writing for the web

Choose How to Use Your Power: 4 Ways to Create Great Written Content

Sovereign Standard, Issue 22MG_Header_w_biline_hires We live in an abundant universe and we are the ultimate authors of our lives.

That’s all fine and good, but you only have so much time to write your business’s stories and get that blogging done.

How are you going to use your power?

“Write this week’s post” or “update the website copy” are on your to do list. You've decided to apply your power to crafting your ideas into words and sharing them with people who want lives that are more beautiful, bearable, or bold. Yay!

Choose how to use your power: 4 ways to create great written contentAnd you intend to take the ideas from draft to final copy all by yourself because you love to write, you’re on a budget, or because you fear you’d sacrifice authenticity if you outsourced it… but is that the right choice? Is that how you really want to use your power?

As I write this, my five year old is trying to make the Eiffel Tower out of mostly dried up Play-Doh. I am only 95% sure that the markers my toddler is using to draw all over her t-shirt are washable.

My maternal powers are diluted and I'm sure every paragraph I write is riddled with typos.

But I am making it work. I choose to see myself as powerful - at least according to Michele Woodward’s definition.

“Power is the ability to get stuff done.”

This definition was a common refrain in a recent How She Really Does It podcast in which Michele and Koren Motekaitis put a positive spin on power. Yes, we all have the capacity to build and store power, but how are we going to use power in helpful, efficient ways?

Choose How to Use Your Power: 4 Different Ways Create Great Written Content

You’re on board with content marketing. You’ve been storing up stories and ideas for ages. Your website looks great and is waiting for the right copy and a consistent blog.

It’s time to channel your power and get this writing stuff done. How do you make that happen?

The answer isn’t necessarily simply “go write.”

1) Give it up: Outsource your content writing completely

You can fully empower a ghostwriter to do it all from topic research to writing to image selection to posting the piece.

When this works best: There are lots of news and information sources related to your field that a trusted writer can review and translate for your audience based on your company story. Early in my writing career I combed the medical research and did this sort of blogging for a nutritional supplement company.

When this doesn’t serve you: If you have a personal brand, it’s reliant on your voice and your stories. This hands-off approach doesn’t generally serve coaches, healers, or those who sell information and wisdom that stems from personal experience.

2) Team up: Partner with a writer

Develop a relationship with a writer who becomes part of your team. She’ll get to know you, your brand, and your vision and ask questions from an outside perspective that will help expand your vision of what you’ll have to offer. You’re part of the brainstorming process but she takes care of organizing all the ideas and making the words sing.

When this works best: You have a ton of big ideas and general concepts you want to share. Your business is strong enough that you can afford to invest in this process – good writers will require a lot of time and attention at the beginning as they endeavor to really understand you, your voice, and your brand.

When this doesn’t serve you: Even though you are very involved in the process and will be the instigator of every piece of writing, you’re a step removed from the process. Since you’ve both agreed that the writer would publish under your name and you paid for the service, the intellectual property is yours and the product is 100% yours. But, if you have a writer’s soul you may not feel that this option suits your needs.

3) Tune up: Hire a Writing Coach

When you work with a writing coach, it's your writing - only better. A writing coach will help you meet your editorial goals now and build skills that will take you far into the future. Plus, you'll have the insights that only a "second pair of eyes" can really offer. This makes you a better writer and it also helps you dig deeper into your own stories and wisdom.

When this works best: Writing doesn’t come all that easily to you, but you want to get better at it. Or maybe it's easy for you to fill "ideas" notebooks but you never make the time to turn that material into polished posts. You also worry that your writing style doesn’t lend itself to the needs of the skimming internet audience. No matter what, the stress over making it perfect kills the joy you find in the process.

Learn more about the writing coaching relationship.

When this doesn’t serve you: Your business is at a stage where you’re more focused on scaling your business and landing speaking gigs. You don’t harbor any dreams of being a writer and would be better served partnering with a writer who can translate your ideas into prose.

4) Train up: For the bootstrapper who has time to teach herself the craft

Writing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. There are loads of resources out there from Copyblogger’s free library and paid training programs to big old books on the subject like the Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly. I refer to both when I’ve written myself into a corner, I need inspiration, or I need help remembering that writing for the internet is more about selling than writing much of the time.

