Earlier this week, my 19-month-old and I shared a sacred, homey moment with the local deer herd. It was a well-earned pause after over two weeks and over 2000 miles of travel.
As I watch, I’m rooted in the moment, but I’m filtering it all through my writer’s lens. Am I distracting myself from being in the moment by taking mental notes and adapting family stories to prove a professional point?
It’s my way of being in the world and I don’t think I could ever stop. In fact, I think this kind of dual awareness is essential to leading a writer’s life.
A blogger's confession: sometimes, I don’t want to write a story you’ll care about
To deal with my annoyance, I play with the metaphor. As I muse about what divides us from nature and the sheer pleasure of the present moment, I consider the scene from a dozen different angles.
But really, I just want to describe this moment. I want to dwell on how it’s my grandmother’s birthday, and though she’s been gone for over a decade, this feels like her blessing. I want to revel in the way my daughter’s hair looks like rose gold in the dawn light.
Truthfully, I want to forget about you, dear reader. I want to pretend I can't hear your ever-present question: “What’s in this story for me?”
I want to transmit the magic of this moment without concerning myself with how it’ll further your writing practice. I want to present the trust of that wild animal’s eyes and leave it you to run with the story on your own fleet hooves.
Thing is, I would never get around to writing such a sweet little vignette.
The Power - and Necessity - of Creative Constraint
Constraints give us a starting point and some building blocks to work with—a problem to solve, an innovative twist to be revealed, or a person to please. - David Sturt
Without constraints, you struggle to find a container or a framework that grounds your creative work. You need a venue, a deadline, and an audience with a set of expectations to get your ideas out into the world on a regular basis.
My weekly Sovereign Standard posts demand that I focus my “I could write about anything!” energy and actually publish something worthwhile each week.
I think if you’re given a clean, fresh palette, and you do whatever you want, it’s almost too much freedom, at least for me. - Damien Correll in Belle Beth Cooper’s article about how artists and entrepreneurs use limitation and restriction to create great things.
The business blog is an inherently restrictive platform. It has limits - thank goodness!
The delectable, reliable constraints of your biz blog
A business blog post needs certain elements to be successful. These characteristics are what differentiates it from a personal or “hobby” blog where you can write whatever you want. (Within reason… you still have to produce interesting, well-written content on a non-commercial blog.)
Each professional post must:
- Have a goal. You want your reader to do something at the end of each post based on your Call to Action (CTA). The whole post is leading your ideal client to take the next step and engage more deeply with your brand. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter, listen to the podcast you just appeared on, or call to set up a free introductory consult.
- Make the reader the hero. Even as you tell captivating, elevating stories - many of which may be inspired by your own experience - you need to consider how the reader is experiencing the narrative. Can she relate to what you’re talking about and understand how the story is a guide of what to do or what not to do?
- Know the value of attention. The job of each sentence is to get the reader to reach the next sentence. Don’t squander your reader’s precious time on extraneous details that don’t either draw her into your world or give her something useful to do or consider.
- Appeal to the skimming reader. Your blog is not a book, a term paper or your thesis, or a professional document. Don’t sacrifice your voice to imitate the style of UpWorthy or even Copyblogger, but remember that people are reading your work on an iPhone, not from a leather bound volume. Honor your reader’s splintered modern attention spans or prepare to lose her to the next shiny digital object.
What NOT to write about on your biz blog
You can’t abandon a regularly scheduled post that’s full of practical information about maintaining a strong marriage in order to simply rave about your romantic getaway.
You can’t skip the tips about managing your children’s difficult behavior just to describe how smoothly the first day of school went at your house.
You can’t rave about how delicious the gluten free blueberry cream cheese coffee cake you just made without including the recipe.
You wouldn’t post content like this on your business blog because it sounds like self-centered bragging, of course. Without the “news they can use” or the moral to the story, you’re likely wasting your reader's time.
Think about “what not to write” from the positive side: you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to offer the helpful content your readers love just because your muse wants to linger in the afterglow of a life well lived.
Get a room. Better yet, get a guest post spot.
But, when you find your story cup overfloweth and you want to explore ideas that don’t connect directly with your business, remember that there’s a whole other world of blogs out there that don’t demand that your writing leads to an obvious, income-boosting call to action.
People with passions for stories, readers who seek out beauty and inspiration… They’re out there, and they’d love to have you write for them.
If and when you do land a guest spot on a blog that focuses on travel, parenting, or cute fuzzy puppies, do remember to maintain your own Sovereign Standard and honor the advice you’ve picked up here!
Other lessons from the deer and the little girl who scared her away
There were countless ways I could have explored the metaphor of the window screen, the doe, and the toddler… which did I choose? Come read How to keep up when they’ve got the kind of beauty that moves.