Tell me if this has ever happened to you: it’s Monday morning, and you’re ready to get some writing done. In your head, you’re already publishing a blockbuster article. The only thing that’s missing is the red carpet.
But then you sit at your desk. That damn blank page reflects the image of a creatively bankrupt blogger; your fingers are stubborn, the muse is shy.
You want to write brilliant articles. But you just can’t…
What’s the secret to being consistent, anyway?
How do you punch the keys, if your mind feels empty?
The truth is, writing is half magic, half strategy.
And today we’re going to have some fun and talk about a strategy that allows you to magically publish a new article every week.
Most bloggers struggle because they approach writing as the act of creating something out of nothing. It’s the main reason you want to bash your head against the keyboard.
In fact, writing the damn thing should be the easiest part of content creation.
Once I realized that you can’t create something out of nothing, I could wake up at 5 AM, have a sip of coffee, and sit down to punch those damn keys until my hands hurt.
No more time wasted staring stupidly into the abyss of a blank document, no more cursing that blinking cursor thing.
Disclaimer: This tutorial is taken straight out of our newest course, The Art of Writing Blockbuster Articles.
The Secret? The Brain Dump.
I assure you of this: every single blogger who struggles to come up with ideas for articles, they do so because they don’t go through the step I’m about to share with you.
In other words, before you start thinking about writing, you need to warm up the creative muscle.
How do you do that?
Feed your brain.
I have an impressive list of blogs, email newsletters, YouTube channels, and podcasts that I follow.
Great Bloggers Steal… Kind Of
The truth is most bloggers struggle because they try to write in a void. They approach the blank page as a world of infinite possibilities.
If you were to place me in a dark room, with no access to humankind’s collective ideas and thoughts, also known as the internet, I’d be like, “Uhm… yeah… ahm… where did my brain go?”
Most bloggers are plagued by the curse of originality, meaning that they are trying to create something out of nothing.
In truth, blogging is more like being engaged in a conversation. All you have to do is add to the conversation, share your opinion, share some facts, but most of all… you have to connect the dots, you have to connect what someone else said to what you want to say.
Don’t believe me?
Even Picasso was no stranger to stealing… like an artist.
That’s why I spend most of my time reading content all over the web, listening to podcasts, watching movies, TV shows, documentaries, reading interviews…
I am feeding my brain, but while I do so I am also asking myself these questions:
- Do I agree with them? Why?
- What do I have to add to what they said/wrote?
- How do my own experiences relate to the information I am consuming right now?
I stumbled upon this system by commenting on a lot of blog posts. Sometimes, if the article truly inspired me to think, I’d share some insight, come up with some idea or thought, that I instantly recognized as being worth writing an entire blog post about.
By starting with someone else’s ideas and words, I’d put in motion my own creative mind, and I’d undoubtedly share something that was mine, all mine.
What Are You Looking For?
Do this long enough, and consistently enough, and you will stumble upon two types of articles:
1. The idea you can’t get rid of.
If you stumble upon a piece of content that you simply can’t get out of your head, even if you keep feeding your brain, then it is, most likely, worth writing about.
Think in terms of:
- What can I add to this idea?
- How can I improve upon it?
- What questions do I have? What is there left to explain?
2. The idea you can’t agree with.
One surefire way to come up with an idea for a blog post is to find a piece of content that makes you say, “Yeah, but…”
It shares an idea or an insight that you agree and disagree with at the same time, meaning you can add to the conversation that takes place around that topic or idea.
Also, most often, it also means that you have first-hand experience with the idea that’s being discussed and that the insights you want to add are quite valuable.
How Do You Create a Brain Dump?
As you will be spending a lot of time writing down ideas, quotes, entire paragraphs from certain blog posts, you need to have a deliberate approach.
You can use a simple tool such as Evernote, or even your phone’s notes app, or you can have a draft in WordPress, or even a Google Docs or Pages document.
