Must you be inspired to write?

Inspiration may make a difference in your writing. In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and The Creative Brain, Alice W. Flaherty says:

             Although most psychologists and writing teachers distrust the Romantic notion of an inspiration that is separate from skill or hard work, and doubt the claim that one can write at one’s best only when “in the mood,” so many professional writers take these notions seriously that perhaps we should too. After all, psychologists, as opposed to professional writers, are not known for writing well.

I don’t know that I’m ever truly inspired. After all, I write about mundane topics on my blog, and for my client work, it’s mainly a matter of organizing material logically. However, it’s easier for me to blog when an idea strikes. For example, the Flaherty quote that I share above made me think, “This could be a blog post!” I promptly grabbed the legal pad that’s often at my side when I read. I immediately started scribbling.

Experiences like this are why I agree with Flaherty’s advice that:

Perhaps the most practical implication is not to keep yourself from writing when not inspired, but to be ruthless about writing whenever inspiration hits. This approach requires always having paper or a palmtop computer with you, and above all to avoid answering the door or e-mail when you are in the middle of something good.

As I’ve written in “No batteries required: My favorite blogging technique,” I always have a pen and a pad of paper with me. I’m drafting this post as I work through Flaherty’s book. It’s in the magazine rack by my side, as I write on a yellow legal pad.

Poll: Do YOU Need inspiration to write?

Please vote in my poll. I’m curious to learn about YOUR experience. I’ll report on your answers in my newsletter.

 

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.

Professional writers vs. amateur writers

What distinguishes professional writers from amateur writers? Why should you care?

There are many characteristics that differentiate professional writers.

In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, Alice Flaherty identifies an important one. She says that pros

…more successfully engage their audience. It is partly a question of skill, but more often a matter of goals. Amateur writers tend to write primarily for self-expression, whereas writers able to become professional can hide or transform their own agendas enough so that they are of interest to others.

That’s an interesting interpretation that makes me think of the difference between successful and unsuccessful financial bloggers. Someone who blogs solely for self-expression is unlikely to attract many followers. The same goes for someone who only blogs self-promotional content. Successful financial bloggers move beyond these approaches.

To engage readers, you must mix your own “agenda” with your target readers’ needs and interests.

 

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.

Change your writing for the better

“Nothing changes if nothing changes,” said my spinning instructor in a class. This spurred some thoughts that may help your writing.

In my instructor’s case, she decided to quit drinking coffee as one small step toward healthier eating. That was less intimidating than revamping all of her eating habits at once. Once she quit drinking coffee, it was easy to make a second change to juicing celery every morning. Who knows what additional changes she’ll make?

Could a similar approach help you to improve your writing?

Your first step

Pick one small thing to improve your writing. Here are some ideas for you.

  • Set a weekly writing goal. Measure your goal in terms of word count, time spent writing, or pieces produced. A daily writing goal also works, but a weekly goal may feel less daunting.
  • Create a checklist of your most common writing mistakes. The more you have to think about what to look for when checking your work, the more likely you are to forget something. Decrease the load on your brain by creating a checklist of the most important items for you to check. Not sure how to structure a checklist? There’s one in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients that you can use as a starting point.
  • Get help from someone else. Ask a colleague or friend with a good editorial eye to mark up a sample of your work. Find a blogging buddy. Sign up for a writing class. Hire an outside proofreader, copyeditor, or writing coach. Help can come in many forms.

YOUR choice?

What’s one thing you will do to boost your writing? For my part, I read books about writing, hoping to find new techniques and inspiration.

Top posts from 2019’s first quarter

Check out my top posts from the first quarter! If you’re trying to figure out how to improve your quarterly commentary process, check out #7!

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

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 first quarter

  1. Word and phrase substitutions for economical writers—I could tell from the social media response that this post resonated with readers.
  2. Don’t fix your grammar
  3. Mistake Monday for February 4: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Make your bullet-pointed lists more powerful
  5. Manage comments on your financial blog
  6. Shakespeare lesson for bloggers
  7. Can “find and replace” prevent quarterly commentary errors?
  8. Feeling blah about your blog?
  9. Cracking eggs for your writing
  10. Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

Stay the same or evolve?

My spinning instructor inspired this post about writing. If you’ve taken many spinning classes, you’ve probably encountered an instructor who strives to inspire you. The teacher of my 7:30 a.m. spinning class recently said, “You can stay the same or you can evolve.” She was praising us for turning up early on Saturdays to improve our fitness on the gym’s stationary bicycles.

However, I think the need to evolve also applies to writing. Your writing may be good enough. However, you probably have room for improvement. I know I do. My husband reminds me of that almost every time he proofreads my monthly e-newsletter. How can we evolve as writers? I have some ideas.

Enroll in a class

Consider enrolling in a writing class. I used classes to turn myself from a writer of stilted prose in my Ph.D. dissertation to a reasonably competent writer. As I’ve said elsewhere, just about any good writing class will help. As I draft this post, I’m about to take a class about using my phone to produce videos. It’s not exactly writing, but it may help me to think differently about writing. If you’d like a writing class focused on financial content, consider my on-demand online classes about writing blog posts or investment commentary.

Ask for feedback

Enrolling in an interactive class is a great way to get feedback. But, it’s not the only way. Consider asking colleagues, friends, or clients for feedback. Or, join a writing group or hire a writing coach or editor to review your work. Another option is to use automated tools for feedback on your work. I discussed the Hemingway tool in “Free help for wordy writers!” One reader told me that changed his writing enormously.

Read

Reading good writing and books about writing can help. As I write this, I’m enjoying Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. It’s oriented to memoir and fiction writers, but I’m still benefiting from it.

