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Content Mastery Guide: Writing Prompts

118 posts categorized "Writing Prompts"

August 10, 2011

More Ways to Dance With Your Blog

Tango-dancers I absolutely loved the creative gifts that Jamie Ridler brought to the Creativity Party for Business Bloggers; from her invitation to dance and movement, to her free writing exercise, to her free spirit! Have you checked out Jamie's website or her lively Facebook page?

Inspired by Jamie's movement activity, I wanted to share these additional metaphors and tools to help you dance with your blog and move creatively through the blogging process:

  • Get into a groove - An editorial calendar can keep you pumped up and excited about filling in the blanks all month long - it's like the steady beat that keeps you moving.
  • Be moved - Be spontaneous and ready for new inspirations and connective content you couldn't have planned for.
  • Share the lead - Sometimes you will take the lead, sharing concepts, tips and strategies with your readers; other times, let them take the lead and listen to their questions and comments. Watch for the blog posts, social media updates and questions THEY might be posting about the problems you help to solve.

Writing prompt: Search Twitter (here are some Twitter search tips from Hubpost, and here's an alternate Twitter search engine recommended by the NY Times) for the latest conversations about one of the topics you blog about. What are people saying? More importantly, what are they asking? Use these tweets as a springboard to your next blog post.

June 27, 2011

Where Is Your Exuberance?

When we feel, we begin to be alive. When we express a feeling, we share with the rest of the world that we are alive. When we express a feeling through music, we invite the rest of the world to share in our experience of the feeling, and to be alive with us." - Source unknown

I used that quote in my Musical Musings column at Coaching Toys back in 2006. The post was called "Exuberance," and describes some magical moments in my music therapy practice.

Reading the article today through the lens of business blogging, it reminds me of the importance of connecting to the passion of your work.

When I'm writing a blog post, I can conjure up the image of past clients or colleagues who've confessed that they feel trapped by the writing process - they have a message to share but feel unable to do it. And that's blocking them from reaching the prospective clients they could help.

When I think of all of the people that will benefit from hearing my clients' messages, that image sparks my passion to shout from the rooftops about the benefits of blogging, and provide tips that make writing easier.

As my friend Jeff Korhan commented on Twitter about his recent blog post, "whatever it takes to get more folks making the most of their expertise." Even if that means getting rid of the word "blog."

Writing prompt: What potential do you see in your clients and prospective clients? What information do you have that will get them started towards achieving it? Now that's something to be excited about! Tap into that exuberance and blog from there.

June 13, 2011

Finding the Creativity in Every Moment

Clock-275w-183h In 2005 I wrote an article for the Muses Muse about one chapter of the exceptional book Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts by Stephen Nachmanovitch.

The book was first recommended to me by Casey Sokol, one of my favourite professors at York University. Casey taught musicianship and piano improvisation, and was also my first contact when I came to do my audition.

Inspiration and Time's Flow

In this chapter, Nachmanovitch challenges us to experience free play and creativity in our "ordinary” activities. He states the ideal existence as one of nonstop flow, and he refers to the Balinese philosophy that “We have no art. Everything we do is art.”

Here are five key points of learning from this chapter, and how they relate to your blogging efforts:

  1. In creating a work of art, there are two kinds of time. There is the flash of inspiration (brainstorming) and the labour of capturing that in a form that can be shared with others (drafting and writing). Performance (editing and publication) introduces a third kind of time. This distinction is helpful, since usually when someone is struggling with blogging, it’s only with one of these three areas, and it's usually only temporary.
  2. Our aim is to improvise without being attached to the outcome, “because the doing is it’s own outcome.” What does it mean to blog without being attached to the outcome? While it would be great for every post to get rave reviews, chasing that unrealistic expectation will tire you out pretty fast. Instead, interact with what comes up in your day-to-day travels, and see how you can use it to help your readers solve their problems. Do your best, stay consistent, and let the results take care of themselves. 
  3. The teacher’s art is to connect the living body of knowledge with the living bodies of the students in the room. When you write for different learners by accommodating their preferred learning styles, you help them connect with your ideas.
  4. Scripts are appropriate sometimes. They are a part of being committed and responsible to your audience. Templates and writing prompts can spark you into writing action so you can keep delivering valuable content that helps you connect with your readers.
  5. Once you’ve learned techniques, it’s essential to let them go and just relate to what’s in front of you. While you're learning and practicing, be sure that you're also finding and tuning your own voice.