Now select whatever you need:
- Camera – take pictures
- Attachment – add a document
- Audio – record an audio note
- Checkbox – write down a checklist of your ideas, questions, etc.
- Sketch- draw an idea for a chart, graph, or custom illustration
- Link – Add links to inspiring articles you find on the web.
Whatever tool you choose, you should go with a tool that:
- Syncs across all your devices, like Evernote or Apple’s Notes App. Or Notion.
- Syncs in the cloud. You don’t want to lose all your ideas if your device decides to die on you.
- Offers you the choice to add links, images, and take audio notes.
Another cool tool I’ve found is Curator, which allows you to, well, curate a huge list of different social media feeds and such into a single timeline. That’s great for inspiration.
This is the first step when it comes to content creation: feed your brain with information that makes you think, information that’s so good you wish you had thought about it first, information that inspires you, that makes you go, “Oh, my, this is actually brilliant.”
The next step is to sit down at your desk and think about the ideas you “stole” from others.
There’s this interesting statistic I once read about having to spend 8-12 hours thinking about idea for every hour we spend punching those keys.
It might make a lot of sense, but a lot of bloggers don’t deliberately invest time to thinking about ideas.
And here’s the trick: You must think about thinking differently. You must decide to think for the sake of it, that’s why it’s so important to stumble upon the ideas that truly inspire you.
Don’t think to write, think to understand.
If you do this long enough, you will eventually start to connect seemingly unrelated dots. You will be able to see that a zen anecdote can be used as a framework for an article on blogging, or that a story about Alexander The Great can be a great catalyst for a personal essay about the power of reframing your predicament.
Day One: Validate Your Idea
Let’s assume you spend an entire day brain-dumping and thinking about ideas.
The next day, it’s time to get to business.
Now, you have an idea. But you shouldn’t start punching those keys.
It’s time to validate your idea.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have interesting research or a personal breakthrough on this topic?
- Do I have a strong opinion on this topic, either through first-hand experience or through research?
- Who is this article’s ideal reader?
- Why are they reading this, what do they want to achieve?
- What are their pain points? Problems, challenges.
- How can I help them? What problems am I helping them solve?
- What are their objections? How can I counter these objections?
- Am I writing this article for the passionate or the enthusiast? What are my level of expertise and that of my readers?
Readers constantly ask themselves what’s in it for them. So? Why should anyone read your blog post?
You validate your idea by figuring out your idea’s value proposition. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you offering them?
- What are they going to get?
- What’s the benefit?
- Why would they want to read about this idea?
- Haven’t others written all there was to write about this idea? How do you stand out from the crowd? What do you add to the conversation?
Create a specific person in your mind who you are writing for and build a compelling vision of how your article is going to help them. This is your ideal reader…
If it’s all rather murky, maybe your idea is not worth writing about.
Click here to download it as part of our Growth Kit for beginner bloggers and turn your idea into a fantastic article.
Day Two: Key Takeaways
Now you need to figure out your key takeaways.
The best way to think about takeaways is to think of your article as a pyramid.
Your takeaways are like milestones within your blog post.
- Entice: they help you keep your readers from falling asleep or giving up on your article, offering them value in an easy to consume format.
- Explain: they provide further clarification, either via the use of lists, bullet points, or graphs/charts.
- Empathize: they allow the reader to understand what is going on at an emotional level, either by connecting with you as the author of the article, or by connecting with a hypothetical future self (the one that is possible after they take action based upon your advice).
- Educate: they provide the information the reader needs in order to take action, solve a problem, face a challenge.
And, depending on the case, there can also be key takeaways that simply entertain, but this depends on your blog’s niche and your writing style.
Now, for for a common myth regarding key takeaways. No, they’re not subtitles within your article. Well, not necessarily.
I define key takeaways as expanding your value proposition into small bits and pieces and offering them to your readers with the clear intention of holding their attention until the end of your article.
