Whether you’re sitting down to write about the value of your services, your organization’s perspective on a critical business issue, or what you had for lunch, there’s a dirty secret about writing. Nobody really enjoys doing it.
“I hate writing. I love having written,” agrees one oft-repeated quotation, which has frequently been attributed to Dorothy Parker. Anyone who’s faced the daunting task of putting down words on any subject can probably relate. Factor in the challenge of writing about something as important as your own business and the mixture of uncertainty and dread too often leads to the horror of a blank page.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best person qualified to write about your area of expertise – the struggle to start writing is real. In the moment, finishing a backlog of work, reorganizing the kitchen, or thumbing through social media are all preferable to the prospect of writing about your business. But the blank page standing between you and your content marketing will still be waiting.
If you have trouble getting started with writing, it’s probably not an issue of not knowing what to say – it’s knowing where to start. While writer’s block is a natural affliction, it’s far from terminal. With a few strategies, you can overcome the self-inflicted obstacles that plague every writer.
But the most important tip is to always defer to the experts. And, when it comes to understanding your business, that person is you.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block and Quiet Your Inner Perfectionist
Whether you’re creating content marketing or the great American novel, your first step is the same: Grab your audience’s attention early. If your words don’t speak to your readers in a way that captures their interest, they won’t follow you to the next paragraph, much less a contact form. So, no pressure, right?
Needless to say, if you sit down to write with the expectation of finding the perfect first sentence, you’ll be waiting a long time. This false expectation, a sense that every article comes together chronologically in a bolt of inspiration, is how writer’s block takes hold.
If you’re facing a deadline, you must first accept that perfection – an article that spikes site traffic, converts each prospect, and impresses your peers – doesn’t exist. No question, your content marketing can and will do all three of these things. But if you try and start writing with those goals in mind, you’ll never lift a finger under all that weight.
Instead of starting with the goal of creating an article that does everything, focus on writing that does something. The perfect article within your imagination may satisfy all your business goals. But pretty good ones do too.
Knowing Where to Start: The Phone Call Test
When looking for the best way to begin writing about a topic, you need to start with what’s most important. But if you’re covering a complex subject, you may struggle to find the one, critical detail that sets the stage. If you can’t settle on how to begin, try the phone call test.
The phone call test is an easy way to uncover the most important point you need to make in your writing. No matter which part of your business that’s the focus of your marketing strategy, your perspective hinges upon a pivotal point. But what if, in the moment, everything seems important?
That’s when you imagine calling someone you know to tell them about it. Does your brother-spouse-nephew-mailman have no idea what you do? Even better. Think about what you would tell them first if you were calling on your way home. That one point, the first thing you would say and maybe even how you would say it, is your most important detail. Start writing from there. What you find may not be a fully formed beginning, but it’s a start. And that’s what you need most at this point.
Consider Your Audience’s Most Pressing Questions
Imagining how you might captivate a prospective client is just one potential way to get started on your article. Another is drawing from real-life experience.
Think about some of the conversations you’ve had with potential clients. What questions seem to always come up? And what approach did you take to address them? Considering how you explain your business and its value to prospects both spurs writing ideas and provides a proven framework for your article. Once you’re speaking to what your audience needs, their attention is sure to follow.
The Healing Power of Doing Your Worst
Most all writers have to dig deep to find opening ideas and sentences in the early stages of a project. However, if you really want to fill the howling silence of the blank page, the greatest cure is to start filling it. And sometimes, that can only happen through the most terrible sentences you can imagine.
When writing about your business, there’s only one thing worse than not writing anything at all. For anyone whose success hinges upon communicating what matters to them, the worst-case scenario is coming up with something awful.
The fear of writing poorly is the foundation for every prison of writer’s block. Faced with the prospect of completing an article and sounding terrible, who wouldn’t prefer to tackle everything else on their to-do list? A blank page may be a failure, but at least it still has potential.
Ultimately, you are the best qualified person to write about this subject. Sometimes, to beat writer’s block, you have to welcome the worst-case scenario. After all, no one’s looking – not yet. So instead of agonizing over the best way to describe what your business has to offer, start by reaching for the worst.
Write in a way you’re sure would put any reasonable person asleep, or using a sentence structure unseen in polite society. Or, gather all the jargon in your industry and see how much you can fit into a paragraph before the police arrive. The idea isn’t to undermine your offerings; it’s more to disable your inevitable, fruitless search for perfection.
From there, look at what you’ve made. Laugh, maybe burn some sage and recognize you wrote something awful and the ceiling didn’t cave in. Then, once you’ve cleared out your bad ideas, there’s room for the better ones to follow. Or, with a few tweaks, maybe that terrible first draft wasn’t so bad after all.
From the Beginning and Beyond, Writing Is Revising
Too often, great article ideas that will fuel your content marketing will cross your mind only to be dismissed for not being “enough.” While that may be true, you can only really decide once you’ve granted them the space to lie there ugly on the page. The fact is, your articles don’t always start at the beginning – but they always need to start.
Once you’ve gotten a few sentences or even paragraphs down that feel promising, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Maybe call upon your friend or colleague from that imaginary phone call to see whether you’re on the right track. Or, set your draft aside for a day or two so you can review where your article started with fresh eyes. Sometimes, once you’ve hurdled writer’s block, your mind will return refreshed and ready to refine your earliest ideas that suddenly, somehow, aren’t so bad after all.
But at this point your writing ideas are moving forward rather than being trapped inside a block of your own making. From there, just as with everything in your business, the trick is to keep moving.