Do you relate to this concept of "everyday improvisation"? Here are a few questions that will help you explore it futher:

  • When have you experienced “being in the flow,” either when you're writing, working with clients or any other time in your day-to-day life?
  • What precipitated that state? What helped you stay in it? What brought you out of it?
  • Where in your life is improvising not an option? When do you find it necessary to stick with a schedule or outside structure?
  • What’s been your experience in the different “times” of creativity? The flash of inspiration, the creation into form and the performance?
  • Which are the underlying techniques that you need to “forget” when it’s time to improvise or create something new?

Writing prompt: Open a blank document or a notebook, and "improvise" a piece of writing. Find ways to forget what you know and who you are as a writer. Experiment. Get into the flow. Then take a break and walk away.

When you come back to it later, look at your work objectively and ask: Was this solely a creative exercise for you, one that will spark new ideas later? Or is there something here you can turn into a useful post for your readers? (P.S. Here are three questions that will help you decide.)

June 12, 2011

Summertime and the Blogging is Easy

Summer-fun-water-skiing-250w-167h As I'm settling into my first summer in the waterfront community of Barrie, Ontario, I'm noticing that my new neighbours sure take their recreation seriously! I only hope it rubs off on me. As local translator and copywriter Ashleigh Grange linked to on Twitter last week, summer vacation eludes many of us entrepreneurs.

Here are five ways to make blogging easier this summer, so you can keep building your business relationships (and your mountain of content) while still enjoing a vacation or staycation:

  1. Batch your tasks to make the most out of your time - When you're feeling creative and buzzing with ideas, draft two or three posts instead of just one.
  2. Get ahead of the game - Pre-schedule your blog posts and emails so they continue to be on a predictable schedule, even if you're not.
  3. Write easier posts - Ease off the pressure to be a thought leader and write the posts that come naturally to you, whether those are top 10 lists, product reviews, frequently asked questions, or connective content.
  4. Catch the sparks - Whenever you head out into the world, you're bound to feel revitalized by the new people, places and ideas you encounter. Keep a notebook or smartphone app handy (I'm experimenting with Evernote for iPhone and Dragon Dictation for iPhone) so you can build on your experiences and share them with your readers.
  5. Make creative connections - What does staying up on water skis have in common with whatever your readers are striving for? What can packing for a vacation teach your clients about the techniques they need in their toolkit? What business lessons can you adapt from a popular vacation spot with long lines of happy customers?

So enjoy your summer, take some time off, and most of all keep blogging!

P.S. If you want to make your blogging even easier, stay tuned for some new programs and resources I'll be offering later this summer and into the fall.  

 

March 28, 2011

Could Your Last Email Exchange Be Your Next Blog Post?

As I was thumbing through (yes, I printed out the e-book) Karri Flatla's new Sales Page Relief package, I noticed she had a section about how to craft a mobile version of your sales page or "mini website."

Typepad does a decent job of displaying my website on mobile devices (at least from what I've seen on my iPod Touch), though not as nice as the Genuine Coaching website I recently re-built using Weebly.

I've been wondering whether I should bother creating a separate mobile version of this site, so I emailed Karri to ask what she thought. When she replied promptly with a stellar answer, I immediately suggested she post it to her blog - and so she did!

She was respectful enough to leave my name out until she could check with me, but of course I was happy to tell the world about how brilliant she is.

Karri

You can read Karri's post at: Wondering if You Need a Mobile Website? Some Things to Consider. [Update January 19, 2013 - This blog post is no longer available, but check out how Karri is bringing a coaching approach to real estate in Lethbridge, Alberta!]

Blog post ideas from your emailWriting prompt: Has anyone responded to one of your emails lately by saying something like, "Thanks, that was really helpful!"? If so, see if you can re-work that email exchange into a blog post that ALL of your readers can learn from. 

January 22, 2011

Branding Your Writing, Writing Your Brand

"Imagine someone hiring you after falling in love with your writing style, only to find you entirely different in person!" - from Write Your Way to More Clients Online (Part One: Plan Mindfully)

On Thursday's call with choice, the magazine of professional coaching, Publisher Garry Schleifer was doing triple duty - he was my gracious host on the call, he was listening for writing tips for his own content marketing efforts, and he was managing the Facebook fan page where listeners were posting questions.

Pam Strand asked, "What are some tips for keeping [your] writing consistent with your brand?"

I shared that I had spoken earlier this week with a team who were redoing their website. It felt to them like they needed permission to move away from the crisp, professional and utterly generic language of their current site.

While I always encourage people to write with the same language your ideal client would use, it should be natural and authentic for you as well.

Maybe you are a member of your own target market, or maybe you're just looking to attract clients who are a natural fit. But how will you know if you speak the same language if you're trying to sound like someone you're not?

