Let’s just put it right on the table: Writing worthwhile content is hard.
Coming up with strong ideas. Blending in business strategy without looking like a creepy sales hole. Getting to work consistently.
So here are three ways that a content marketing Mandalorian can keep their standards high … without quite as many merciless Imperial assassins or giant spiders.
#1: Capture your ideas
Every so often, I’m reminded how often we solve our thorniest problems … and then promptly forget our brilliant solutions.
Do yourself a favor and create a place where you’ll keep all of your genius insights, and be able to find them again when you need them.
These days I call this an Idea Garden. (Hat tip to Charlie Gilkey for the term.)
I keep ideas for content in my creative journal, with the pages marked so I can find them again quickly and easily. (I use a stripe of washi tape down the side of the page, but anything that’s highly visible will work.)
If you keep your ideas on a digital app, tag them so you’ll be able to bring them all up with a few keystrokes.
Brilliant ideas go into the Idea Garden. So do stupid ideas. Sometimes you can develop a pretty interesting piece of content from a stupid idea.
If I’m out on a walk and a hardcover journal would be annoying to carry, I bring a couple of index cards and a pencil stub. Then I just tape the scribbled card into the journal, rather than spending a lot of time re-copying it.
When you get into the habit of catching and recording your ideas, including silly ones, you realize how many ideas your creative brain is sending you every day.
And when you can easily find them again, you’ll never have a mental block about what to work on next.
#2: Recognize that self-doubt is normal
If you’re creating work that’s original and interesting, you’re going to doubt yourself. Often. That’s just how it works.
We run into problems when we assign the wrong meaning to that self-doubt.
We think, “I must not be cut out for this,” instead of:
“This is pushing some buttons, I might be on to something.”
While there are a lot of reasons why people fall into imposter syndrome, one is that we assume that feeling uncomfortable is a sign we’re on the wrong path.
In fact, it’s a sign we’re on the right path.
Sometimes, a piece of writing will come easily to you. That’s a good time to burn some incense and thank the writing deities for their generosity.
But don’t misinterpret the days when the writing is painful, clunky, and just irritating.
Tell yourself, “This is the Way.” (If you happen to know the Mandalorian theme music, hum that to yourself while you’re at it.)
The really interesting path often has great big boulders in it. And the occasional giant spider.
#3: Get into a framework
It’s fine to tell you “just do the hard things,” but that’s a lot easier said than done.
When I’m doing something particularly difficult, I look for a way to plug myself into a framework.
A framework is not the same thing as a formula.
“Swipe and deploy” is a formula. Taking someone else’s copy and plugging in the blanks will only take you so far.
Good writers use frameworks instead.
Frameworks give you a loose structure, but you fill them in with your own creativity. Problem-Agitate-Solve is a framework for persuasive copywriting. The numbered list post is a framework for engaging content.
These can be written in a boring way, and they can also be written in a magnificently creative way. It all depends on how much skill and to care you bring to the structure.
While we’ve been in lockdown, I discovered that productivity frameworks are just as useful as writing frameworks are.
A productivity framework can be something simple, like a creative ritual that eases you into your workday.
Or it can be something more complex and robust, that lets you plug yourself in and get the hard things done.
In my productivity community for content creators, we plug ourselves into an accountability framework when we meet for digital coworking every week.
We also plug into simple, fast tutorials on habits and writing skills, so we have a shared system for getting our best work done.
And we meet for five-minute check-ins on Mondays and Fridays, to make sure we’re working on the right things.
Hard things are still hard. But with a solid framework in place, they feel a lot more possible.