How will YOU evolve?

If you have ideas about how to evolve as a writer, please share them. I always enjoy learning from you. By the way, if you’re a fan of spinning, you may enjoy “Financial blogging lessons from my spinning class.”

 

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.

Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

If you’re like me, you sometimes start writing something, but get distracted partway through it. I’m trying an exercise in Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing Is My Drink to break that habit. Well, maybe I can’t break that habit. However, I believe that I can improve my writing productivity with the help of her exercise.

Writing productivity assessment exercise

Here’s the exercise:

Start noticing the times when you stop working. Is it when you get stuck on something? When the writing starts to feel “too hard”? Is it when you get thrown off your routine because something unexpected comes up? Is it when you’re on the verge of taking your story to a deeper level? Keep track of your sticking points. You might even want to take a few notes about these stopping points.

I like the idea of doing research like this to help solve the problem. I tested this exercise by doing it myself. I discovered some patterns of when I stop writing. Here are some examples.

PROBLEM 1: I discover something that I want to research. For example, perhaps I have a usage question about whether I should use “each” or “both,” so I leave the page to research it. When I open my browser, I see tabs I’ve left open earlier in the day. I figure it’ll only take a minute to check Twitter or LinkedIn, but then I see something I want to share or reply to. I get distracted.

PROBLEM 2: Something that I write reminds me of something I need to do for a purpose other than the piece I’m writing. I figure it’ll only take me a minute or two, so I abandon my writing.

PROBLEM 3: A Microsoft Outlook reminder makes a noise. I go to check it out.

Writing productivity solutions

I am trying to manage my productivity challenges better by:

  • Reminding myself to stay focused
  • Keeping my “to do” list handy so I can jot down tasks to perform later, instead of abandoning my work to perform them
  • Clicking to delay reminders until after I’ve completed my writing work
  • Promising myself a reward, like a half-hour with a mystery novel that I’m enjoying

What writing productivity solutions help you? I know some people use apps like RescueTime to track their productivity and even block distracting websites. Nestor is a fan of using a timer, a technique that I discuss in “15 minutes to busting your writer’s block.” Nestor also recommends reading Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work,” which you can download on Nestor’s blog. It’s a long—almost 15 pages—essay, so I downloaded it, but didn’t read it while I was drafting this blog post. I knew it was more important for me to finish this draft than to read the essay.

I discuss more productivity techniques in “‘Deep Work’ rules to help you write more.”

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.

 

Book author tips from my experience

If you’re looking to write a book, you can learn from my experience writing, publishing, and marketing Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. If you’re a book author planning to self-publish your book, you may find my tips particularly helpful.

Below you’ll find links to my posts for book authors.

Writing a book

6 lessons from my book writing experience” discusses goes beyond the writing process to discuss decisions that you make during the writing process—such as the use of images—that will affect the ease with which you eventually manage turning your manuscript into a published book. My writing group was the biggest contributor to my completing my manuscript. Its members, who were mainly fiction writers with little knowledge of financial topics, urge me to write a book. They also held me accountable for turning in chapters for them to critique. They spurred many tweaks to my text, as well as my changing the order in which some of the chapters appear.

If you want to write your book using multiple devices, you may be interested in the solutions mentioned briefly in “Write your book on multiple devices.

Publishing a book

When you self-publish, you’ll need to make many decisions that you can avoid if you work with a traditional publisher. I discuss many of these in “7 steps toward picking your self-published financial book’s formats and formatter.” For example, you’ll need to decide whether to publish an e-book (and in which of the many formats) or a printed book as a paperback or hardcover. I hope that my tips can help you avoid a fiasco I experienced along the way to publication.

As part of the formatting process, you’ll need to create a cover for your book. I outsourced to a professional book designer for Financial Blogging, used my website guy’s designer for Investment Writing Top Tips, and created a cover myself using Canva for Investment Commentary. I also used crowdsourcing to help select the cover for Financial Blogging, as I discuss in “Tips for crowdsourcing self-published book covers.” Crowdsourcing also influenced the ultimate title of my book.

Marketing and selling a book

I cover the basics of book marketing in “How to market your self-published book: Lessons from my experience.” You’ll learn the process I followed to launch my financial blogging book.

Your pricing will affect how you market your book—and how many books you sell. I discuss some considerations in “How to price your self-published book—lessons from my experience.” The good news is that you can change the price, if the price you use initially doesn’t achieve the results you desire. You can also offer temporary discounts.

If you want to sell your book directly to readers, you’ll need a virtual shopping cart to handle the transactions. I use E-junkie. I’ve written up “Selling PDF e-books online: Tips from my E-junkie experience.” I also use E-junkie for selling my coaching, as well as my financial blogging class and investment commentary webinar.

What else would you like to learn?

If you share your questions with me, I may be able to answer them in a future blog post.

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!

 

Word and phrase substitutions for economical writers

Top posts from 2018’s fourth quarter

Check out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on writing (#1, #4, #5, #9, #10), blog (#2), proofreading (#3), investment commentary (#6), newsletter (#7), and grammar (#8). If you’d like to quickly improve your writing, check out #1! The #2 post is a practical checklist for writing more than just blog posts.

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 2018’s fourth quarter

  1. 5 things my English teachers failed to teach me
  2. Financial blog post test—do you pass?
  3. MISTAKE MONDAY for December 24: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Down with (The Index) parenthetical notes!
  5. My 2018 reading, with recommendations for you
  6. My best tip for improving your investment commentary
  7. The e-newsletter problem you don’t know about
  8. Being right about grammar isn’t always good enough
  9. Write like an effective lawyer
  10. 4-step process to define your audience