Makers
How do you build a writing habit? ✍️
Many startups rely on content marketing to grow their audience. It takes longer – SEO takes quite a bit of time – but it can be a sustainable source of affordable traffic. The only thing is that creating content requires a lot of work and consistency. Do you use content to build your audience? How often do you publish new content? Any tips and tricks to write consistently? In my case it boils down to: • Collecting ideas as I go • Writing on a schedule • Killing my inner critic • Sharing my articles widely • Listening to feedback Would love to read some advice from other founders who use content as part of their overall customer acquisition / retention strategy.
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I used to write a lot before Product Hunt started. Most of my topic ideas were inspired by conversations with smart people or observations on tech trends/specific products. I would mentally bookmark the potential "title" of the post and spent my mornings between 5:30am to ~8am at Philz writing before all of the day's distractions emerged.
@rrhoover That's amazing. Lots of your blog posts are actually still super relevant. I was re-reading the one about email-first startups not so long ago.
@rrhoover "Mental bookmarks." 👌
@anthilemoon thanks for reading them 😀
@rrhoover I like the idea of spending morning time for writing. Going to try it out.
Yes! I love content marketing! I always start from a big topic, then I try to figure it out what are the subtopics and then have a look on google to see what's already there. I personally prefer outsource written contents to someone who's really good or, if you're lucky, ask to someone of the team. Focus on building great valuable content and SEO oriented. It's better to write less articles and build links from the start instead of writing tons of articles without any Seo activity imho :) Hope it could help :D
@paolopacchiana Thanks for sharing! How do you find good people to outsource this to?
@anthilemoon Ask people I know they are good in a specific topic. Otherwise you can check Fiverr or similar sites, but I do reccomend to find someone you can trust :)
I'm writing a lot on paper. So I think everyone have something to share and can do it. You just need to write a lot. There can be some sort of challenge - I write about food projects for 70 days straight and it generate a lot of content that soon will become an articles at HackerNoon
When I interviewed Swizec for The Write Stuff, he made two really good observations: 1. The longer you go without writing something publicly, the more pressure you put on yourself—which works against you in producing something. Have to write regularly to not put too much expectation on each piece. 2. The more frequently you produce something, the more your mind is turned "on" to identify unique perspectives from your life, conversations, Twitter, etc. Creative and interesting ideas come easier to you. It's easy to discount our own work, but in truth, I'm finding that the most important thing is consistency. Consistency builds a signal for others to latch on to. The more often we write, the more others will know we care and are committed to a particular interest and tune in. Pending we work to improve the quality of that signal over time, the more willing others will be to listen to what we have to say. It's a balance of providing a unique and intriguing perspective from our point of view plus seeing what sticks with our audiences.
Short answer: by writing every day. 2 ways to make the process more fun: 1) Publish a blog every day - following the advice of Seth Godin, I did that for 90 days. Most of the blogs on my site vitabenes.com were written like that. If you have a streak going, you don't want to break it. 2) Keep a scoreboard - record every day the amount of words, put it into a spreadsheet, make a graph of it and make sure there's a trend line. By doing that, I wrote almost 70000 words in days. I measured words and time in minutes. Avg words 1170 a day, and avg time 95 minutes. It wasn't magic, I just didn't want the trend lines going down.
Hi Anne-Laure. I'v been writing and publishing on my blog for the last ~8 years. I usually write ~2.500-word articles or longer and publish once a week, on Monday. I have to admit that despite the years of writing consistently it is still hard. There are still times, almost every week, when I am afraid I will not have anything to write about. Fortunately, there is always something to write about. In my case, it is something about design, programming or startups. What I've learned so far about writing consistently is this: 1) Reduce the resistance. Don't worry about the result. Don't be afraid of a blank page. Take it easy, one small step in a time. Think about the main idea you want to talk about. Then, focus on just one paragraph or even one sentence. Take care of the sentences are paragraphs and pages will take care of themselves. 2) Write something as often as you can. Forget quality or length. Focus on writing itself. It can be very short daily observations, personal diary or anything else. Just focus on the practice of writing and putting your words on the paper, or document. 3) Find your favorite editor. I've tried a couple of editors and found that the tool you use can make a difference. Find the one you are comfortable working with. My choice is VS Code, and writing all articles for my blog in markdown. 4) This may sound like a paradox, but write about what do you want to learn. This is how I approach tutorials. I will pick something I don't know and then use my blog as a reason to learn it and way to document and share what I've learned. Another option is to write about what you would want to read. There is almost always some topic you find interesting, but you can't find any good article about it. Why not write it yourself? This can help you explore it, learn more about it and also find people who are interested in that topic as well and share your knowledge with them. 5) Gamify it. Make writing every post or article a game. Give yourself a challenge. For example, writing X words or pages. Or, writing on a specific topic, or specific type of an article. Then, when you finish the challenge, give yourself some reward, something you like, something that will make you feel good. This way, you can basically condition yourself, connect the activity f writing with positive emotions and feelings.