Writing prompt: To match your writing with your brand, consider what you want people to think of when they hear your name, or the name of your business. Look online for examples of others who write in that style. Then practice applying those techniques to your own unique ideas, topics and expertise.

November 29, 2010

Writing your online bio: Who are you and why should they care?

When it's time to write your online bio, you may be relieved to think, "Finally, it's all about me!" But is it?

Up until now, I've been encouraging you to put yourself in your reader's shoes and remember that they are online looking for solutions and information. In order to make that crucial connection and build a long-term trusting relationship, you need to give them what they want.

There will be plenty of time down the line to share the wisdom YOU think they should know.

That goes for your articles, blog posts and other online content, but what about your bio? Your bio may seem like the perfect place to let loose and say whatever you feel like saying. But before you do, consider the following:

  • Your bio is where you establish credibility: In fact, 3 out of 10 of Stanford's Top 10 Guidelines for Web Credibility point to how well a site identifies and describes the person or people behind the scenes. Does your About page make the grade?
  • Your bio is where you spark a connection: People use your bio to decide whether or not to follow you, visit your website, subscribe to your newsletter, hire you or refer you. In Twitter, we have only 160 characters to make an impression!
  • Your bio is where you express personality: There are countless other professionals who do exactly what you do. Some have exactly as much training and experience as you do, and comporable client success stories. It's your hobbies, passions and personality that will set you apart to your ideal client and help make a match.

Writing prompt: When it comes to writing an online bio, it's still all about your reader. Choose the words that will help people get to know, like and trust you. Help your ideal client hone in on your unique qualities and capabilities that make you the perfect fit.

We'll be discussing this topic on the next Content Mastery Action Day. This full-day event is designed to help you jumpstart your content writing goals for the month. There is built-in accountability, a Q&A call and the opportunity for live editing assistance to make your article the best it can be.

While the full day is only available to Action Club members, anyone may attend the presentation call in the morning.

What: Writing an Online Bio - Who Are You and Why Should They Care?
When: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 9:30-10:00 a.m. EASTERN (in, out and on with your day)
Where: Webinar

This presentation will cover:

  • Why you'll need five versions of your online bio
  • Which questions to ask yourself when you are writing each version
  • What to leave in and what to leave out - including how to deal with having outdated or unrelated experience or no formal credentials
  • BONUS: A worksheet for preparing your own online bio (subscribers only)

July 09, 2010

Even when YOU don't want to write, THEY still want to read

This post is not about fear (although it kind of is) and it is not about urgency (although it kind of is), it is about perspective.

When I choose not to write (yes, I'm definitely writing this post for all of us - since I have an unfinished book on the go at this moment), it's because I'm thinking about ME. I have something else I must do. I feel unsure how to proceed. I am wondering what everyone else is up to. I am worried about what people will think.

Me, me, me, me. It gets tiring, doesn't it?

When we get stuck in ourselves like this, we need to do an about-face and stand in the perspective of THEM - our lovely readers, our past, current and future clients, and all of those people who need the kind of solutions we are uniquely suited to deliver.

Because they are looking for those solutions right now. And even if you are their perfect match, if you're nowhere to be found they will look elsewhere. So YOU keep writing your blog posts, and I will keep writing my book - do we have a deal?

Writing prompt: What blog post would you write if you knew your ideal client was about to visit your blog, looking for a solution?

June 30, 2010

Article endings: Send your readers on their way better than you found them

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

When your readers come to the end of your article, what do you want them to take away?

Whether you give them a list of actionable tasks to apply or one powerful question to ponder, aim to inspire some sort of change. That inspiration, that hope that they can actually make that change, solve that problem or take that step is what they will remember.

This is your opportunity to create and deepen a relationship so they can get to know you better and see if you are the right one to help them make that change.

Writing prompt: At the end of your next article, consider what change you would like to inspire. For six types of exercises you can use at the end of an article, please see Chapter 23 of The Customizable Style Guide for Coaches Who Write.

June 06, 2010

June article ideas for coaches

It's the beginning of summer and the pace may be changing for both you and your clients. How can you tap into their warmer mindset and keep them focused on their coaching goals? Here are some article topic ideas for the month of June:

  • Life coaches: Life can be a beach! 10 ways to make work feel like a vacation
  • Parenting coaches: School's out! Why structure is important for kids - even in the summertime
  • Marketing coaches: Business slower in summer? 10 ways to leverage your down time for maximum results
  • Money coaches: Vacation spending: Plan ahead and come back with cash in your pocket
  • Career coaches: How to plan a fun community event that will do some good AND wow your boss

Writing prompt: Use these sample titles as a starting point for topics that are relevant for your clients, prospective clients and readers.