the book.
In my view, the ultimate “hack” to anything is best articulated by the good folks at Nike: Just Do It. Maybe “It” won’t be exactly what you were hoping for in your imagination, but simply getting started will take you down the path to realizing your goals. So many of us get trapped in the planning phase, frozen by the need to have everything perfectly arranged before we can move forward. This is a mistake, and the reason so many things remain undone—especially writing.
With these techniques, you can get over that initial hump. You can build the momentum that will carry your writing to its completion. You can develop the approach to writing that makes it easy, natural and conversational.