@alexdevero I love the idea of using gamifying as a motivation. I like to make written out streak lists for any activity I want to do daily like workout or meditate. It's really motivating getting that check mark for every complete sessions and seeing how long a streak can last. I was inspired by a productivity app I downloaded to do this but find the paper version works better because I can put it up somewhere prominent I always see like the fridge at home.
@abadesi Very good approach with streaks. It is like The Seinfeld Method, or don't break the chain. You write every day without any exceptions, not breaking the chain of "successful" days. About the inspiration by productivity apps you mention. I am currently using iOS app https://apps.apple.com/us/app/ha.... You create a habit and you set how often you should do it. Then, you check it of when you do it, according to the schedule. You can then see the whole streak on a calendar view. Every time you do the habit the app will increase the streak and count of successful days. When you miss once, you start again from 0. Btw, working out or meditation? Good choice.. These are very good habits.
@alexdevero thanks for the app, tip! there are so many options out there... for now what's working for me is offline tracking. In relation to writing though I always do best when I have a block of uninterrupted time and can just sit and bash out a first draft. So I am committing to having set blocks each week where I can blog (daily is too ambitious right now with all my other responsibilities) A habit that helps though is a rolling list of topics I want to write about so when I'm ready to write I already have the topics ready.
@abadesi These two are very good approaches/habits. 1) Having a list of topics, even a structure of subheadings for these topics, can help a lot. It can make the blank page less scary 🙂. 2) I also prefer to tune out and focus solely on writing. No music or any other distraction. Just editor, ideas and state of flow. I think that this is probably the best approach to writing in general. Have you read Deep Work by Cal Newport?
@alexdevero No I haven't! Should I? Sounds interesting.
Hi, Anee-Laure - I'm an author :) so I thought I'd share a few tips that might help. Consistency I can tell you that for those of us who write for a living consistency is key. (But that doesn't mean you can't take a day off.) Most writers I know strive to write 5-7 days per week. And and a great way to ensure that the writing gets done is to block time on your calendar. Some like to keep things easy and write at the same time every day; however, I have found that changing up when and where I write increases my creativity and my productivity -- You have to see what works for you. Be Accountable to Someone A lot of my author friends on Twitter participate in #5amwritersclub. For some, it's their most productive time of the day, and for others it's the only time of the day they can find because those pesky 9-5 gigs cut into writing time. Those who participate share tweets when they sit down to write or when they want to take a quick break -- most are gifs celebrating that made it on time to write :) But it really is a community, and all are welcome; it's kind of like having a friend to go to the gym with. (I'm a night owl, so I won't be participating any time soon. I've lobbied for #5pmWritersClub, but haven't gotten any takers yet.) :/ I hold myself accountable by putting writing on my to do list -- Checking things off the list is fulfilling. Tips for Making More Progress bc Success Begets Success Some writers work on multiple projects at once. If you find yourself staring at a blank screen or deleting every line you write, changing topics might be what you need to make progress. I've found that my progress can also be hindered when I don't have a clear path. As much as everyone hates to outline, it's important, especially if you're writing one of those epic posts. An outline makes sitting down to write easier because you know exactly what you have to do, so you'll actually write faster! An outline also cuts down your editing time because you'll be less likely to repeat yourself; as a result you'll spend less time reorganizing information. (Btw, your outline can be as simple as one word per paragraph, or it can be a few lines or even a sentence explaining each step in the progression of the project.) Abandon but Don't Delete The last tip off the top of my head is to save everything you write. I know you're interested in content marketing, so you probably have productivity goals. But you have to weigh quality vs. quantity and realize some writing just won't make the cut. (You'll get more shares with an interesting and well-written piece.) Don't be afraid to abandon a piece, even if you've spent tons of time on it -- just be sure to save it! Save everything from half-written posts to titles for posts to sentences and even phrases that sound cool, but don't quite fit into your current writing project. With fresh eyes or more research on the topic, you might be able to turn a mediocre post or an orphaned sentence into something really great. (Authors do this) :) Final Thought Not every writing session will result in quality material, but that doesn't mean the time is not well spent. Sometimes getting a thought down on paper is half the battle because a so-so idea, which never gets published, can lead to a fantastic idea! Keep writing & Good luck! :)
I come from the community 200 Words a Day , it helps you to focus and write 200 words every day, it helps me to build my writing habits. In fact, I m on 250 post streak.
For me, almost all my writing starts by being inspired by something (a podcast, a thought, an observation). From there I'll usually tweet about it first (to test it out). If it generates good discussion or feedback, I'll take the next step and turn it into a blog post.
