Writing better content

Hello lovely friends

I hope you are all coping in these strange times.

I have four days left at work before I go on leave for 6 months. Someone asked me if it was bad timing, but I feel like it’s a good time to be taking a break. It’s hard to concentrate on work and I have lots of projects that need some focussed attention.

My plans for the next six months includes:

  1. Doing more writing.
  2. Doing more exercise (walking every day and doing my back exercises every morning).
  3. Doing more cooking (this will depend on how the exercise plan pans out).
  4. Doing some minor renovations round the house (mainly painting things).
  5. Weeding the madly overgrown garden and getting ready for some spring planting.
  6. Sorting out lots of paper work.
  7. Revamping my blog and making a decision about whether to combine this blog with my other blog. (Any thoughts on this would be gratefully received).
  8. Learning some new skills. (I love learning but I’ve got a low boredom threshold so the course needs to move along quickly.)
  9. Reading all the books in my TBR (to be read) pile.
  10. In particular, reading the writing books that I’ve been accumulating for about 20 years.

Over the past week I’ve seen a plethora of free courses being offered so I’ve been madly signing up for things that interest me. These are mainly around content marketing and blogging. I’m getting heaps of emails every day reminding me to watch videos and do the associated course-work.

Typically, I’m not really doing a very good job of doing the actual work although yesterday I watched quite an interesting webinar on content writing that was offered by Copyblogger. Most of the content was familiar, but it’s always good to be reminded about what you are supposed to be doing.

So here are my key take-aways from the webinar.

  1. Don’t try to be a good writer. Instead focus on what your post is trying to say. You should have a clear message, so put your energy into working out what that message is. This is something that I really struggle with. I often don’t know what my message is until I’ve finished writing a few drafts. Sometimes the focus changes halfway through. I often chop the first paragraph off as it’s usually full of waffle.
  2. Don’t keep polishing your work, focus on getting it published. You don’t need it to be perfect.
  3. Write content that differentiates you. This one always makes me worry. I have no idea what differentiates my writing. Some people say it’s funny (I have a very dry sense of humour) but I’m not usually trying to be funny. I worry that I come across as too earnest some of the time. I don’t want to sound too much like a schoolteacher. I really just want to write honestly and from the heart.
  4. Don’t hide. Make sure that you have a picture of yourself on your blog. People like to know who you are. Make sure you write like a real person (see above).
  5. Remind people to subscribe and ask them to share your content. I never do this, so perhaps I should start.
  6. Bounce back quickly from mistakes. Make a checklist of your frequent errors and check your work before you publish. Examples might be using one particular word too often.
  7. Use a variety of content formats. If you are a writer, think about making a video or a podcast. I’ve thought about this but haven’t done it yet.
  8. Manage your time. Try to draft your work quickly so that you can spend time on editing and polishing.

There’s some good advice here for writers, bloggers and people making art or doing anything creative. You can spend a lot of time and energy fiddling around with the wrong thing, for example drafting and re-drafting the first sentence, only to chop it off before you hit publish.

You can worry too much about people liking you and your work, but in reality some people will like what you do and some won’t. You just need to accept this this is the way it works.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you like it, please share. (See point 5).

4 thoughts on “Writing better content

  1. Valorie Grace Hallinan says:

    Really good advice here. Margaret, why are you taking six months leave? Since we haven’t had a chance to correspond, I’m curious to know. Almost nowhere in the US could you take six months leave and still have your job back unless you are a tenured professor or high up in a corporation. I think it is wonderful for you!

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  2. Margaret says:

    I’m not high up in my organisation but we have very good long service leave provisions here in Australia, so I’m taking six months leave to explore some of the things I’ve been dreaming about doing for years. And since I have a permanent job (as a public servant) I can just go back to work in six months if I want to. I’m aware that this makes me a very lucky person.
    Do write soon!

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  3. ibcreader says:

    I found your summary of the webinar interesting and relevant. Since you ask, yes, you should combine your 2 blogs but you will also need to be aware of a) your topic/point and b) your audience. Putting up your blogs on FB make them easier to share and it is easier to read other people’s comments, which lead to people commenting on comments and that’s good. I often write articles in my head but they have no particular theme or focus so writing a blog would be pointless unless it was ‘ random thoughts on the universe’ or something. PS Lovely that you have an international correspondent (above).
    pps you see how easy it is to wander – I have 3 lots of ideas in the above para. I know because I taught this for years!!

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    • Margaret says:

      Thanks so much for your comments and feedback. As you know, I’ve always struggled with finding a focus for my writing, although writing on this blog is a little easier given that it has something of a broad theme. Also, hardly anyone reads it (except for a few wonderful friends and relations) so I feel like I can say whatever I like, which is very liberating. I seem to mostly write about my own struggles and I’m not sure that this is really of interest to anyone else.
      I am very resistant to the idea of having a strict theme and I dislike being constrained, but you’re right, if you just write about any old random thing, it just sounds disjointed.
      I think there is probably a middle path (if only I could work out what it was). I’m conscious that real writers can write about anything they like, but there’s usually a general theme to their work.
      So round and round I go, in ever decreasing circles.

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