Written by Lee Schneider
It’s been said that writing is easy. You just sit in front of a blank piece of paper until blood comes out of your eyes. It’s a little less bloody now, of course, because we have computers. But for many, writing can be a mountain to climb.
Getting started on an article, a blog post or a newsletter might just be the hardest part about writing. But beginning is a lot easier when you know that the most effective articles are from 300-500 words. You can keep it short. It’s not a dissertation, and you don’t have to tell all that you know in a single article. You also want to keep it personal, making a connection between your reader and yourself. We are narrative creatures – think of our ancient ancestors sitting around a campfire telling stories. So, tell a story, bring in a short anecdote, connect. You’ll also want to show value, but in a non-pitchy, non sales-y way. What does that mean?
The most successful blog articles, and also LinkedIn posts and Twitter newsfeeds, are 80% informational and 20% promotional. Most of the material is offered in the “spirit of giving” – it’s useful to the reader. You can provide tips, how-tos, recommendations or market surveys. For example, in my line of work, I would offer insights on how to get more people to visit your website, or do a rundown on the best free applications like Buffer, Sprout Social, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Feedly that help you manage multiple social media accounts and the media you need to post there. I wouldn’t be at all shy about mentioning my company, Red Cup Agency, and linking to it in the article. But you notice I didn’t lead with that. I feel good that I can provide information and be of service and I know that it will eventually come back to me. People are looking for solutions, and if you address a few hot button issues, like time management, how to get more referrals, how to scout for prospects, or how to be a better leader, you’ll find lots of readers.
If you’re experiencing a little writer’s block – and who doesn’t? – just take out a piece of paper and begin listing all the article ideas that come to mind. Don’t censor yourself – just let the ideas flow. Writing by hand actually uses a different part of the brain than when you type to a screen, so think of this as going to a gym for your brain and working on some thoughts instead of your abs. After a page or less, you’ll have a few good ideas to run with. I usually bullet-point those, breaking them out into a short outline that becomes my roadmap for the article.
One last tip: Before you publish, show the finished article to a friend, spouse or co-worker for feedback. If they can reflect back to you in a few sentences what it’s all about, you’ve succeeded.