When this works best: You have more time than money to invest in sharpening your writing skills. You likely trust your writing skills enough and enjoy writing enough that you can follow a set of tips to tune your craft.

When this doesn’t serve you: Writing scares you and depletes you and you’re intimidated rather than energized by the DIY approach. You understand that consulting with an expert who is focused on your individuals needs and challenges will help you build your business and your writing skills faster and more efficiently.

How will you use your superpowers to get more of the vital work done?

I’ve been “the writer” in all these situations. Because every entrepreneur, creative, and healing professional has her own needs and superpowers, each writing approach is valid.

At this stage in my career, I see my clients experience the most personal growth and satisfaction when they go the writing coaching route. In addition to producing great content today, they’re preparing themselves to handle a marketing scene that will always demand good writing. And when it’s time to write that book? They’re ready.

How can I help you amplify your superpowers? Check out the services page.

How to Write for the Skimming Reader (and actually be ok with it)

Sovereign Standard, Issue 17MG_Header_w_biline_hires If you’re skimming this post, you’re “doing the internet” right. You’re granting this piece just enough attention to glean useful information. And, if it would be of interest to the people you wish to engage, you’ll share it with a brief comment that shows you’re paying attention to important things.

If, as a writer, I’ve done the internet right, you find it easy to breeze through these 1600 words. You get what you need, How to Write for the Skimming Reader (and actually be ok with it), and move on.

Headers help you navigate. Lists help to break the main ideas into bite sized portions. Bold passages show you when to pay attention.

How to Write for the Skimming Reader and actually be ok with itYes, there are technical points to master - they matter (find more steps on doing that below). But you know there's more to writing a post that people care about than "just make it skimmable.”

In order for something to read quickly and easily, you as the writer have to put in a heck of a lot of time and effort.

Does that sort of make you want to cry?

The internet really has changed how we read & think

You want to be available to your potential clients, customers, and readers, so you write content and post it online.

Even if their attention is scattered, it’s something, right?

The goal is to give people just enough in a blog post to engage their curiosity. Once you've intrigued them, they’ll invest their attention in a longer piece of your writing (a book either on their tablets or in print). When blogging is part of your content marketing strategy, you’re hoping that readers who got free content will soon spend money on your product or service.

You’re hoping that your readers have what Tufts University's Maryanne Wolf calls a “bi-literate brain.” They'll switch from a quick skim to an in-depth relationship with your work.

Professor Wolf researches the effects of this online skimming on our ability to read like we're "supposed to." Listen to this Note to Self podcast for assurance that you’re not alone if you feel like your brain works differently these days. Many are finding it hard to jump from speedy info consumption to contemplative, focused reading. (I'm just grateful I had to read Ulysses before the Web rewired my mind!)

In a Washington Post article, Wolf says:

We can’t turn back. We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both. We have to ask the question: What do we want to preserve?

Personally, I want to preserve that alchemical process of turning thought into written words that inspire a reader and change the world - even if many readers are just skipping through, looking for the quick news they can use.

How do you write when your reader's brain has been altered?

These sources don’t explore what it means to write with and for these new brains. As Note to Self says about what they found in the course of this episode:

It's another example of a phenomenon we see over and over again: If you feel like a device or any technology has messed with you, you might be onto something... way before any researcher can prove it.

The internet has messed with the way your readers engage with your content - now what?

[tweetthis]The internet has messed with the way your readers engage with your content - now what?[/tweetthis]

As a writer who lavishes her writing talents on screen-only material, this is how I cope with the reader who’s just skimming through:

  • Accept that blogging is a bit like Zen sand art
  • Write “good enough to be proud of” blog posts that meet my audience's expectations of an online reading experience

Blogging: an object lesson in impermanence

Zen garden of the Buddhist temple of Hosenin, in Ohara

Blogging is an ephemeral art - and I believe it can and even should be an art, not just a perfunctory advertising technique.

Writing for the internet is a lesson in accepting the impermanent nature of life. Even posts that go viral get shunted off the front page eventually.

