Getting your best content out of your head
It really is frustrating when you know you have a lot to say, that it’s wise, useful, deep — and not knowing how to express it on your blog.
All the great ideas that you’re dying to share, all the smart insights, useful tools, that stubbornly refuse to get out of your head when you sit down and actually start creating content…
Perhaps you then decide to go with the prevailing flow and create content “for your niche”, to write some “What is X” or “5 ways to…”, but it doesn’t make you happy, not at all. Whatever you put out that way, it looks too generic, too basic, too dry. That’s not how you talk, that’s not even remotely depicting the depths of your knowledge, that’s not what you want to say to the world!
If this sounds at all familiar, and if it frustrates you as much as I believe it must, I’m pretty sure I can offer a solution.
But first, let’s look into why this discrepancy between how the content looks like in your head, and what it looks like when it gets out, happens.
It’s REALLY difficult to capture the thoughts that just float around
Have you noticed how much easier it is to explain something (even the most complex contexts) when you are answering someone’s questions, when they stop and ask for additional details, when you understand their background — than putting it all together by yourself while, say, preparing for a talk? (Or, God forbid, creating a blog post?)
Thoughts are ephemeral; they have this nasty habit of floating in hundreds of directions. Especially when you want to explain an insight or an abstract concept it can be super challenging to get to the bare bones of it and communicate it efficiently.
Unless someone asks just the right question that nudges you to express the bottom line, in a way that provides context for your content.
Questions can open you up to new points of view and shed new light on something you never before bothered to think through. The person you’re talking to doesn’t have an access to what’s inside your head, and if you notice that it really interests them to understand, you will do your best to really explain it to them. You will find another angle; you will simplify your vocabulary; you will come up with just the right examples. You will make an extra effort to do everything you can to present it to them so they understand.
While inside your head, there is nobody to explain it to, there’s no need.
So my solution is this:
Let your ideal reader inside your head and start a conversation with her
Pay attention now, this isn’t what you think it is.
Imagine your ideal reader / your ideal client. Take a piece of paper and write down:
- 5 things she hopes to achieve
- 5 things she fears
Write everything down in first person, just like your persona would say it: I dream about…, I fear that…
Now take a look at the 10 items on the paper, and think about which ones you can help her with. If she dreams about finding a soul mate and you’re a business coach, then this dream of hers isn’t something for you to tackle; but if one or few of her dreams have something to do with her business (and they should, because it’s your ideal client), then mark that item because it’s your territory.
Do the same with fears: she could be afraid of vampires, but she could also be afraid that her business would fail, or that she won’t be able to take the next step.
So now you have some idea about what your ideal client dreams about, and what scares her sh*tless.
Take each item that you’ve marked and ask yourself this: “This is very important to this woman. If I only had 10 minutes with her, and I knew I will never see her again, what’s the single most useful thing I could say to her? What concepts does she need to understand, how could she look at this differently? What’s the ONE THING I have to explain to her, and how do I do it so she understands and can make use of what I told her?”
What will happen when you employ this approach
Let’s elaborate on an example.
Imagine you are a business coach (OK, neither am I, but let’s pretend), and you work with entrepreneurs. One of the things you believe and hold important is that entrepreneurs should cultivate a strong sense of purpose in order to stay motivated even when things don’t go as planned.
And you want to write a blog post about it. The sense of purpose is an important topic, and it deserves to be given attention.
Now, let’s note that the topic of purpose holds an added “complication”: it can be approached from a spiritual angle, or from a practical angle.
You don’t have to be a business coach to share a similar belief about the importance of purpose in one’s business endeavors, I’ve chosen this example because it’s relatable. So how would you write about it? How would you talk about it if you were to speak at a conference? What would you say beyond the bottom line idea?
The probable results of the approach to an abstract idea (and the topic of purpose is an abstract idea) that starts and finishes in your head include (but are not limited to):
- You try to encompass all the situations you can perceive (because you might be afraid that people would think you’re not enough of an expert if you omit something), and end up with a generalized text, colder than the Wikipedia;
- You get tangled into explaining the principle, and write a philosophical post with no clear logic or structure (rumbling would be a less nice way to say it);
- If you are more spiritually oriented, you might get afraid that you’ll sound too out-of-Earthy and censor each word you write; if you go with a totally practical approach, you might run out of words halfway through your post;
- You might never finish the post because you’re not sure whether you should approach it as a “why” or a “how” post. If your readers already know they need to incorporate purpose in the way they do business, then it makes no sense to explain to them that they should — they need a “how”; but what’s exactly the nuance of their “how” (how to discover my purpose? how to cultivate it once I’ve discovered it? how to make my purpose motivate me?…). Or you might try and answer all of it in one post. Well, you can definitely try…
OK, so the outcomes aren’t all that desirable.
Now let’s see what could happen with that topic if you had a context — if it came to you as an answer to your ideal client’s fear.
“She” might have spilled these words on your paper: “I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to take my business to the next level”.
Oh hey! She’s your ideal reader, and she has left you some other clues as to why she would be afraid of that. Perhaps you’ve discovered while developing her profile that she’s a single mother and is feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility she feels; perhaps she has a history of giving up, and her fear comes from her previous experience with failing; perhaps she was the only girl in the family and grew up believing success is for men.
In all 3 cases, your single most useful answer to her fear that she might not have what it takes can still be “find and cultivate your purpose, the rest will follow”. But now you know why she is having that fear, and how to approach it in 10 minutes:
- Her fear: “I’m feeling overwhelmed because I’m a single mom; I’m afraid I won’t be able to fully commit to growing my business.” Your answer: Connect with your purpose and uncover a whole new level of motivation to help you build your business. And this is how this principle works best for your situation.
- Her fear: “I’ve never before finished what I had started, why should this be any different? I just don’t have what it takes.” Your answer: If this is really important to you, if it’s aligned with your purpose, you will decide to do things differently this time. And this is how this principle works best for your situation.
- Her fear: “I’m only a girl, I’m not strong enough to see this through.” Your answer: People always find the strength when they serve the purpose bigger than themselves. And this is how this principle works best for your situation.
You now have a context, and you have a shot at real conversation. You better understand where she comes from, so you can give your best advice that actually applies to her.
And best of all, now you can really help that one group of people who come from a similar place, struggling with similar issues in a similar way.
So why is this the best content you can possibly create?
Because it began with genuine interest to help, and because you weren’t alone in your head while creating it.