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"I’d Like To Blog, But I Just Can’t Write"

You wouldn’t believe how often I hear statements like this. And from intelligent, engaging and interesting people. People who are professional and well-spoken.

Without a doubt we fear writing. But why? I’ve thought about this questions a bunch over the years. But seldom have I considered writing about it until the lovely April Groves left a comment on my post 3 Easy Steps to Creating a Web-based Business yesterday.

In 3 Easy Steps, I (and Matt Cutts) suggested that the second step to creating a successful online business is to start a blog. Why? Because it helps you engage directly with your target audience. It’s also the easiest way to begin driving traffic to your site and, hence, have the opportunity to grow your business. Here’s what April said:

I completely agree ‘but, I’ll tell you’ When I present the blogging idea to people I know, the writing aspect scares most of them to death. I hear ‘But I can’t write’ more times than I can count. My best counsel is for them to try writing the way they talk. It goes right to the heart of authentic. But, if you have other coaching suggestions to this block, I’d be all ears.

So why do we fear writing so much?

What I find most interesting is how the belief that we ‘can’t write’ is completely and utterly made up. At best, it’s something we took away from our junior high or high school education. Really, the idea we can’t write is thrust upon us because it just happens to be the opinion of our teachers. It’s not ours – unless we believe it.
But are they right? And can it change?

No, they’re not right. And yes, it can change.

I was one of those students who couldn’t write – so said my teachers. While I excelled at science and math, I could never write. Or at least that’s what I was told. And when I look back, they may have been right – at the time. But it certainly didn’t help to be told I couldn’t write each time I got a paper back.

And yet I sit here today with hundreds of blog posts – the great majority of which are written well enough that hundreds of people like you have wanted to engage me in conversation. Each of those posts has brought some value to people’s lives, their blogging and their business. And I don’t care whether I follow traditional writing methods. I care about communicating with you. So as long as I can do that, I know, without a doubt, that I can write.

So what’s the difference between what I’m writing today and what I was doing in school – other than a few decades of life experience, focus and a bit more maturity?

I think it’s relaxing and letting go of how I was taught to write. Forget the 5 paragraph model. Forget sentence structure and grammar (for the most part) and just write. Just get the words out from your mind. Let them move through your arms and dance you fingers on the keyboard just like they move up from your throat to create symphony between the tongue, larynx and lips when you speak (okay, so I went a little overboard). The point is – let go, and just write.

And for God’s sake, forget that you were ever told you can’t write. Because you can! With the blog – if you can speak, if you can communicate thoughts and ideas, you can write. And you can certainly blog.

I agree with April – write like you speak. Think about writing as a conversation and write that way. All of us can speak at least well enough to be understood in a conversation. So treat blogging like it’s a conversation. And remember that you, the blogger, get to start each conversation, you get to choose the topic and the way of looking at the topic. Then, invite the world to respond.

People care much more about what you want to communicate, what you want to share and how valuable it is to them then they do having beautiful, flowing prose. If you can write like that (communicatrix, I’m thinking of you), great. But if not, just ‘talk’ with people through your keyboard. They’ll learn far more about who you are, how you see things and how you can help them with their problems.

And that’s what leads to sales.

So what do you think…can you write (you should know the answer by now)? What was the biggest thing that you feel hurt your confidence in your writing? And how did you overcome it? I’d love to hear…and so would the people April talks with.

Business Owners…Try Making It A Conversation

People want to do business with people – not businesses.

conversation.jpgA few business owners seem to get this. But don’t seem to get it, though. It makes me wonder how business owners see themselves relating to their target audience.

Perhaps that’s the first mistake…target audience. What image do you create when you hear the term target audience? For me, I’m looking off the deck of a boat at an expansive sea whose swells ebb and flow. What I don’t see are the individual drops of water that make up the sea. In other words, I don’t see the individual people in the term target audience. I can’t imagine I’m alone.

Most marketing copy I read today does one of two things: It either tells me all about what ‘you can do for me;’ or it tries to make me identify the problems I face. Both work to some degree. The former by being straight forward in what we offer. The latter perhaps more so by getting me to feel that you understand me and my problems and, thus, can help me solve them. Yet I think they both miss the boat.

Why? Well, neither are really about having a conversation. When you just tell me about your business, there’s no room for me because it’s all about you. And when you make it about me and the problems I face, it’s still from your perspective. You’re not there, in it, with me. And if you were once where I am, it’s difficult to recapture the difficulties I face when you’re no longer in them.

I think that’s what Colleen Wainwright, the Communicatrix (gosh, I can’t help by love that name), was getting too when she wrote this comment on a recent blog post of mine around having the conversation with your niche.

Most of the time, people are thinking about what they want to say, rather than the people they're going to say it to. You can't possibly have a conversation with your customers (or anyone else, for that matter) over the sound of the projector running, if you catch my drift.

And that seems to be the crux of most marketing content I see today. Not all, but most. Business owners seem to spend more time being concerned about what they want to get across to people than they do considering what people want to hear. Yet giving them what they want and need is the key to being successful.

So how do you do that? Make it a conversation. Instead of being so concerned with getting all the right content so gingerly placed so perfectly on the page, engage in a conversation. When you write copy, think about it like you’re sitting down with someone referred to you from a friend. First, listen to them. Figure out what they need. Then speak (or write). But do so as you would in a verbal conversation by adding to it, not trying to turn it into something you want.

You may be the expert on your topic and the referral may be coming to you. But they want to feel honored, cared for and listened too. They want their opinions to matter. And they want to know that what they know has value and merit.

Just remember, your target audience is made up of individuals. Engage them as such and you’ll be doing business with people instead of a trying to reach a marketing buzzword.

What do you do to engage individuals in your business? How does your blog serve the conversation and how has it helped build relationships?

P.S. …I just found out that today is Colleen’s Birthday. Stop by and shoot her a b-day wish.

Maybe The Best Copywriting Tip Ever

Want to know how to overcome your fear of writing, writer’s block or the obsession with getting the right words?

Well, Andrea, over a Baby Steps…To Getting Started Online Today, has a great post that might just be the best copywriting tip I’ve seen.

She says, “You allow your subconscious to do the work for you.

Pretty simple, huh? But what does it mean?

Well, for me, it means getting out of the way of making your words perfect. When I’m writing a blog post, I’m not writing for a Pulitzer or to recreate the English language with flowing prose.

Rather, I’m looking to express my thoughts, ideas, opinions and knowledge just as I am…just as if we were having a conversation. That’s the way I approach writing – as a conversation…a conversation with you.

So, forget all the rules you learned in school (though spelling, punctuation and simple grammar are quite helpful). Forget that your 7th grade English teacher told you math was your subject not writing (yep, happened to me). And just write. Write how you speak. In other words, have a conversation with your readers.

And when you feel like you’re writing in a conversational style with your readers, then check out these resources to help you go to the ‘next level:”

Really, there’s tons of great posts on copywriting in the blogosphere. These are only a few.

What are you favorite posts? When sitting down to write, what’s really worked for you? And what do you think of the ‘best copywriting tip ever?’ Is it?