Writing as the first thing in the morning, before opening my inbox etc. Also writing on paper, to feel less pressure to make it perfect.
I coach founders professionally, 1-on-1 and in accelerators, but I tend to undervalue what I know and how helpful it can be to founders. So I have a rule: any time I give the same advice to three founders, it’s something I should blog about (I blog on Medium behind the paywall because I coach professionally and this is my best IP). You could adapt this rule: anytime you repeat a process in your startup three times, that you suspect other founders probably don’t use, write a blog post about that. You may find a lot of founders have never heard of that process and will be grateful to learn from you. I used to write professionally in print, so the idea of a blog post not being 100% perfect is the primary source of my writers’ block because print can’t be edited once it’s printed. For years I had several hundred half-written blog posts in draft! I have beaten this by forcing myself to hit Publish on any draft blog post I start to write, no matter whether I think it’s ready for an audience or not. Usually my bar is much higher than my audience’s. It’s taken me a long while but now I realise the vast majority of the audience for your blog posts is in the long tail, over a period of months or years. So when I hit publish on a short, clumsy, semi-complete blog post, it doesn’t matter if a few people read it - the vast majority of readers will see version 2, version 3, or whatever. It’s so much easier to read an old blog post and make one small edit to make it even better than it was! So I spend some of my time writing new drafts, but more of my time reading old posts and making them a little better. I don’t have a publishing schedule but when I know it’s been a while, if I don’t have something to write about, I’ll just throw it open to one of the founder groups on Facebook I’m part of, or ask people on Twitter and LinkedIn to request a blog post on a topic. I’ll usually only write one post from people’s suggestions, but I’ll usually get another 4-5 great ideas that I would have never thought of myself, and knowing that my audience requested a post on that topic helps me start writing. Sometimes I get blocked because I can express a concept or a process in a whiteboard diagram than I can in writing. In that case, I don’t let myself worry about how bad I am at drawing: I get my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil an start drawing. Sometimes my diagram is the whole blog post, sometimes it’s the illustration that draws in the reader or really locks-in the learning. My most recent example of that is here: https://medium.com/m8-ventures/i... Hope that helps!
Now I need to make this a blog post on Medium! 😂
@bigyahu you absolutely should!
I never wrote as I was not confident about my writing style, passive/active voice and more such nitpicks. However, when I was learning about cryptocurrency - I felt I was explaining a lot of stuff again and again to my friends on personal chats. I am an active person on IM with good typing speed - so I used to write paragraphs of information. When I realized that I was being redundant and many of my friends seeking the same/similar information - timing was perfect to find a great platform to write in a clean page - medium. This made me put my words down and share it with everyone I've been explaining. Now I write mainly on my product blog (https://bear.tax/blog) and medium (https://medium.com/@vvkr)
Im a not yet published author and what works for me is... wait for it... INTERMITTENT FASTING. Write when you are super hungry. You inner critic goes out the window. Force yourself to write the hour before you can eat and you will come up with great stuff.
@marla_griffith now that's some out the box thinking. I must try this, writing in a fasted state. Maybe I'll get more words out haha.
Hi Anne-Laure, I've been using 200 Words a Day, and I've written for over 150 days now. I broke my streak a few times, but I still have 150 days of content, so breaking my streak isn't my only metric. 😌 To address your specific struggles: • Collecting ideas as I go There are lots of ways to gather ideas (both online and offline), and you probably already have plenty of ideas to write about. You can do a brain dump of your own ideas, then seek out resources to flesh out the ideas even further, or start with external sources and organize them with the ideas you currently have. • Writing on a schedule You need to have a writing schedule and a publishing schedule, but I think each of us has their own preferences on how rigid both need to be. I don't have a set time to write or publish, for example, but I use content marketing around product launches, and it works beautifully. • Killing my inner critic I can't address this in a single comment, but I think what can help is celebrating any little progress you make. A single blog post is worth celebrating. Drafting a publishing schedule, having a call with a friend who can help. Any progress is worth celebrating (with or without a happy dance. I know what I would choose 🕺🏻) • Sharing my articles widely I personally don't like to spread myself thin, especially from the get go (when I'm managing too many things) and I wouldn't commit to more channels than I can handle. What works best for you? Maybe have a working list of channels and focus on the top few, then make your way down the list the more you feel comfortable taking on new channels/approaches. • Listening to feedback I struggle with GETTING feedback because people generally suck at telling you what they think. But to listen AND to encourage feedback, I highly recommend not explaining yourself, but building on their feedback. Otherwise they might feel like you're getting defensive and so they don't share as much as they can. Side note: I think you can tackle all the challenges you listed like a pro, but you probably want to untangle them first, and look at each separately. The solutions will become more apparent then. The challenge with challenges is that they happen all at once, and content marketing has a LOT of moving parts. Best of luck!
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