I’m no historian, but apparently it was painter, Chuck Close, who famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
I think that’s a valid point, particularly if you do the kind of artistic work where “waiting for inspiration” can turn into an excuse for not producing anything at all.
For those of us, on the other hand, who create “business content” – content that we need to promote ourselves as solo professionals – I think inspiration is worth waiting for. Or, at the very least, worth looking for.
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Here’s what I mean…
If you’re a solo professional, you need to be creating content. Blogs, newsletters, videos, free giveaways … all that kind of stuff.
Whatever form it takes, if you want people to view you as a Likeable Expert (Hint: you do), you need to be sharing a point of view in some kind of consistent and scalable (i.e., more than just one-on-one conversations) way.
But it need not be a grind and inspiration can help a lot in that regard. The key is to structure your efforts in such a way that you tap into said inspiration (why am I suddenly talking like William F. Buckley?).
Here are three things I recommend for making that happen:
- Pay close attention to your mood. Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. Other times, I can’t get to my keyboard fast enough. Why the difference? I don’t know. But when the mood strikes, I pounce.
This morning, for example, I was about to leave the house when I suddenly got an idea about a particular topic. My office is only seven minutes away (depending on school bus traffic), but I’ve learned to never ignore the Good Writing Fairy, lest she leave me for someone else.
So I grabbed my laptop, sat down at the kitchen table, and got the words out of my head and into a document.
Try to notice when the words are flowing – and clear the decks, if possible.
- Learn how to get in the mood. Inspiration may be mysterious, but it’s not entirely random. Certain things help to get us into a creative frame of mind.
Maybe your thing is running. Or listening to certain types of music. Or yelling at annoying children.
My go-to writing mood-creator these days is a guy named Tony Horton, the creator of the P90X workout series. Not the workouts themselves; I just happen to love the way he talks. If I need a mood boost, I find him on YouTube and soak it up.
- Stockpile. I don’t mean stockpiling complete newsletters. That’s usually a mistake because people try to have a bunch in the can before launching and, as a result, they never launch.
I mean stockpiling ideas.
I never sit down at a blank screen to write. Why? Because I spend my days collecting newsletter ideas: little stories and insights and snippets. I write them down (on yellow sticky notes) and keep them in a pile on my desk. When it’s time to write, I have something to work from.
There’s nothing scarier than an empty page. Collect ideas before you need them.
Here’s the bottom line. Sometimes a deadline looms and you just need to get it done. But if you can add some inspiration juice to the process, the getting it done part will be that much easier.
What do you do to get in the mood (keep it clean, mister)? Share your thoughts below.
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You are remarkable, loved your suggestions, loved Tony Horton. A deadline really inspires me, so as not to get harried, I start my message days (maybe weeks) before it’s needed and let it percolate. Then I edit it before I send it off. Thanks for all you do for so many individuals. Be blessed, Joan
Thank you; I agree completely on the deadline. For a long time I thought the reason I find publishing a newsletter so satisfying was that I like to write. That’s true, but it’s also because it’s got a firm deadline. Now I create deadlines just for the fun of getting things done – and I get a lot more done!
And it was Chuck Jones who said, “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.” It’s the looming deadline that does it for me, too. When I started my newsletter, I made a commitment to send it out on the first Thursday of the month — right after lunch. Having a deadline also forces me to examine ideas and situations I would otherwise ignore. As for getting in the mood with a specific topic, I take long walks… sometimes on a beach at sunset.
As a full-time freelance writer, I sometimes — but fortunately pretty rarely — also “don’t feel like writing.” Yesterday was one of those days. But I was already a week late in sending out my e-newsletter, so I MADE myself get it written. I muddled through it, realizing it wasn’t one of my stronger issues. But it got done and I sent it out this morning. This was definitely a case of just “showing up and getting to work”!
Sometimes that’s necessary, Don! Funny thing too with newsletters – sometimes the ones I think are not that great are very well received – and vice versa. I find it hard to gauge from the inside looking out! How about you?
