Intentional Blogging: How to Create Content with Purpose, Poise, & Passion
Have you ever felt drawn to something without knowing why? A pull towards something - an object, an activity, a person - that you couldn't explain? And when you followed that hunch, you discovered something brilliant?
That's exactly how I stumbled across Roy Peter Clark's book, "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer".
On a rainy October afternoon, I walked by one of my favorite bookstores and felt this little tug to go inside. I followed the hunch, went in, and then I felt drawn to a specific aisle. Within minutes I was holding Writing Tools in my hands and flipping through it. Then I was walking to the till to purchase it.
I’m only halfway through the book now, and it's already flipped my writing style on its head. I've always felt called to be a writer - way back to the days of submitting my short stories to contests at my local library, aged 10. But until reading this book I'd never really invested much into learning about writing or improving my writing skills.
Writing Tools, along with Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic, has given me so much more confidence in my writing — along with the kick-in-the-butt I needed to start a daily writing practice. I've been writing my little buns off, and I honestly feel like I'm getting better every day!
How do you feel about your writing skills? Do you worry your message is getting lost in the shuffle? Do you struggle to get your point across? Are you having trouble finding your "voice"?
9 tips to help you write with purpose and passion
#1. There are no "rules", only "tools".
Any writing advice you’re given is simply ideas and suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules. They’re "tools", and you can choose to use 'em or lose 'em. It's up to you. It's your writing.
This is Roy Peter Clark's first lesson in the book, and I love it. Sometimes, especially with blogging, it is totally okay to chuck grammar and punctuation "rules" out the window. Your goal is to convey your message in a way that makes sense to your readers and has flow, purpose, and cohesion. You're not writing an English essay!
If you want to use exclamation marks, do it!!! If you want to use #hashtags, go for it. There's no one stopping you. In fact, adding those little bits of flavor and "you-ness" will only make your blog stand out the sea of others.
Tip #2. Read, consume, learn.
If you want to improve your writing, READ. Read often. Read everything you can. It doesn't even have to be something within your niche. Expand your horizons.
If you write a health blog, try reading a pop culture magazine. If you write a beauty blog, check out an astrology book. If you feel a tug in your gut toward a certain topic or book, follow that tug. You'll learn something new that you wouldn't have known otherwise, and 9 times out of 10 it will be exactly what you needed at that point in time!
Tip #3. Write, write, write. every day.
Becoming a writer is simple: Start writing. This point was made in both Clarke and Gilbert's books, and although it’s beautifully simple, it's also slightly terrifying...
What if no one likes my writing? What if I try and fail? What if it's bloody terrible?
I know those thoughts intimately. Trust me, I do. But that's all they are - thoughts. Thoughts based in fear, I might add. These thoughts are your ego talking (ego being the very human and mortal part of you that holds you back from doing anything scary, intimidating, or potentially embarrassing).
You need to push past these thoughts and JUST. START. WRITING.
Write whenever, wherever, and whatever you can. Write blog posts. Write journal entries. Write short stories, poems, grocery lists, chapters for a novel, emails.
In Big Magic, Gilbert shares her mindset towards daily writing and I fell in love with it. She says to approach your writing knowing you're not going to publish everything you write. In fact, you don't have to share a single word with another soul if you don't want to. You're simply practicing. When a piece of writing shapes up beautifully, you might share it. Or you might not. It's your choice!
Start writing for the sake of writing, and forget the outcome.
P.S. If you're ready to embark on a journey of daily writing, check out this post from Trunked Creative on blogging every day for 100 days. Such a fun challenge!
Tip #4. Embrace your voice and quirks.
In my mind, the best part about blogging and content creation is the connection it creates.
Within minutes of publishing a new blog post, you’re chatting with your readers about it, getting their feedback, and answering questions. But some blog posts invite more two-way conversation than others, right?
Writing warmly, sincerely, and genuinely will take you so far as a blogger.
Again: It's not always about rules. Now, I'm not saying you should write poorly. That's not what I mean. Instead, I just want you to embrace your voice and inject your personality into your writing a bit more.
Write like you talk. Ask questions to keep your readers engaged and to encourage that two-way conversation.
Struggling to get your "voice" on paper? Try recording yourself talking about a certain topic for 5 minutes, and then listen back to the recording and pull out the gems.
