Tag Archives: writing

The Blank Page

I’m sure that there are situations in your life, the mere thought of which are terrifying.  For some folks it’s public speaking.  For others it’s hosting a dinner party.  For many business people I know it’s facing a blank page.

Many authors have delivered quotes about that challenge.  Most of the good ones welcome the empty expanse of the blank canvas as an opportunity for personal growth.  Not so much business people.  They are making commerce, not art, and so there really are wrong answers.  A faulty business plan.  An unclear presentation that won’t deliver a sale.  Maybe even a blog post that means to be thoughtful but never quite hits the mark.  I face that vast wasteland every work day morning and here is what I’ve found with respect to navigating it.

First, try to get yourself into the recipient’s head.  If it’s a presentation, your focus is on the reason they’re seeing you, whether it’s at a conference or a one on one meeting.  If it’s a piece of writing such as this, what question are you answering or what enlightenment are you bringing?  Next, don’t get too caught up in the words as you write them.  You can’t edit what’s not on the page.  I know you all believe these screeds come out of my head fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus but there is a fair amount of editing involved.  Embrace the help others can bring.  Let them read drafts and ask them if anything is unclear.  Be sure you don’t ask the person who would totally understand it even if it was all over the place.  Maybe the receptionist?

Every blank page is a challenge, but the hard part isn’t in the creation.  It’s in having something to say that others will find worth their time.  Hopefully, this was worth yours!

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How I Write

I was speaking with someone last week about this blog. They were kind enough to ask about using some of the content and in the course of the conversation they said something to the effect of “I don’t know how you are able to write five days a week” so I thought that maybe I’d attempt to answer that question. As I do so I’m hoping it provide a little insight into some business thinking you can use.

The hardest part for me is finding a topic each day. I mean it’s not just what pops into my head but also is what pops in aomething that might be of interest to anyone other than me and, more importantly, does it have a broad enough business application to be relevant to you, the reader, no matter what your business might be. As I’ve written many times, it’s about your customer, not you.

As part of my daily routine I scan over 1,000 articles each day. I do this to stay on top of tech, marketing, social media, and other business and media trends because these are the topics with which my clients need help. That content ranges from the sort of stuff you might also pick up in “mainstream” media down to granular topics such as web analytic and SEM. These articles will generally provide a starting point.  You’ve read screeds on research, on things happening in social media, and marketing trends.  Most of those posts came from reading something that sparked a thought.

Sometimes (yesterday for example) something going on in my own life prompts a post.  We forget sometimes that our own narrow perspective may have application to other folks’ lives and as we were taught in education class you work from the known (what happened to me might have happened to you) to the unknown (what happened related to a broader business theme).  There are also posts that are just fun for me – Foodie Friday tends to be that way as was the TunesDay stuff I wrote about music each Tuesday.  Which brings up another point.

I stopped writing those posts because they were the least read.  I also have cut back on some of the research-related posts since they too tend to drive less readership.  Again, it’s about what interests you, not just me.  I don’t write about politics other than when something in the political sphere has non-political takeaways for us.  Why not?  Because inevitably one side or the other gets angry, justifiably or not, and might stop reading.

Finally, I keep an ongoing list of topics.  Links to articles, random thoughts, and even photos which prompt a thought are posted in a drafts folder as I go throughout my day.  When I’m ready to write that folder is my first stop. The hard part is making the point that came to me while telling a compelling story of some sort.  Then it becomes a matter of presenting it to you in a concise, clear manner.  Mechanically, I write in WordPress, I add an image, I proof twice, I check spelling, and I edit.

Since this is now about 100 words longer than my usual rant, I’ll stop here.  Hopefully you can apply that methodology to your business.  Look for things that might prompt a thought – new products, new platforms, new practices.  Consider them for a moment, hold them if they resonate, act on them when you can.  Any questions?

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Word Count Zero

Some days it’s a pretty easy thing to crank out three or four hundred words here in the screed.  Other days it’s a struggle and today is one of those days.  Oh sure, there is plenty of research to write about and a few stupid business tricks about which I’m aware, but I’ve noticed you guys tend not to read the research-oriented posts (there will be fewer) and the stupid stuff the businesses are doing isn’t really taking the idiocy to a new level.  So I’m kind of stuck here at word count zero.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s a good day to write about inspiration vs. preparation.  I try to be prepared by clipping articles I think might provide good fodder for the screed on those days when the inspirational spirit is weak.  The process is one that many businesses use in product development   Find something that’s interesting, add your own twist (hopefully making it better in the process) and market the heck out of it.  The articles I’ve got clipped are fine but my own twisted thoughts seem to be lacking.

Maybe it’s a good day to write about that there’s not a lot to write about.  Businesses seem to be in a rut – there’s a lot of more of the same but not a lot of innovation.  Perhaps that’s because we’re finally on a more sound economic footing and business is getting a chance to see what works in a more normal economic environment.

Maybe it’s a good day to wish one of my dearest friends a happy birthday and write about how the lessons I’ve learned from our relationship over the last 20 or so years have helped me be better at business.  Too many of us tend to think that personal and business behavior should be different.  Not me.   In part that’s because he’s helped me to understand that people who are nice to you in a restaurant (business) and nasty to the servers (personal) are going to turn on you as soon as they no longer think you can help them.  All too true.

Then again, maybe I’ll expand each of those thoughts later on.  In the meantime, we’re done here today unless you have something to add.  Do you?

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