Since I pretty much write all day, every day, I can’t afford to “not feel like writing” very often! So when this happens with my newsletter, it’s easy to put it off and make myself write something for a client, for which I get paid for. I’m still trying to figure out how to get people to comment (like this) to my newsletter. I’m lucky to get one or two comments per issue, if that. I think I’m doing (mostly) all the right things: writing relevant and thought-provoking articles that should stimulate comments, having an opinion, and asking for comments and including a link. I’ll keep trying!
Yes, the comments are always the hardest part. Interestingly, when I “forced a click” to read, I got 4 or 5 times as many comments on the page here, since people were already there and they saw the comments of others. Now that I moved back to including the entire newsletter in the email, I get 2 or 3 times as many comments sent directly to me via email as are made on the page. That’s kind of nice too, but nobody except me gets to see them!
Hi Michael. Why don’t you do an issue of your newsletter themed around ‘Reader’s comments’ and include them in that. Easy content for a future issue!
Best wishes from Wales,
That’s an interesting idea, Jon. Thanks for the suggestion!
When I force clicked, almost nobody clicked thru to read the article! I consistently get about a 30% open rate (according to Constant Contact) which I think is pretty good, so I’ll just stick with this and not worry about the comments.
I have no idea what gets me in the “mood” to write. I just know that when an idea hits that I have to jot it down immediately!
It makes my wife crazy, when I have three screaming kids surrounding me, and I have taken one of their crayons and coloring book and am scribbling down my next newsletter.
On the plus side I have a library of about 20-30 ideas and I have learned to color within the lines.
Ha! A double-bonus for you, Charles.
I have just one screaming child left at home (the others scream at college) and remember those days well. Don’t miss them – we have a handprint on the wall in our hallway that we’ve never cleaned, knowing it is the last of many.
Long walks and lawn mowing for an hour or more work well for me.
Well in that case, Doug, I have an idea. You start walking now from Down Under to my house in Boston. When you get here you can mow my lawn (it will be spring by then). That ought to give you inspiration for years to come!
Definitely agree with everything that’s been said about the motivating pressure of a deadline! Beyond that, I always try to remind myself of 2 things:
1. Whatever I write, I can edit it and make it better, but I need to write something (anything!) first.
2. Better done than perfect–focus on the ultimate goal of getting it out the door (shipping, as Seth Godin puts it so well). A half-finished anything isn’t going to do anyone any good 🙂
Great points, Jen!
>> But it need not be a grind and inspiration can help a lot in that regard. The key is to structure your efforts in such a way that you tap into said inspiration (why am I suddenly talking like William F. Buckley?).
Because, Michael, you are to newsletter writing what the formidable Mr. Buckley was to erudite speech.
You flatter me, David (please continue).
Stockpiling works well.
I’m also willing to just start with a blank screen and start typing. After 5, 10, or 15 minutes, ideas usually start coming together and flow starts happening. Err, usually. It can be a rocky road to get there and it doesn’t always work out.
Btw, how much traffic have you gotten from recording the audios of the newsletters. You’re posting those to iTunes, right?
Yes, the “just start typing and see where you go” approach definitely works as well. And takes some of the pressure off too, I think.
I’m not sure on the iTunes question. Last time I checked (it’s been a while), they don’t share that with you. In my case, I get many more clicks to the audio directly from the newsletter than to the itunes page itself. But it’s easy to do so I do both.
Are you using much audio in your writing?
I haven’t done any audio of my writing as yet, but I like the idea because hearing someone’s voice builds the bond faster. I know your audios and videos have done that for me.
Speaking of which, big congrats to you on your latest launch. I know it can be a LOT of work to put together a launch. And you had some nice humor, as usual. 🙂
If I waited for the mood to strike it would be difficult for me to produce anything regularly! I find that when I’m the least motivated, if I tell myself I’ll just do “one quick thing” or “jot a few notes” before I know it I’m in the zone.
I love that approach, Jessica. Just wade into it and before you know it you’re swimming!
There’s a whole book about Jessica’s approach…
It definitely works!
Just bought the book, Sunni! