Language is wine upon the lips. – Virginia Woolf
Much of our writing in the digital age is made to be read in a flash. People’s attention spans are shorter than ever, and as such, our writing must swiftly grab attention! I personally am not a fan of the immense speed with which most people consume content in our era. It lends itself to shallow consumption, no time to digest, and impulsive “reactions” via social media and divisive comment threads. And yet, we cannot resist the times. As writers, we have to strike a balance between writing for today and writing with integrity. Whether you’re writing website content, a blog post to be used for attraction marketing, or pure creativity, your writing must stand out! Having written for editorial outlets, brands, and social media copy galore, I have come across a few formulas that help make the process of writing for a digital audience less daunting. Most people who want to write typically face blocks that keep them from pursuing it long-term or even starting in the first place. (Who can relate?) As a writer, you want to break past those barriers and write compelling content that stands out.
Whether you’re a new writer or would like to refresh your craft, below are a few tips on how to break past that sneaky barrier. I’ll expand upon these at Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds retreat Retreat for entrepreneurs.
1. Start by just starting
Perfect is the enemy of good (aphorism attributed to Voltaire), at least in your first draft. When starting out, the best thing you can do is begin – with literally anything! Writers’ block is often resistance to getting started rather than to the process of writing itself. Let your first draft be a messy “brain-dump” if necessary. All that matters is that you get something down on paper (or screen). Your draft will give you a roadmap. You may scrap most or all of it, but I guarantee that getting something from your head to the page will produce some magic, even if it’s just a line or idea of where you’re taking the piece.
2. Grammarly is your friend
Want to write but feel embarrassed that all of your grammatical knowledge is long forgotten? Enter Grammarly. This is available as a free tool or a paid-for plugin. It auto-checks your work for basic errors, but also offers suggestions for style and syntax. Not sure precisely where that comma should go? Let Grammarly catch it for you! When you remove some of the obstacles to writing well, you’re likely to want to write more.
3. Let your sense of humor shine
Things don’t have to be so serious! As Maya Angelou once said, people remember how you make them feel, not what you said. Make people laugh and they’ll want to read your writing! Don’t be afraid to make that quip, but at all costs, avoid cliches. Which leads us into…
4. Avoid cliches!
This one couldn’t be more important in an era when anyone and everyone fancies themselves a wordsmith. Avoid overused phrases and cliches. It’s ok if they slip into your drafts – more than ok, in fact. As you edit, replace those with your own original thoughts and analysis. If something reads like a cliche, kill it. The phrase “kill your darlings” exists as part of the writers’ unspoken “Holy Book” for a reason.
5. Take the time to research subject lines
The subject line is your hook – both for eyes and SEO! Take the time to research whether your subject is “competitive” and try, for the sake of balancing SEO and the needs of readers, to find something that falls under the category of moderately competitive. You don’t want your keyword to register at highest levels or you’ll be buried in search engines. There are many tools available in 2019, but you can use Google’s Keyword tool for free! It provides you all the info you need to know on whether your keywords and potential subject lines are low, moderate, or highly competitive. How will you choose? More on that in a future post, or on Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds Retreat, where we’ll discuss how to write compelling content.
6. Have an Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) in mind
To whom are you writing? This is the perfect opportunity to bring to life your ICA, aka ideal customer avatar. Writing to a screen is not always fun or inspiring. Imagine you’re writing to a person, instead. Having a target avatar can mean a fictional character or an actual human. This tool also helps if you’re feeling the writers’ block or are low on motivation. Imagine the friend who you share the juiciest, most thought-provoking conversations with. You might even call to mind someone you flirt with! If it’s marketing content, envision your ideal customer: his/her lifestyle, frustrations, questions, and needs from your product or service. It helps to imagine that you’re engaged in witty banter or a thoughtful conversation rather than typing on your work machine… you may be amazed at what you produce! When creating your avatar, you can even write about her/him/them. What do they like to wear? Where do they go on the weekends? What’s their favorite band or book? The more specific, the more you’ll feel it when you write to them – and your audience will relate.
7. Take your journal everywhere
I couldn’t emphasize this more. You may be familiar with a scenario that looks like: “Wow, I felt so inspired two hours ago at the park. Now that I’m home, I’ve completely forgotten what I wanted to write!” Carry a notebook to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes. You can also take notes on your phone, but writing by hand is more relaxing and has been proven beneficial to your health. Writing notes on your phone can also easily lead to getting lost in the world of social media, a time suck that is an enemy of the written word. Get into the habit of writing more often, even when it may seem trivial. This simple journaling trick will improve your creativity, and you may end up with a running list of blog ideas or topics to have on hand should that dreaded writers’ block strike.
Want to learn more tools and tips of the trade from content pro Kristina Headrick? Curious about how to write compelling content that stands out in the digital era? Want to do all of this… while on a Greek island? We’ve got you covered! Click here for more info on Shefari’s upcoming She Succeeds retreat. We’ll enjoy workshops from several boss-women, including a daily writing workshop.