Our recent Stephen King-inspired post about writing anything centered on one indispensable golden rule: Read and lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcuts.
Last time, the feeding of your head — reading anything and everything you can get your hands on (time permitting) — was the primary goal of the successful marketing writer. Again, it’s not nearly as sexy to most as the real work of writing, but it’s so necessary if you want to be a good and resourceful scribe.
Today’s post takes the opposite tack with a list of eight actionable writing tips — some unusual and others quite familiar — that will inspire you to become a better writer right now.
1. Write (almost) every day. Writing is a state of constant improvement. If you work at it, you’ll be better tomorrow than you are today.
Writing is much like any physical sport. The more swings you take to make contact, whether it’s a golf club, baseball bat or an imaginary audience of one (you), the better your writing will be. Period.
That said, be sure to take a day off to do no writing whatsoever. Why? Read on…
2. Write like you live in, and are informed by, people, places and culture in the real world. Be smart about it too. Yes, you may think it’s cool to say that you don’t watch TV or have time to keep up with the latest social trends. Just know that your writing will suffer to some degree if you don’t, at the very least, pay attention to the wonderful world around you.
For example, you don’t have to be a pop culture maven who knows the complete backstory of Game of Thrones. But, it’s good to know that the HBO series is an extremely popular fantasy soap opera involving trained dragons.
3. Don’t compare yourself or what you do with folks like Stephen King, or in the field of marketing writing superstars, Jay Baer, or you’ll never get anywhere. All of us marketers are part of the same clan. Some of us just took different paths — not necessarily better ones — that got them to more comfortable, prestigious places faster than others.
Owning your creative journey is taking the responsibility for looking forward and accepting new challenges. Comparing your status as a writing professional to more successful folks is like looking backward. Your career and life will suffer for it in the long run, too.
4. Do you want to be looked at as an accomplished writer or a serviceable one? Like Jon Greer, I prefer being the latter, focused on always improving my craft.
Back to rule number 1, writing is a constant exercise of improvement. I work on improving at least one aspect of my work every time I sit down to write, if not more.
5. Have you sat at your desk and wondered, “Why am I writing about this lousy, uninteresting topic that nobody wants to know anything about?” Arguably, there are very few “lousy, uninteresting topics.” There are, however, too many boring ways to write about them.
A great exercise to energize your marketing work when you’re having a hard time getting motivated: Ask yourself questions about what you want to accomplish. Then, take those answers you’ve discovered and use persuasive words to write about them.
For example, I love to describe a personal journey as one of discovery, implying there’s a voyage of the body and mind ahead. Whether it’s learning a new trick that makes someone’s life much easier or describing how to make homemade vanilla ice cream, constantly look for ways to make the reader’s discovery of facts to be as unique, interesting and fun as your own.
6. Do you know for whom you are writing? Knowing your target audience helps you understand not only what interests your clients or buyers, you’ll better appreciate their pain points.
Whether it’s a blog post on your own website or a brief two-sentence Facebook recap, it’s critical to engage your target audience, not enrage them.
7. Are you reading your blog post/white paper/marketing ad at least three times before sending it to your client for their approval?
The better question: Do you want your favorite client — the one who loves everything you do — to discover your mistakes after you sent them for his or her approval? Never give them that opportunity.
8. Are you having fun writing, and does it show in your work? Having fun means knowing your topic, if not being a subject matter expert, and taking the time on the front end to properly prepare.
The more time you spend on the prep side, the easier it will be for you to write that blog piece no matter what the topic may be. The prep work you do will be helpful when it comes to organizing that story too (is it just one piece or a series of them?).
Knowing your topic means not needing to guess about anything. In other words, you have the complete freedom to write a compelling piece with no hesitation, no concerns and no excuses.
Now, that’s fun.