So, key takeaways:
- Offer value.
- Offer clarity.
- Offer perspective.
- Offer empathy.
- (Optional) Offer entertainment.
After you write down your article’s key takeaways, it’s time to figure out the structure for our blog post.
Day Two: Structure
Now, it’s time to figure out our blog’s main structure.
Don’t worry. It’s not a rigid one, by any means, it’s just supposed to guide you as you will spend the next day writing the first draft.
So, right now, let’s think of how an article is supposed to work. And we’ll use another pyramid:
The first thing you need to do is figure out a way to attract your readers.
That’s what headlines are for. And, yes, you can click that link to read an entire guide about writing headlines.
But, for now, let’s focus on three main things:
a. The what. Is your article a list? A how-to guide? A personal essay? What is it?
b. The who. And here there are two aspects to consider: who is reading and who is writing.
As an example, I can write a headline that goes like this, “23 Blogging Lessons from a Blogging Veteran.” Cheesy, I know, but it’s that who that entices a lot of people.
You can also write a headline that goes like this, “Who Else Is Struggling to Write Headlines?“
That way anyone who stumbles upon your article can figure out of they qualify as ideal readers or not. Someone who never struggled to write headlines? They won’t read it.
c. The benefit for your reader. How can you best explain, within the limitations of a headline, what value are you adding to your reader?
And that’s a simple formula for writing enticing headlines.
Write Your Introduction
Now, let’s figure out a way to open our blog post.
Next to the headline, your introduction is your most important weapon. A damn good introduction will get a lot of people eagerly wanting to read the rest of your article, while a mediocre introduction will get them to never click on one of your articles again.
No pressure, though!
Also, you only have a few seconds to convince your readers that your article is right for them. It’s not like the entire world is at stake, but your career as a blogger might be.
So, how do you do that?
By keeping this thing in mind:
Your article is not about you, it’s about your reader.
This means your introduction — in fact, your whole article — must be a reflection of this simple fact.
Show your reader that you get them. That you care about them. That you know your stuff.
As a rule of thumb, when writing your introduction, you should:
- Address your reader directly (you is one of the most powerful words in the English language.)
- List and empathize with their pain points. Their fears, challenges, problems.
- Promise to help them destroy their objections, overcome their insecurities.
- Paint a vivid image of a future where they’ve managed to overcome that specific problem.
There two notable exceptions to this rule:
a. Writing a deeply personal essay. We’re not talking about what you had for breakfast, we’re talking about something that’s deeply personal, either a painful reality (mental health issues, heartbreak) or an external event that’s uncommon/traumatic (Horsemen of the Apocalypse sort of events.)
In that case, the value is in the emotional undertone, and because the emotions are so powerful, most of your readers can only sympathize, but not empathize with you, meaning they just feel your pain.
b. Providing massive social proof.
Let’s say you want to write an article about, “How to Be Productive Like Elon Musk.”
You could open your article with a quote or by sharing a story or anecdote from the life of Elon Musk. Readers either identify as part of your audience or not based on the social proof you demonstrate.
Alternatively, you can use yourself as the source of that social proof. Example, “How I Grew My Blog to Over 140,000 Readers.”
Then my introduction will be dedicated to building that social proof, sharing with you the numbers, the charts, and what qualifies me to share that story.
These principles hold true to almost every single article out there, whether we’re writing about a trip to Thailand or sharing a recipe.
If you feel that your article is somewhere in between, you need to adjust, because that’s the mark of lukewarm content that never gets read.
If you want people to read your articles, you must open in one of two ways:
- From a place of empathy, by showing your readers that they can trust you, that you care, that you understand them, and that you can show them how to get rid of their pain points.
- From a place of authority, by exhibiting massive social proof.
Outline the Rest of the Article
The last thing we’re going to do today is outline the rest of the article.
Now is when the braindump we did in Evernote, our value proposition, and our main takeaways come in handy.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Make use of subtitles.
