The sort of blog posts, whitepapers, and articles that will attract and engage your business’s potential customers is often the result of a process.
Certainly there is a level of creativity in anything written. But for content marketing, that creativity is frequently akin to the work of a master builder carefully framing and finishing a house — one step at a time.
In general, the act of writing a blog post or article goes something like this:
- Brainstorm topics,
- Do some research,
- Find an interesting angle,
- Write a draft,
- Rewrite the draft,
Each writer will pass through these phases in a more-or-less systematic way. This process or workflow will vary not just from writer to writer, but also from article to article. Sometimes extensive research is needed. On other occasions, what’s required is rewriting and editing across a few revisions.
While much could be said about the writing process, in this post I’ll share five tips from my own experience as a writer. These tips (or habits or tendencies) I’ve developed from more than 24 years of journalism and (as of February 2020) more than 4,700 published, bylined articles.
Perhaps at least one of these tips will help you.
1. Listen and Read More
Listening and reading are the first acts of writing. They are the behaviors that will help you identify topics and angles.
Your listening and reading could take a few forms. For example, you might listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or even conversations in a meeting you’ve attended. You could read books, magazine articles, or tutorials.
Each of these sources adds to your knowledge and could help generate ideas for your next article.
As an example, I wrote an article in January 2020 that was the direct result of a conversation. The article was about the essential tasks of a new marketing manager.
A woman raised the issue in casual conversation. Her company had recently hired a new marketing manager, and she wondered why he wasn’t buying more advertising. The company wanted sales growth, but instead of investing in pay-per-click ads, the guy was asking a lot of questions.
Listening and taking part in the conversation helped me realize that many smart business folks, such as my female friend, don’t always understand the marketing process or its tasks.
2. Talk to Yourself
Recently, I “wrote” the beginning of an article about first-party logistics while I was driving.
I had selected the topic. I had exchanged emails with a couple of sources. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write. But just as I was starting the composition, I left to consult with a client.
I had about a 40-minute drive, so I spoke my article. I had run through the lede paragraph a few times when I came to a stoplight and quickly recorded it on my mobile phone.
Recording a paragraph or two is not the only time I talk or speak. I frequently read out loud, to myself, what I write.
Reading a draft out loud helps me catch grammar and word-choice errors. And it also helps me to communicate the ideas.
Try reading your next article like an actor might read a script. How do the words sound? How is the topic conveyed?
There is a memorable scene in the 2019 film “Ford v Ferrari.” The scene starts about eight minutes into the movie as the characters are introduced.
Actor Tracy Letts, who plays Henry Ford II, takes a commanding position over the Ford production line and orders production stopped. The machines whirl to silence.
“Here that?” Letts’ Henry Ford II says. “That’s the sound of the Ford Motor Company out of business.”
“In 1899 my grandfather, Henry ‘By God’ Ford, was walking home from Edison Illumination after working a double shift. He was ruminating. That morning he had himself an idea that changed the world.”
In the movie, Ford goes on to admonish his workers and set the theatrical stage for the story ahead. Watching it, I was moved by the word “ruminating.” It is the idea of thinking deeply about something. And it’s what I try to do for my writing and my other work.
For example, I ruminated about these five tips while I was shopping at Albertson’s, a local grocery store. To the casual onlooker, I was walking the aisles buying bottled water, vegetables, and a couple of Amy’s frozen meals. But inside, I was thinking about what makes it possible for me to write.
Try ruminating about your articles.
4. When in Doubt, Type
Don’t ruminate forever. Thinking deeply about your topic is essential, but it has to come to an end. At some point, you need to start writing.
There have been many times when I have been stuck — unsure of how to address a topic. The solution evolved as I started to write.
For me, that means opening a new Google Doc, giving the article a working title, and starting to type. Sometimes I end up with something different than I first intended. But it was the act of writing, of forcing my fingers to strike the keys, that helped me gain the necessary momentum.
5. Move On
My fifth and final tip is to move on. Just let go.
Writing a revision or two for each of your content marketing articles is a good practice. But perfection, in my experience, is unreachable. So I often force myself to stop rewriting and move on.
Moving on can produce a sense of completion. It allows you to create more content overall.