Here’s the thing about strategically creating written content for the internet:
When you’re working to increase your visibility, share your expertise, and give your people ideas and insights that are valuable, you’ve gotta push through some personal barriers.
Specifically, you have to learn how to break through those “uninspired moments” when you just don’t wanna write.
We all have those days. But if you want to keep creating content, you have to teach yourself to bust through that resistance. Writing habitually takes work – real work – as does keeping up with your own editorial goals.
It’s not that moments of inspiration won’t visit you ever again. But if you spend all your time waiting for things to be “just right”, or something to click before beginning, you’re going to be left hanging 90% of the time.
Add to that the hard truth that “waiting to be inspired” is one of the most accepted forms of procrastination out there, and you start to realize: the only one holding you back from starting… is you.
Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s not that feeling crazy inspired is a bad thing. It’s just a rare thing – and a thing you can’t sit and cross your fingers for when you’re facing that blank Word doc or WordPress post.
Another struggle that keeps creatives from starting is the constant cycle of stressing themselves out before they even begin:
“This idea isn’t good enough. People will hate it.”
“This angle has been done a million times. I can’t add to the echochamber.”
“I don’t know what to say or how to say it. *Insert expletive of choice* my life.”
And more often than not, it stops them in their tracks.
But you know what? It’s normal. It happens to the best of us – even those of us who write for a living. (Hi!)
The reality is though, content creation is not about waiting to be inspired, or get bonked on the head with a good idea.
If you want to write, consistently and persistently, you don’t need a moment of inspiration. You need a plan.
A plan in place won’t just help your writing. It’ll help you keep all your ideas in one spot, and put you on a schedule. That way, when the time is right to get your fingers moving on the keyboard, you can keep making massive strides in your content in a much less stressful manner.
With this plan and its 4 steps in place, you’ll be able to stop waiting, and just start writing already.
Here’s exactly how you do it:
Step 1: Make a promise to write about things that excite you – and start keeping track of those ideas.
Pay attention to what gets you going, and the industry-centric ideas that keep popping up in your head.
When I say excited, I’m not just talking about “waiting for the Beyonce concert to to start” excited. Excitement can be tied to negative emotions too.
Check in with yourself. What do you love about your particular industry? What do you hate? What do you want to see change? What gets you riled up?
Make sure you keep a running file of these concepts; whether it’s in your journal, on your calendar, or in a Notes app on your smartphone. Be sure to add to them whenever, and wherever inspiration strikes.
Why? Because concepts that get you amped up will keep you amped up to write and create content for your people. Giving yourself time to mull over concepts will also give you time to refine your ideas, and dive into some perspectives that are a pleasure to write about and share.
That = mega value for your people, and mega fun for you. It keeps you motivated, and also focused on the stuff that matters most.
Step 2: Have your takeaways ready before you start
Now you’ve got your list of awesome ideas, it’s important to also make notes of what you want people to walk away with.
Content marketing 101 tells us everything we share should offer value of some kind, whether that’s…
- Helping your peeps see things in a new light
- Offering them action steps they can take to change or enhance their current state of being
- Giving them jumping-off-point ideas they can put to work in their own content or line of expertise
So, in your same notes doc where you write down topics you’re excited about, be sure to add the takeaway just underneath each idea.
For example, I wrote a piece for Crew.co all about sameness on the internet, entitled: Content is King, and other reasons why you shouldn’t write online. (The link will take ya to the post on my own blog.)
I decided to put the piece together because I was sick of the echochamber of content marketing on the internet. It’s a mess of people talking about the same things, in the same way, to play it safe.
So, my takeaway for that piece? Helping people pin down exactly what makes a piece “unique” and what makes an idea worth writing about.
The piece went on to do crazy well on Medium, via Crew’s site, and on my own blog. It got other people talking, agreeing, and even (occasionally) hating – which means it made people think, it made them act, and hopefully do things a little differently…. All because I paid attention to what bugged me, had all my idea ducks in a row before I started writing, and made sure I offered a takeaway.
Step 3: Know how you’re going to start and end each post
Yep, you knew this one was coming: when it comes to planning your content, and just start writing, outlines are your friend.
Mind you, this doesn’t have to be a complicated process. It can just be a few notes with bullet points. For example, here’s my super brief outline for this post:
How to just start writing (even if you really don’t want to):
Intro: A lot of creatives have trouble starting their writing, or any project. They run into the struggle of psyching themselves out at the starting line; worrying their ideas aren’t good, or being unsure what angle to take with a piece. I want this article to essentially give them a 4-step “checklist” that will give them a game plan, and permission to begin.
Body: Four steps to prepare to put a piece out there, so they know they can get started with confidence every time:
- Save every idea that gets them excited
- Have their takeaways ready
- Outline how they want to start and end the post. Then they can just get moving!
- Make a content calendar
Conclusion: (no spoilers!)
While some people get intimidated at the prospect of mapping out each post, writing these ideas down cements them in your brain, and helps you figure out exactly what you want to say around each body point, intro, and conclusion.
Psst: I’ve got a gift to make the whole outline process easier, instantly. You can grab access at the end of this post!
Step 4: Make a content calendar
I know, I know. It sounds like a huge pain in the butt to stare at your calendar for the next 6 months to a year, and decide what you want to write about so far ahead of time. But it will help you immensely.
You don’t have to plan for the full year right away, either. For today, for example, you can just plan out the next 3 months. One post every 2 weeks, for 6 posts in total.
Totally doable, right?
To make it easier, consider working on a 3+-part series talking about a topic that really lights you up, like industry trends, or stories from yourself or your clients, or experiences you’ve had in your own work that you want to share with people.
Making a content calendar also gives you the big D: deadlines. When you give yourself a cutoff, you’re more likely to sit down and plan out exactly how you’re going to smash your due date
Need a little extra push? I’ve got something for ya.
I know outlines can be tough. Planning articles can be tough, too. So I’ve whipped up a little something to help you along.
Specifically, my Blog post Outline Guide. You can check it out right here!
This is the exact outline I use for my clients every day in my business, to help them get their ideas straight, and give me everything I need to bang out their post in record time.
It’s in-depth. It’ll make help you see the whole picture. And it works.
Feel free to stop in and copy-paste it into a new doc for your next piece. See how much it helps!
And remember: what you enjoy writing about matters. So don’t psyche yourself out. Just start.
If you get caught up in the cycle of waiting for inspiration, or worrying what people might like, why, or why not, you’re going to find yourself rooted to your desk staring at a blank page for weeks.
But if you give yourself time to marinate, pull your ideas together, and fill in the blanks steadily over time? You create better work for the world that makes an impact.
So get started. Push yourself to get serious about your content by giving yourself the space to get prepared.
And remember: there’s no reason to wait.
You have my permission to begin.