- Write down a 5-6 sentence paragraph to expand upon each main idea.
- Add placeholders for images and graphics.
- Figure out your posts call to action (what you want your readers to know after they finish reading your article) and add it at the end of your outline.
Now, it’s time to rest.
That was quite a busy day.
Day Three: Write the First Draft
There are two things that often influence how successful we are when writing a first draft:
1. Clarity of purpose.
Luckily, all the previous steps are meant to help us with that.
By the time we sit down to do some actual writing, we should be clear on what we want to write, why, and who is supposed to read it.
In case you’re still struggling, the best way to gain a lot of clarity is to:
a. Visualize the story.
Whether you’re sharing a recipe, or you’re giving 15 quick-tips about building an email newsletter, there’s a story you must be aware of: a hero’s journey… and the hero is your reader.
This guide you’re reading right now, as I am writing these words, I am visualizing you, the blogger who struggles to consistently publish new content, gaining more and more insights, internalizing my tips and tricks, and then feeling motivated enough to take action right after you finish reading this article.
b. Pay extra-attention to your subtitles.
Subtitles aren’t there just to help guide your readers, because, let’s face it, in this age of shorter than ever attention spans, most readers are scanners, but also help you understand your own article’s structure.
In the end, if you are really clear on what you want to write, what you have is a list. Even if you write a personal essay. Or a wake-up call.
You have a list of topics that naturally progress towards one another, while also slowly unveiling your conclusion.
c. Feel the emotional roller-coaster.
From your opening line to your call to action, each sentence has an emotional undertone. Become aware of it.
- How does your choice of words affect your readers on an emotional level?
- What do you want them to feel?
- What is the emotional truth behind your words?
- How are you feeling as you write your words into existence?
Understanding the emotional undertone of your article gives you clarity. You know what you have to write, because you want your readers to feel a certain way.
Do you want them to feel empowered to take action? Choose the right words. Set the tone. Make them feel that they might fail, give them hope, take it away, give them new reasons to feel like they could conquer the world.
2. Freedom from outcome.
This is a tricky one, indeed.
It is the fear that no one is going to read it. Or that they’re going to read it and hate it.
Some say writing gets easier over time. but in my experience, writing is like running uphill. When your fitness level improves, you get faster to the top, but your legs still hurt.
I hate writing a first draft. There’s so much resistance that I have to fight against before starting, as I stare down that empty WordPress page.
Here are a couple of tricks I use to force myself to write a first draft:
1. Don’t think, just write.
The trick to writing a great first draft is to silence the inner editor. And the marketer/promoter within.
This means that you let go of any expectations, you don’t ask questions, you just write. The goal is to go from point A to point B, to go from outline to finished draft.
Thinking comes later.
The inner editor has a job to do, but not today.
Today, we write.
Let your subconscious mind dictate the words you share with the world. It kind of knows how to make sense of all the information you’ve stored in your mind and how to best connect what is in your brain with what you’ve long hidden in your heart.
The first draft of any type of writing should be written out of impulse. It’s like a dream from another life, a vision forming around the edges of that blank screen on your computer.
I write my first drafts by sharing as many thoughts and ideas as possible. I imagine myself laying bricks upon the foundation that is the initial thought or idea that fueled my own writing.
Inevitably, as you let go of fears, expectations, or desires, you begin to write your article. I mean, YOUR article. It belongs to you, it’s something only you can write.
Pro-tip: If you’re like me and write your first drafts in Google Docs, you probably know that if you can’t help yourself and do a bit of formatting and styling as well, if you just copy-paste your article, the results will be less than satisfactory.
A tool I use that helps me is Wordable, which allows me to easily import Google Docs straight into my WordPress dashboard.
2. Set your phone’s timer for 40 minutes and write your first draft.
You are allowed to do one of two things:
- Punch those damn keys.
- Stare at a blank space on a wall.
