how to Write inspiring Content
Many moons ago before ‘blogging’ existed if you wanted to get published you wrote ‘features’ and submitted them to magazines, after an eternity if you were lucky, you heard back from an Editor and then this was followed by proofs to edit and eventually a cheque.
Fast-forward to today and it seems that everyone is writing, but the principles of writing good content are fundamentally the same. My first published feature was about ‘Buying and Selling a House’ and I wrote it because after moving several times in a short space of time I felt I had gathered really useful information that I thought could be helpful to others.
Since then I have written numerous articles, books and posts; writing is part of my daily life, instinctively I want to share knowledge, and often I write because I feel passionately about the subject.
For many people there may be a hesitation, ‘What can I write?’ ‘Who would be interested?’ ‘Where do I start?’ We have so many opportunities to be creative, not just in writing non-fiction, but also fiction.
Many people have been inspired by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, a 12-week programme designed to encourage you to write three pages of longhand writing first thing in the morning, and in doing so unlock your creativity in whatever form. The main criteria is that these morning entries are written strictly off the top of your head, there is no set topic, but you may find that themes emerge.
The Pomodoro Technique® by Francesco Cirillo advocates splitting days into 25-minute ‘pomodoros’, during which you focus your mind on one particular task which is designed to make us far more productive.
Both techniques can help, but there are some other practical actions that you can take, in this context we are primarily thinking about non-fiction content:
This is one of the most important aspects of writing any content. It can really help to know who are your likely readers. You may have heard the expression, ‘Write for your tribe’ and this means that as you write you have a clear understanding in your mind of who may be reading the content. Think about the questions that they may be asking and how you can help by providing the answers. You and your audience may have a shared passion, or interest. You may have knowledge that you would like to share with others. Think of your writing as having a conversation with someone, be sincere, reassuring, and above all try and create a natural flow. Over time you can develop this further through a dialogue with your readers.
Recognise the need to structure the content differently for different mediums, social media posts, blogs, web content, print features, chapters in books, storyboards etc. all will have different requirements. There will be times when you need to be concise, accurate and informative and other times when you can be more descriptive and lyrical.
Increasingly a reader’s attention can be diverted by so many other demands for their time, try and help by including shorter paragraphs, bullet points, don’t be afraid to edit your content and make it more succinct.
It’s also important to understand SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) particularly when creating web content, think about your main topic and potential key phrases that would be associated with it. Make a note of these as you write your feature and make sure that this is covered within the body of the text. Different website themes / service providers have administration areas for you to add your SEO information such as your ‘Title’ and ‘Meta Description’. There are many guides online available to help you find out more, but make sure you add this into your blog posts as this will really help people to find you and your content.
Developing a theme
In this context we are talking about creating your own online content, before you start adding content it’s important to have created the overall branding for your website. As part of this process take time to review other websites, identify what you like and what you want to do differently. In a world where many templates create websites that can look the same, try and find ways of creating your own style. We explore this in more detail in our feature Creating Your Brand – Ten Ways To Be Memorable.
If you have knowledge and want to share it, this can be immensely helpful to others, importantly this doesn’t always have to be written. There are so many other mediums that can be used, videos, podcasts etc. Also think about how you structure the content, as mentioned above, consider the attention span of your audience when using different mediums, do you need to add text to support the spoken word, do you need to add transcripts for your listeners? Is it better to split the content into different posts, or videos? Know when to stop, share enough to pique people’s interest and encourage them to return.
Have a notebook or journal with you all the time, using technology to make notes can be useful, but the sheer physicality of writing can be very inspiring, use mind maps, post-its, story boards to build up your content. The more you write the more content will occur to you. You can also search for commissions, submit proposals and respond to requests. There are additional resources at the end of this feature full of suggestions to help you find your voice and activities to help you develop your writing.
Passion is infectious, if you hear someone talk about something that they love; it is very easy to share in their enthusiasm. If you feel passionate about something and want to share this passion, this can really shine through in your writing. Writing from the heart, sharing an experience will always encourage the reader to engage with your writing. If you can combine beautiful images with this it can make your content even more evocative. If you love photography this is a perfect way to combine two passions, but there are also sources of copyright free images. If you choose this route take care to find images that fit with your content. If you are sent images for inclusion in your content always include credits as appropriate.
As well as your own knowledge and passion about a subject you may want to research additional information and helpful advice; always include acknowledgements and full references, and most importantly avoid plagiarism. The more you write, the more you will develop your own style, you may have to adapt it for different audiences, but always apply your own original approach to a topic.
Developing a writer’s eye, means that you keenly observe things around you, many writers have ongoing conversations in their heads, writing and rewriting content when they are in the shower, or out walking. Fiction writers in particular often go for ‘plot walks’. Many travel writers share information about a local area together with reasons for visiting a particular location, e.g. ‘Ten reasons to visit Cornwall this summer’. The content is usually a mixture of what the writer has observed and information based on their own knowledge, or research.
Interviews are often a fascinating source of content, structuring the right questions is vitally important, using open-ended questions, for example starting with Why, When, Where, How, etc. will help in encouraging the interviewee’s responses to flow. Once they have agreed to be interviewed emailing the questions can allow the person time to consider their responses, although very busy people often prefer a conversation. Again accuracy and acknowledgement details are vitally important.
Being ‘In flow’
Every writer will experience times when they are ‘in flow’. It is really important to seize these moments and to capture your thoughts in whatever form is available to you. Many brilliant ideas have been captured on paper napkins, or scraps of paper. As mentioned above, always having a small notebook with you can help in capturing thoughts whenever they occur, use diagrams, mind-maps as your thoughts and ideas will often flow at speed.
Take care to save documents as you write, as words rarely occur in the same way twice. If you are suffering from a lack of creativity, it is often better to walk away and do something completely different. Our brains have a wonderful way of responding when we are distracted often when doing quite mundane tasks, or when taking exercise, like walking, or swimming.
It is important to keep refreshing your creativity, creating new content in any context can be difficult, try and find ways of reviving your creative energy, we discuss different ways of doing this in our feature Rediscovering Your Creativity. Stay in touch with other writers, share experiences and support.
Accurate and up-to-date
This is always a challenge for any writer, things change, new legislation comes into force, events are cancelled, postponed, always include a rider about accuracy, the need to check with the venue etc. However, one of the advantages of online content is that you can amend it, which is not as easily achieved with printed material.
Always proof your copy, not just once, but start from the end as well as the beginning, ask someone else that you trust to read it, not just for obvious errors, but for the flow, style, level of accessibility and general interest. Check your copy on all devices, if you are including web links (URLs) make sure they work.
If you would like to find out more, here are some further resources:
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal A Companion Volume to The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron, published by Hay House UK.
The Pomodoro Technique® The Life-Changing Time-Management System – Francesco Cirillo published by Virgin Books.
The Writer’s Eye – Observation and Inspiration for Creative Writers – Amy E Weldon published by Bloomsbury Academic.
The Writer’s Creative Workbook: Finding Your Voice, Embracing the Page – Joy Kenward published by Leaping Hare Press.