Insecure about blogging? Write a letter

Some people feel they shouldn’t blog. They hesitate because they don’t have novel topics, or they feel their writing isn’t good enough.

Letter exercise

If you’re hesitating, you might benefit from an exercise called “Exploring Self-Compassion Through Letter Writing” in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion; The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

As part of the exercise, Neff suggests you write a letter from the perspective of “an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses, including the aspect of yourself you have just been thinking about.”

The next step is to “Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend—focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for.”

Your friend’s response to your letter

What would this friend say about your:

  • Writing skills
  • Blog topics
  • Other weaknesses and strengths

Here are some of the points this friend might make:

  • Writing is a skill that can be improved through study or working with an editor. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • It’s okay to discuss topics that others have already discussed. This is because they are perennial concerns of your prospects. You can use your insights and personality as discussed in “How to add personality and warmth to your writing” to make an impression on your readers.
  • Blogging can be a great way for advisers to clarify their thoughts on important topics, regardless of whether it brings new clients. It also improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) on topics you care about.
  • There may be fixes for other weaknesses that you perceive.

Sure, sometimes your imaginary friend will sometimes tell you to give up on blogging. For example, if you’re an incredibly busy advisor with a steady flow of new clients, and you’re a terrible writer, then don’t write.

However, in many cases, your friend will say “Please blog.” Listen to your friend.

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Ask questions

This line in O magazine struck me as relevant to financial bloggers:

The wisest people have more questions than answers.

That’s according to wisdom researcher Monika Ardelt in “What Wise People Do Differently.”

Ask questions, even if you lack answers

Reading that line inspires me to suggest that bloggers ask more questions when they write. You don’t need to have all the answers.

If you’re a blogger who’s good at sparking online discussion, you might start an interesting discussion by asking, for example, whether it’s worth spending to attend an Ivy League college.

You could go beyond a one-line question to suggest some factors to consider. In the Ivy League example, those factors might include the income and savings of the college student’s family, the availability of financial aid, the strengths and weaknesses of the specific school the student is considering, and the student’s personality.

Questions to ask

Another article in the same issue of O, “Inquire within” (Jan. 2018, not available online), suggested some questions that I think might work for financial bloggers. For example,

  • Is there a day in your life you really regret? Is there a day you would like to revisit?
  • What is one lesson you would teach your children? How did you learn it?
  • Who is an important teacher in your life?
  • Is the life you’re living today aligned with the most important things you’ve learned?

These questions could easily be tilted toward financial topics.

You can’t answer these questions for your blog’s audience. In fact, it’s presumptuous of you to say that you can.

However, you can answer these questions for yourself in a blog post. That may help your readers find their answers. Their answers could help them to lead better lives.

Top posts from 2019’s third quarter

Check out my top posts from the third quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on newsletters (#1), communication (#2 ,#6), grammar (#3, #5), proofreading (#4), writing (#7, #9), and blogging (#8 & #10).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s third quarter

  1. Are quarterly newsletters still useful?
  2. Prepare clients for market volatility
  3. MISTAKE MONDAY for July 8: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. My three main software tools for proofreading
  5. Contractions: Use or avoid in formal writing?
  6. Bad images hurt credibility
  7. More substitutions for economical writers
  8. Why should institutional investment managers blog?
  9. Buckle down to writing with a virtual stranger!
  10. Lemonade from lemons for your writing

 

 

Lemonade from lemons for your writing

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s a well-known expression attributed to writer Elbert Hubbard, as well as to writer Dale Carnegie and businessman Julius Rosenwald. As you know, it means that you should make the most of adversity. You can even turn it into an opportunity. You can apply this message to your blogging.

When you experience misfortune or troubles in a field relevant to your blog, write about it! I’ve done this many times, as in “Watch out for WordPress 5, especially if you compose in Word!

For example, did you make a mistake in paying off your student loans, preparing to buy a house, or judging your tolerance for investment risk? Those are topics that your prospects can relate to.

As I said in “Shakespeare lesson for bloggers,” sharing a story of your personal struggle can make your content more powerful.

Top posts from 2019’s second quarter

Check out my top posts from the second quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on compliance (#1, #6), writing (#2, #3, #5, #7, #8), proofreading (#4), grammar (#9), and newsletter (#10).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s second quarter

  1. 6 tips to keep your compliance officers happy—This post drew on contributions from many of my colleagues in the fields of writing and marketing.
  2. Stay the same or evolve?
  3. Change your writing for the better
  4. MISTAKE MONDAY for May 6: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  5. Professional writers vs. amateur writers
  6. Marketer’s perspective on investment marketing compliance—This guest post was written in reaction to my compliance post in the #1 spot.
  7. Top posts from 2019’s first quarter
  8. Must you be inspired to write?—All of the respondents to the poll in this article said that they don’t need to be inspired to write. I suspect that most of them are professional writers or have writing as an important component of their jobs. Here are a couple of comments: “If I waited for inspiration, I might never meet a deadline!” and “I’m a content creator who has to write daily, whether I’m inspired or not.”
  9. Limit your use of the progressive tense
  10. Pick your e-newsletter sender name carefully

Why should institutional investment managers blog?

Why should institutional investment managers blog? And, what’s your best tip for those who blog?

Please answer my two-question survey.

I’d love to share the results of this survey with you, but to do that I’ll need to collect enough responses to make it interesting. Please participate and encourage your colleagues and friends to participate.

Watch out for WordPress 5, especially if you compose in Word!

Think carefully before you upgrade to WordPress 5. I upgraded, and I’m sorry I did.