The trick is to use boredom to your advantage. If you cannot surf the web, aimlessly wander on social media, or even read something else, then you must write. How long can you stare at a wall before your mind will rebel against this stagnation and start producing ideas?
After 40 minutes, take a 10-minute break, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, then it’s back to punching those damn keys for another 40 minutes. Depending on how fast you type and how long your drafts are, you might need less time or a little more.
Don’t worry about the final paragraph, it’s better to write it when you feel fresh, as it makes you more enthusiastic.
Pro-tip: Shut the door, switch off your phone, do anything to make sure there are no outside distractions at all. And, yes, this means no music. The only thing you need to focus on is writing as fast as you can.
Day Four: Rewrite and Edit
Yes, today it’s time for that most loathed aspect of writing anything. But, truth be told, how much time and effort you put into editing your articles makes all the difference.
These are your main editing tasks for the day:
- Choose your favorite headline
- Polish your subheads to turn scanners into readers
- Prefer simple writing
- Add questions to make your content more conversational
- Check for grammar and spelling
- Read your post aloud to find the right rhythm
Want readers to enjoy your posts? Editing is where the magic happens.
Take your time and spend an entire day going through your article, rewriting your introduction, specific paragraphs, and overall taking care of consistency, tone, and, yes, you’ve got to take care of those pesky typos.
The main rule of editing:
What does this mean? To kill your darlings?
It means to choose function over form.
As you rewrite and edit your article, think about who is going to read it:
- What are they getting out of it?
- Is it worth their time?
- Would they pay money to read this article?
- Is it going to help them solve a problem? Or inspire them to take action?
- Is this the best article that you can write on the topic?
Edit and rewrite your article as you see fit, and spend as much time as you want on it, but keep this in mind: it’s never going to be perfect, so you will have to let go at some point.
That’s why I advise you to only spend one day editing and rewriting your article, and never more.
Day Five: Formatting and Graphics
Yes, content is king, but formatting is queen: to create readable, engaging content ensures that your followers will and can follow through to the end.
1. It’s mostly about being bold.
Let’s start at the most basic level with the bold and italic formatting options.
Used with a bit of restraint, bold and italic formatting can be a very effective way to break up blocks of text on your page.
One way is to bold a first sentence that introduces an important notion in a paragraph. This serves as a visual break from the rest of the text. It’s more subtle than a subhead, but still stands out from the rest of your content.
And when it comes to italics, you can add meaning to your words by italicizing words within a sentence.
Again, restraint is key. Don’t go overboard, or you risk annoying your readers.
Most readers only scan your content, trying to decide whether or not to dig in to your text. Take your time and craft subheads that hint at your content. This will help engage skimmers and draw them into the rest of your copy.
It’s a matter of personal preference, and the most important thing is to be consistent within each blog post.
3. Bullet points
Bullet points are a great way to lay out a series of concepts in a way that’s easy to digest.
If you find yourself writing a paragraph with multiple sentences and concepts — and it’s getting longer and longer — make use of bullet points:
- Explain concept one
- Then concept two
- End with concept three
See, wasn’t that easy on the eyes?
4. Make your paragraphs shorter
A long web page is easier to go through if paragraphs are broken into short paragraphs.
A rule of thumb is to stick to one topic per paragraph.
Then again, moderation is key, because using a ton of short paragraphs, short sentences, can also annoy some of your readers.
5. Block quotes
This WordPress function is easy to use and provides a great way to highlight text. You can use it to emphasize a famous quotation, a concept, or a crucial part of info.
A block quote helps a reader focus on what matters most. See?
One or two block-quotes per blog post is enough. More than that and they tend to distract readers.
When it comes to the overall layout of your article, adding relevant images, graphs, and charts can improve the reader-experience.
Here’s the thing:
I do advise that you create a set of custom graphics that you can then adapt and use in the next stage (promoting your article.)
