Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just write it. Tips to make any kind of writing easier and better.

SIPAlert newsletter

Thursday, June 13, 2013; Vol. 4, Issue 91
The Write Stuff

On the value of good content in the industry…

When you don’t have time for writer's block
By Ronn Levine

Whether we are publishers, marketers, sales people or CEOs, we all probably have to write at some course of the week. And we often don’t have time to sit and ponder over the X’s and O’s—to borrow some sports terminology. In the best Nike tradition, we need to just write it.

John McPhee, the celebrated, Pulitzer prize-winning, non-fiction writer that I’ve mentioned before here, recently wrote in The New Yorker about writer’s block. As a longtime professor, he offered some advice:

“You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming….You are blocked, frustrated, in despair…What do you do? You write, ‘Dear Mother.’ And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than 30 inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the ‘Dear Mother’ and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear.”

In today’s society, it seems like “Keep the Bear” could become the new catchphrase for beating writer’s block. Another piece of advice for getting started is to just be direct. Here are a couple examples:

- In the SIPAward-winning blog, Thought Broadcast from The Carlat Psychiatry Report, Steve Balt, MD, started one post like this: “I have a confession to make. I don’t know what ‘bipolar disorder’ is. And as a psychiatrist, I’ll admit that’s rather embarrassing.” Modest, engaging and leads you in.

- Adestra keeps it simple and clear in their blog: “Email creation can be a fun and exciting process, with a lot of thought going into layout, content and copy. But how often do you consider the legal information that should be included in your email?”

- Here’s marketing copy from Dottie DeHart for a new book on gamification: “Just a few short years ago, business gamification was practically unheard of. Before 2010, barely anyone searched for the term on Google, and it’s still not in the dictionary. But that doesn’t mean you should say, ‘gamifi-what?’ and move on with your life.” Again not fancy, but it gets the job done.

At the SIPA 2013 Conference last week, Joe McCambley of The Wonderfactory, spoke about writing, content marketing and native advertising. “What makes bad content marketing?” he asked. “Trickery and subterfuge.” He went on to encourage SIPA members to write. “There’s a huge demand for content out there…The vast majority of advertisers need authentic storytellers to help. And that’s what all of you do. You just have to believe that and go for it.”

The advantage of having stories to tell is you don’t have to write fancifully. You know the subject. Astek was another SIPAward blog winner for posts like this by John Armstrong:

“It seems you’re on your way to a great blog post. You thought of a topic that your audience cares about – you’re inspired. You’ve chosen a keyword phrase that is popular yet has less competition. You’ve chosen a title that can be searched by bots and interesting to humans. Your questions about how to SEO a blog might be answered. Now you’re asking:
"Can I finally write something?
"Yes, but this SEO class isn’t over, son. Content needs to be duct-tape useful. That means very. It shouldn’t be written willy-nilly like a bad haiku…"

You can imagine that John just might have had a “Dear Mother” in there. “Dear, Mother, I’m working long hours, I’m appearing in funny videos, and now I have to write another blog post! Hey, I’m an SEO guy and lots of people may not know this stuff, so here goes. It seems you’re on your way to…”

Lose the mother. Keep the bear.



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