Writing for your business is hard. If it weren’t, jobs like mine (a professional copywriter) wouldn’t exist. Writing and publishing your work comes with pressure, expectations, and fear.
Thoughts circling your mind right now probably include: what if no one reads it? What if everyone reads it? What if someone doesn’t like it and says so?
I get it. I’ve been there. Plucking up the courage to just start takes guts. But it’s so freeing when you do. Because all that uncertainty festers beneath the surface and stifles your creativity. You end up so tense there’s no way you can produce the scroll-stopping content you’re capable of.
Remember the Chinese proverb, ‘a journey of 1000 miles begins with one single step’.
The Ugly First Draft
Your ugly first draft is your brain dump. It’s your opportunity to get all your thoughts out. Purge them from you. I’m talking face-only-a-mother-could-love realness. Warts, fungus, bad breath. The whole package.
To begin with, the uglier the better. Do not delete, despite the very real temptation.
An ugly first draft relieves the unbearable pressure to produce something exceptional the first time we try. Women especially, are terrible at doing this. We hold ourselves to impossible standards as mothers, at work, and at home.
I guarantee you in there somewhere, hidden amongst the slime, gunge, and ectoplasm, is a good idea. It’s not always immediately apparent, but it’s there, waiting to be found.
It’ll need teasing out, refining, and shaping into something truly excellent – but that’s OK. Because your ugly first draft’s only purpose is to get you started.
Give it Space
I appreciate that what I’m about to say may be hard to hear. But once your ugly first draft is complete, give it space to breathe. Hours at a minimum, days if you have them.
Great ideas need space. When you give it time, extraordinary things happen.
That spark of a good idea will grow and come to life.
You don’t need to be actively thinking about what you’ve written. So, you’re free to deal with one of the other 743 things on your plate. But inspiration always strikes at the most inconvenient moment – usually, when you’re falling asleep (hello bedside notepad), in Asda, or somewhere really embarrassing, like a doctor’s appointment.
When inspiration strikes, take action there and then in a way that works for you – voice notes, notebooks, drawings, whatever. Don’t miss it. That right there is the start of your great idea. It will form the basis of your second draft – a whole different beast.
The Second Draft: It’s all about the edit
According to Stephen King: ‘To write is human. To edit, divine.’
Editing means different things to different people, but to me, it means rewriting, condensing, and beautifying. Taking the ugly first draft, dismantling it, and rebuilding it into something better than before. Sounds dramatic, but that’s how I get my best results.
Before you begin editing anything, there are three things you need to get straight in your mind and written on paper.
Why am I writing?
Focus your mind and your written piece by asking yourself:
- What is this content for?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What do I want the reader to know and think?
- What do I want the reader to feel (emotion fuels action after all)?
- What do I want the reader to do (what’s my call to action)
Who am I writing to?
As a business owner, you’ve likely researched ideal clients or buyer personas. Don’t make the common mistake of writing to everyone in your niche. Write to one persona, as if you’re having a conversation. Doing so affects your choice of language and tone of voice.
The temptation is to only talk about yourself and your products, or things you find interesting. But it’s never about you.
Flip your perspective. Talk about what’s going to interest your client. What questions do they have? What answers do they need? How is your brand relevant to their way of life? What makes you different from your competition?
Your second draft is about becoming your reader, understanding what makes them tick, and more importantly, click.
How can I get the most from this content?
Creating content is an investment of your time and energy. To get the most from it, it pays to think about how you intend to use your content during the creation stage.
Life likes to throw those little curveballs, so having a content bank ready for one of those days is a really handy tool in a business owner’s toolkit. Take a moment to brainstorm all the ways you might reuse or repurpose it.
Long-form blog posts are like hitting the content jackpot because there’s so much repurposing potential. I’m spitballing here, but one blog post could easily become:
- An infographic
- A slide-deck or downloadable
- A podcast episode
- A series of social media posts
- A series of shorter LinkedIn articles
- An excuse to email your list
- A starting point for some live content
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