Do not underestimate the importance of custom graphics when it comes to blogging. After all, the headline accompanied by a great image and a strong opening will always be read.
Day Five: Interlinking and Derivative Content
We’re going to spend the rest of the fifth day working on two things:
a. Interlinking our articles.
This is a simple two-step process that allows us to create a web of content and better promote our new article (and other articles) within our blog:
- The first step is to link to other articles within our blog, using certain keywords as links. Like I did with the word “articles” in the previous sentence. Now, my advice is to try to keep it as relevant as possible, and to only link to articles that do expand upon a certain idea or notion you share in your article, not just randomly link words to articles that kind of use the same word in their headlines. Like I did in that previous sentence. In other words, don’t just what I just did. Do better.
- The second step is to edit older articles and link to our most recent article. We do that after we publish our article.
b. Creating derivative content.
Now, this is why I do recommend you use custom graphics (and a tool such as Canva Pro). Because we’re going to create derivative content, which we can then share on social media (and other platforms.)
What is derivative content?
Anything that is “inspired” by your article.
The sky is the limit when it comes derivative content:
- Social media posts (Instagram posts, carousels, infographics, etc.)
- Slideshows (You can share them on Slideshare for instance.)
- Podcast episodes.
- YouTube videos.
Seriously, you can create as much derivative content as you like, and then use it to promote your content over and over again.
Pro-tip: The lifespan of your article is often determined by how well you promote it, and, truth be told, you can promote evergreen content for as long as you wish, thus the importance of creating derivative content and a proper campaign to promote your article.
Of course, we now click the publish button.
Day Six: Promoting the Article
I am including this in our weekly routine for one reason: most bloggers just share a link to their articles on social media, and call it a day.
There’s so much more to promoting an article once we publish it that it deserves our full attention for at least an entire day.
And to make the best of it, we’re going to use two platforms:
Missinglettr is an interesting tool that allows us to create social media campaigns (for up to an entire year) for our articles, and we can use graphics, quotes, links, hashtags, and more to promote our articles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for an extended period of time.
Click this link here to try Missinglettr for free and get a 50% discount for your first 3 months of using the platform.
You can read more about Missinglettr (and it’s paid add-on, Curate) in this review here.
Another interesting option when it comes to promoting our articles is Quuu Promote.
This platform allows us to promote our articles to an insane number of people (and get a lot of shares and clicks) for a lot less than we’d normally pay to sponsor and boost social media content.
Starting at $50 per month, Quuu Promote is well worth the investment if you publish consistently (at least one article per week.)
Day Seven: Rest (Kind of)
Just like any other muscle, our creativity has its limits. And that’s why on the seventh day, I do like to rest. And you should, too.
Feed your brain, if you like. Read some articles. Listen to a podcast. Learn about blogging. But don’t write anything.
Taking some time off also gives your subconscious mind the opportunity to better connect those dots, and you assimilate the information (and the feedback you receive.)
So take a day off. Don’t even think about writing.
Each blog post you write gives you the opportunity to engage your fans, to get them to trust you, to share your content, you establish your authority within your niche.
But rather than trying to find time to get writing done, you must make time. Don’t let blogging to become a mere wish: choose a schedule, promise yourself to get it done.
Grow your audience. Build your blog. And always be proud of your hard work.
The basics don’t work anymore
Most blogging advice you find online sounds like this:
- Publish as much content as possible
- Write longer articles
- Stuff your article with keywords in the vague hope of ranking as high as possible on search engines
- Use the same old basic headline formulas that everyone else has used and abused for the past two decades
Over two billion search results, and the vast majority of the advice you’ll find only kind of feels like a solution, feeds your enthusiasm until you click the publish button and… crickets.
But don’t worry, there’s a better way…
Master the art of writing blockbuster articles that help you grow your audience and become an authority within your niche by enrolling in our newest course, The Art of Writing Blockbuster Articles.
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