The Reluctant Writer

My mom has been telling me my whole life that I should write. I don’t like listening to my mom, however I will say she is right about things more often then I would like to admit. I was taking stock today and thinking about all the writing I do. I write for four blogs at present, and I write documents, emails, social media posts and more for work. I actually write more than I don’t write these days. How did this happen?

I liked writing stories and journaling as a kid. English class was always where I did my best  work surprising myself at times. And then, somehow I ended up as a English major. But in recent years I have found myself a little shy when it comes to putting my writing out there for the world.

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You may laugh about the image above, but I have to tell you this exact thing happened to me. A few years ago I mistakenly used “you’re” instead of “your” in a comment on friend’s Facebook post. I know the difference; I’m also human. Would you believe me if I told you that a stranger, a friend of my friend, somebody I don’t know at all, felt the need to point out my error and smugly inform me on the correction in a comment below my comment. Wow. I was blown away. We all see people make grammatical errors and we may correct them because it is our job, because we are helping someone edit, or because we just noticed they overlooked something and we want to be helpful. But where is the value in pointing it out just to prove we are smarter?

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The good news is despite my fear of the Grammar Police I power through. I choose to express myself, to refine my understanding of the rules, and to try and add value with the content I create.  It was my mom who gave me the book Writing Down the Bones; I think I was 17 or 18 the first time I read that book and much of it has stuck with me. The book offers many simple but powerful tips: keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper (or on your macbook), doubt is torture; don’t listen to it.

Yesterday I came across this which I found terribly refreshing. The article points out that so many “rules” are actually matters of style. What I take away from all this is that to be a better writer the best thing one can do is keep writing.

More Reading

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers

The Content Conundrum

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For the last seven months I have been working as a social media strategist and I have been deep diving into the experience. Whenever starting something new, I go all in.  I am following influencers, reading blogs, and attending courses and webinars, all in the attempt to be better. Working with social media isn’t completely new to me. When I started my eCommerce business six years ago I was quick to realize I should be using tools like Facebook and Twitter. I remember when I asked my graphic designer to add the icons for Facebook and Twitter to my website, it was an out of the ordinary request, something he wasn’t really doing for clients. Fast-forward to today and I don’t know if anyone designs a website without including or suggesting links to social sites.

But even with a strong background in social media for business, it can be challenging to garner attention and make an impact with ones activities in the social spaces. Everyone is on Twitter now, it’s a busy place, and people are not there hanging on your every tweet, unless you have something exceptional to say, or your Lady Gaga. With so many businesses on the social channels today, there is an inherent challenge to figure out what to do with these channels.  How do we capture peoples attention, imaginations, hearts? What should we be posting? Where do we find materials to post and share? Is this content we are sharing with the world interesting and engaging? Does it reflect well on, and reinforce our brand?

My immersion into the world of social media for business has resulted in me challenging myself to not be only a consumer, and spreader of content, but to be a content creator. What does that even mean? It means not just liking and sharing videos, memes and links from all over the web, but generating and developing items that have value to people, and are worthy of sharing. Content could be writing, photos, video, blog posts, tutorials, anything you create that someone else might want to consume.

Not only are individuals developing content, but most savvy marketers are developing content. Quality content is what brings visitors to your website or blog or leads them to follow you on Twitter. Developing content and dispersing it all falls under the umbrella of what is called a business’s content strategy; content is king. Content marketing is key to the whole concept of inbound marketing which involves pulling people toward your product or service with resources that are valuable to them. If you are still wondering about content marketing, you could read this recent post from HootSuite: What is content marketing anyway?

Producing content today is easier than ever. We have apps, easy to use platforms like WordPress, and most of us carry a video camera in our pocket. Because it is so easy, content creation has become pervasive, and not all of it is good.  Anyone can search a topic and then share links and articles to their their social channels. We can all broadcast original video on YouTube within minutes.  The whole process of creating and sharing content has become a little watered down. Jay Baer, a well recognized content strategist says:

“Some content being produced today is smart, inspirational, effective and downright fantastic. More of it is the exact opposite, the worst kind of ready, fire, aim flotsam and jetsam that the digital realm produces in spades”.

Because of the sheer volume of new content being developed now, it is inevitable that the game is going to change. Companies like Google that make it their business to order the web, and organize information have made content and context more important. These days there is a lot of talk about the current Google algorithm, Hummingbird, and the growing importance of content and context in search engine optimization.

So what is the future of content going to look like? I like this quote that I came across this month:

There are small ways that I have been challenging myself to be more of a content creator. I never showed much talent when it came to art in school but I like to think I have become more creative in the digital world.  I have started using Vine, Instagram and Snapchat, not because I have so much free time to spend with more apps, but because I want to understand them better.  I have created two Storify stories, A Story About Clouds and another about hashtags, Love or Hate the Hashtag?. I have dabbled in some video editing in the last year and I am playing with photo apps that transform my shots into little works of art like the photo below. While these may not all be masterpieces, they are exercises in content development.

my photo of Chichen Itza with a treatment by the app WordFoto

my photo of Chichen Itza with a treatment by the app WordFoto

Blogging is one more means to becoming a better content creator, forcing me to focus, synthesize my ideas and  become a better writer.  One of my biggest fears in all of this is that someone will see I have a comma out of place, or will think I am out to lunch with one idea or another. I think in order to be better content creators, writers, artists, whatever we have to flex our creative muscles.  If you want to become a content creator, fear needs to get tossed out the window…NOW! If your concern is that you might make mistakes on your professional blog or  Instagram account, my recommendation is that you maintain a separate one, a incognito one where you can experiment, test your theories and refine your technique.  I recently read this piece from Search Engine Journal, Got Writer’s Block? Content Marketing Fatigue? 5 Ways to Break Through .

“The pure effort of writing is hard enough, but coupled with the pain of putting your work out into the world and letting others judge it, this can be enough to stop you from getting started at all. The trick to overcoming this isn’t easy, but it’s surprisingly effective: give yourself permission to write badly, and just start.”

I am going to say this idea can be extended to a lot of things. If your new to Twitter, give yourself permission to tweet badly;  the only way to ‘get it’ is to do it.

What kind of things are you doing to be a content creator? Are you driving new business with your content? I would love you hear about your successes.