The new interface is clunky. It takes a block approach to blog post composition. It also seems to make it impossible to copy-paste blog post drafts from Microsoft Word to WordPress. It lumped everything I copy-pasted into one ugly block. Both I and my more tech-savvy virtual assistant were frustrated by composing, copying, and editing in WordPress 5.

Restore old style with Classic Editor

Luckily, WordPress offers the Classic Editor plugin, which restores the editing functionality of WordPress 4. With the Classic Editor installed, you can use either the familiar Classic Editor or the clunky Block Editor. I imagine the Block Editor has some virtues, perhaps for visually-oriented posts.

Copy-pasting with Classic Editor

If you want to compose in Word, and then retain formatting when you copy-paste into WordPress, follow these steps:

  • Format your Word document using Word’s styles. For example, don’t bold headings. Instead, select the right heading from the style menu (see image below). I use Heading 2.
  • In your Word document, select all (Ctrl+A) and copy (Ctrl+C) the text of your document. However, don’t include the title, which you’ll need to type separately into your new post.
  • Open a new post in WordPress, click on the Visual tab, and then Ctrl+V to paste your Word document into the Visual editor. If you’re working on a post that you’ve already started, open it using the Classic Editor, and then press Ctrl+V in the Visual tab.

Good luck with WordPress 5!

I hope this tip spares you some of the pain that my assistant and I experienced with this so-called “upgrade.”

Bloggers, value your thoughts

You matter. One of the best ways for writers to distinguish themselves is by sharing their thoughts. That’s why the following line from Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing is My Drink resonated with me.

One of the essential characteristics of a writer is the willingness and ability to see the stories in our lives and to believe that our observations, thoughts, and obsessions are worth following to the page.

The stories in our lives are particularly important for bloggers. I’ve discussed this in posts like the following:

Pay attention to your thoughts, discover the stories in them, and use them to make your writing stand out.

 

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Clone your blog posts

A lovely walk in a Berkshires Audubon sanctuary made me think about blogging. I saw a tree labeled “American Beech and Clones.” Because my mind works in strange ways, I immediately thought about suggesting that you try cloning your blog posts. After all, if a topic or approach works once, growing into a healthy “beech tree,” it may work again.
American beech and clones

But, how can one clone blog posts? I turned to mind mapping to help me visualize the different ways that you might tackle this project (see image below).

That led me to the cloned blog post starting points that I list below.

1. Title

You can generate blog post ideas by cloning the structure used in the title of a successful blog post.

For example, I wrote a blog post called “Do NOT send your newsletter via your email .” The words “do NOT” could apply to many topics that evoke strong feelings from a blogger. I immediately think of “don’t sign me up for your newsletter without my permission,” a topic I’ve “already blogged about.

Do you have an action that you passionately wish your readers would not take? That’s great fodder for a blog post.

Another title-related idea is to riff off topics mentioned in the title, whether or not they’re central to the blog post. For example, there are many potential topics related to newsletters and email, the two main topics in  “Do NOT send your newsletter via your email .”

2. Format

The format of your blog post can inspire you in two ways.

First, you can take the content of your current post, and pour it into a different format. For example, “Infographic: 5 Ways to Add Personality to Your Financial Writing” puts one of my blog posts into infographic form. Some people will absorb the information more easily from the infographic than from the original blog post.

Some of the formats to consider include:

  • List post
  • Q&A
  • Checklist
  • Template
  • Infographic
  • Podcast
  • Video

The second form of inspiration can come from applying your original blog post’s format to a different topic. Have your list posts performed well? Think about other topics that would benefit from a list.

3. Sources

Perhaps it’s time to revisit the sources used in a past blog post.

Perhaps you can return to an individual at your firm or an expert outside your firm. Can that person contribute a post—or participate in an interview with you?

The publications that you quote in articles can spur ideas. For example, when I ghost-blogged about retirement for a financial advisor, I found that EBRI’s research publications provided many ideas. For my own blog, I’ve often been inspired by The Wall Street Journal, as in “Financial jargon killer: The Wall Street Journal.”

Photos are another source, as I described in “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.” I haven’t counted, but I think I’ve published a dozen or photo-inspired posts on this blog. Not only did a photo inspire this blog post, but that photo’s reference to an audio tour made me realize I should include podcast and video in my list of formats above.

4. Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a topic generation technique that I describe in detail in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. However, you can get an idea of how it worked by looking at the mind map I wrote for this blog post.

clone blog post mind map5. Readers

Your readers can also help you clone your successful blog posts. Look at their comments and questions sparked by your post and your social media shares of that post. If there’s something that resonates strongly with them—or something that puzzles them—that’s a good topic to tackle in a future post.

YOUR ideas?

If you have ideas on how to clone successful blog posts, please share them. I’m eager to learn from you.

Cracking eggs for your writing

You have to crack eggs and get your hands dirty to create a delicious dessert. Sometimes the same thing is necessary to create an effective blog post.

Most good blog posts aren’t fully formed before you start writing. They’re not like the products of soulless, mass-produced cake mixes.

You have to assemble ingredients—your ideas, statistics, and other supporting evidence.

You don’t dump your ingredients into your blog post in any old order. The result would be impossible to read. Instead, you add them in the right order. You may decide on that order using different techniques, such an outline, mind map, or discussion with an editor or writer. In a sense, you’re creating a recipe with the right chemistry.

You blend your ingredients. The writer’s equivalent of blending is the editing of your first draft. that’s the stage when you check that your post passes big-picture tests for its organizations.

Then, you bake. For writers, that means line-editing, proofreading, and, perhaps, getting feedback from other people.

Complete these steps, and you have a blog post that’s ready to be consumed by readers who’ll appreciate the care that you’ve put into it.

Want help learning how to bake a great blog post? Check out my financial blogging class!