I think we can go further to say that blogging is also a spiritual practice. After all, blogging teaches you how to resist attachment. You simply cannot expect specific outcomes and end up feeling successful.

A blog is part of the business long game. There’s no guarantee that any post will bring in a dime. If there is an ROI, it’ll be cumulative and hard to trace to this one bit of writing. Instead, each post builds a relationship and takes a potential client that much closer to trusting you with their investment.

Most of the gifts of blogging come through the practice…

  • The practice of writing each post gives you a chance to explore ideas as they occur to you. You can spend a few hours thinking deeply about how to communicate your thoughts into comprehensible messages. That sort of deep thought helps you maintain your bi-literate brain.
  • The practice of maintaining a blog and writing over time gives you the chance to examine how your visions has grown and changed. You are able understand the relationships between your ideas and develop them into something more lasting like a book or a program.

A blog post is impermanent and they're just skimming it anyway - does it have to be perfect?

One of the first lessons in living without attachment I ever learned: let go of perfection. (As a writer who gets paid for typo-free prose, this was a hard one for me.)

Perfectionism really does equal paralysis. It also is responsible for business writing that never gets done and countless client relationships that never had a chance to get started.

So, “chuck perfect” as Karen Brody says.

Instead, focus on consistently creating material that is just good enough to stake your professional reputation on. Not every post needs to be a magnum opus. (Though keep in mind: you just never know when a particular passage is going to be your all important first impression.)

5 Features of a Good Enough to Be Proud of Blog Post

  • Focused. The post is designed to convey one single, elegant idea. Take the pressure off yourself and the post itself by allowing it to perform a single simple task. Chances are, you can always get three posts out a single “ah ha!” moment. Dare to be brief or to go deep with one concept.
  • Well-written: The post is as close to typo free as you can get after three read throughs. People can look past a few errors, but consistent oopses will erode your credibility. If you’re killing yourself to catch the missed words and you stress over every potential there/their/they’re humiliation, retain me as your writing coach and editor.
  • Clear & organized: If your reader wants to skim, help them! Cut adjectives. Use small words and short sentences.Use headers that a clear rather than clever so your reader skip around as they please. Break ideas down into lists even if that offends your sensibilities as a “real” writer.
  • Story-driven: The post is framed by a story or uses storytelling to convey main ideas. You use stories to give readers a taste of who you are, but also to engage yourself in the process. Stories breathe life into information. Don't lose yourself (and the reader) in your autobiography, but do allow your personality to shine through.
  • Relevant: If the post is going to appear on your business blog, it has to relate to a product or service you offer or speak directly to the questions and concerns of your ideal client. Wrote a beautiful essay about seeing an eagle in flight or want to share your opinions on your favorite Netflix drama? That’s nice. Don’t blog it here. What you publish serves the mission of your business - to solve the problems of your customers and clients. If it doesn't, put it on your personal social media profile or submit it as a guest post someplace else.

But does it still hurt that you’re getting skimmed over?

Buddhist temple of Sanzenin in Ohara

No one has ever accused me of being particularly “zen” - at least not with a straight face. I strive to practice this non-attachment thing and ignore my stats and trust good content to make its own way (with some strategic social sharing, of course). Sometimes, however, it seems like we’re in a permanent state of imbalance - pouring all this exacting energy into writing something that people skim and consume rather than read.

People are turning to podcasting and YouTube for this very reason. I understand the attraction, but I still believe that it’s worth writing for your business - especially when you’re armed with the right mindset and understand that the rewards of writing may emerge far in the future.

Why it’s important to keep writing - and writing well - for the online readers

  • You’re smart and literate. There’s a great chance that your ideal clients and customers are too, If you like to write, the person who thinks you’re perfect probably likes to read. That’s a good enough place to start - even if they’re "just" skimming your blog.
  • Writing helps you think. It helps you discover new ideas and develop them from zygotic in the shower thoughts into big, beautiful visions that change lives.
  • Though the human brain was not designed to read and write, we’ve been doing it for over 5000 years. I’m going to side with tradition on this one and conclude that we won’t stop reading in just one or two technology drenched generations

I’d love to help you contribute to the perpetuation of the English language. Oh, and help you communicate your ideas to your audience too. Here’s how I can help you as your writing coach.