content marketing

The Guide to Writing For Reluctant Writers

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"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

-Ernest Hemingway

Whenever I talk to small business owners about writing for their website, the same story comes up again and again:

“I can’t do it. I hate writing and I suck at it anyway.”

I’m calling BS.

Because I’m a writer. And most of the time, I hate it, too.

(Yep, I actually just said that. I feel so liberated.)

Every time I sit down to write, I feel like a nerdy sadist who gets off on suffering over my art.

I haaaaaate the process of writing, especially whenever I’m starting something new. I regularly lose staring contests against the blinking cursor, and the voices of self-doubt, insecurity and that part of my brain that really loves watching The Food Channel almost overwhelm me every. damn. time. I try to write something – for myself and my clients. It’s always the same.

But it’s still worth it. And I’m not alone in this. Mark Manson thinks so, too:

“There’s no such thing as some passionate activity that you will never get tired of, never get stressed over, never complain about. It doesn’t exist. I am living my dream… and I still hate about 30% of it. Some days more.”

Even us weirdos who write for a living are not immune to feelings of discomfort when we create. It’s the reason why I’ve got 17 half-written blog posts in my drafts folder right now.

You don’t have to enjoy something all the time for it to be worthwhile and meaningful.

So when people tell me that they can’t create content for their website because they don’t enjoy it, I get out my sad violin and say JOIN THE CLUB, muchacho:

Let us enjoy the world’s saddest song on the world’s tiniest violin for just a moment – and then get on with it, even if you hate writing and secretly think you suck at it.

Because if I can do it, so can you.

The Guide to Writing for Reluctant Writers:

1. Focus On The Results, Not The Action

Remember how I admitted that I don’t like writing most of the time I’m doing it? Well – I’m still here.

Not because I enjoy the act of writing – but because I love the result. I love the satisfaction of seeing something I created, literally out of nothing but my fingers and my brain and whatever writing utensil I had at the time (even napkins and lipstick are fair game, on the rare occasions that inspiration does strike).

For me, the outcome of writing is worth the discomfort I feel when I do it. And that is what keeps me going whenever I spiral into an existential crisis because sometimes all I can seem to do is write in clichès and stuffy language. As a perfectionist in remission, I’m still working on embracing the “shitty first draft”.

So how about you? What’s the point of it all?

Maybe you don’t care at all about the moment of pride you’ll feel when you’ve actually finished the writing the damn thing… but you really love knowing that you’ve just created a piece of content that will help your potential customers say YES to choosing you, your product, or your service (this is what all of your content should do, by the way).

It’s the same thing as haulin’ your ass outta bed before work to exercise and maybe not eating 4 donuts before lunch (which is, uh… totally not something I’m guilty of, personally) in the name of feelin’ fine whenever you catch a glimpse of your reflection on something shiny.

It’s a lot easier to push through a little initial discomfort if you’ve got a meaningful long term goal in mind.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Thou Shalt Not Blog Without Rhyme Nor Reason

I have a sneaking suspicion that most people struggle to create regular content not because they hate writing, but because they don’t have a proper plan for writing content that gets results. And I get it: you’re running a business and wearing 76 different hats on any given day. It’s damn hard to find the time to write something, anything, let alone create a plan for blogging or an editorial calendar.

But let me tell you this: blogging without a strategy is like peeing into the wind. 

Maybe you think of a new topic on the fly every time a new blog is due – or maybe you can’t think of anything to write and just don’t have the time, so your blog has been lying dormant and collecting tumbleweeds for the past 7 months.

You need to get yo’self some strategy, my friend.

I’ve got a post coming up soon that goes deep on how to create a content strategy that helps you meet your business goals (including my process for connecting the dots between free and paid content), but for the meantime, here’s the heart of it:

Every piece of content you create must help bridge the gap between where your reader is right now, and where they need to be in order to feel ready to say YES to buying from you.

What does your reader need to know, understand and believe before they can take you up on what you offer?

That is the content you need to be writing – not whatever idea strikes you on the day, or a topic that you think could – maybe – possibly – be interesting to talk about (more on that in the weeks to come).

3 – Plot Twist: It’s OK to not blog. Seriously. But… You Still Have to Create Something

Am I a diabolical for saying this after I’ve written 800 words convincing you of the opposite?

Quite possibly… but you may consider this your official permission slip to stop writing if you’ve put the advice above to work and you still truly hate it. 

Before you run off to burn all your notebooks and throw your laptop in a trashcan, realize that I’m not letting you off the hook entirely.

There’s no escaping the fact that you must create (valuable, interesting, useful) content for your business if you want to be seen and heard online.

But it doesn’t have to be a blog:

Maybe you don’t like writing, but you’re a total superstar in front of the camera and like the idea of creating informative and fun videos for your people.

Maybe you’re a design wizard and a visual thinker who wouldn’t mind trying their hand at creating quirky visuals, infographic and animations as a way of explaining complex information and ideas.

What if you could talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles? An audio series where you speak about the things you’re passionate about might be a great idea for you, or maybe you’d like to start interviewing people with something interesting to say about your industry, specialty or niche.

The message here is this: don’t feel like you need to lock yourself into one medium or a single set of rules for creating cool stuff online.

I don’t want that for you – and I know that’s not why you’re in business. If you really hate writing, even with a great plan and process in place, it will show up in your content and that won’t be doing you any favours. There are so many different and fun ways you can create informative, helpful, and valuable content for your audience, and if you want to be seen and heard online, you can’t afford not to.

So just pick one thing you think you could enjoy, develop a strategy and a plan for creating regularly (you can always modify it later), and be sure to align your content to your business goals.

So if you really hate writing, don’t do it – pick a medium you can have some fun, and start creating content today.