Write them down exactly as you said them, then flesh things out, add a bit more detail if needed, and format the post in a way that makes sense. Voila — there's your new blog post!
TIP #5. Write what you love & enjoy.
The best blog posts are ones that come from a place of passion. Your readers will be able to tell if a blog post is forced. Feeling like you have to write about a certain topic is the fastest way to kill your inspiration and creativity.
I like to keep a running list of blog post ideas in a Google doc, and when it's time to write a new post, I look through the list and choose the topic I'm most excited to write about. This guarantees I'm always motivated to write, finish, and perfect the post.
Also remember that you don't have to follow blogging and business "trends". You only have to do what feels good and right to you.
Tip #6. Write first, edit second.
Or, as Hemingway ever so eloquently put it: "Write drunk; edit sober."
When writing, you have only one goal: To get your thoughts down on paper — in whatever shape, form, and order they come in.
Give yourself permission to write uninterrupted for as long as it takes to get your ideas out of your brain and onto the paper. Only once you've said everything you need to say should you pull out the red pen and start revising.
I actually prefer to write and edit my blog posts on separate days altogether. This helps me stay focused on the task at hand for as long as possible without forcing my brain to switch back and forth between different modes of thinking.
I now schedule an entire content creation DAY into my agenda each week. I’ll often devote entire 8-hour work day to creating. No filtering, no editing, no revising — just writing.
Tip #7. Trim the fat.
This tip from Roy Peter Clark has been the most profound and impactful on my writing. I have the tendency to throw extra words into my writing like confetti, but this only leads to indirect-ness and tons of fluff.
As per Roy Peter Clark, every paragraph should serve the larger purpose of getting your message across. Every sentence should add something valuable. Every. word. counts. Don't use ten words when two will do.
Now, don't worry about those "extra" words when you're writing and in the zone. But when it's time to edit - TRIM THAT FAT, GIRL!
Here are a few cuts to make, as per Roy Peter Clark:
Cut any passage that does not support your focus.
Cut the weakest quotations, anecdotes, and scenes to give greater power to the stronger.
- WRITING TOOLS, pg. 51
And specifically, what to target when cutting:
Adverbs that intensify rather than modify: just, certainly, entirely, extremely, exactly
Prepositional statements that repeat the obvious: in the story, in the article, in the movie
Abstract nouns that hide active verbs: consideration becomes considers; judgment becomes judges; observation becomes observes
Restatements: a sultry, humid afternoon
- WRITING TOOLS, pg. 52
Each of the above cuts has its own chapter in Clark's book, so be sure to pick up a copy for the full scoop.
Tip #8. Focus on serving your readers.
Just like every sentence and paragraph should support the main message of your post, every post should support your overall purpose of your business.
If you haven't already, take a few minutes to get clear on:
Who you're writing for
Why you're writing for them
What your big purpose is with your business and content
Once you're crystal clear on those things, only share content that supports your goals and larger purpose.
If you write something amazing that doesn't fit in with your mission and ideal reader, submit it as a guest post to another site where it does fit. Or leave it unpublished. It's up to you!
Tip #9. Use The 5 Question Method.
I go through the 5Q Method every single time I'm about to start writing a new blog post. I ask myself these same 5 questions, write out my answers, and BOOM - there's my entire outline for the blog post.
From there, writing the actual post is a breeze!
Not only will the 5Q Method speed up your content creation, it also ensures that your content...
Answers readers' questions
Engages readers from the get-go
Makes sense and flows nicely
Drives home your main points
Provides extra value to WOW your audience
Want to try out the 5Q Method for your next blog post? You'll be hooked from day one, I promise! Here's the post with all the details.
When all’s said and done...
Have fun with your writing!
These tips are meant to get your wheels turning and the ink flowing; again, they’re NOT hard-and-fast rules. They’re tools. Take what serves you and leave the rest.
Here are the nine tips again if you want to jot them down:
There are no rules, only tools
Read and consume constantly
Embrace your voice
Write what you love
Write first, edit second
Trim the fat
Serve your readers with each piece of content
Use the 5Q Method to engage and WOW your audience
Which tip from this list is your fave? Have any others to share with me and my readers? Spill the beans in a comment below!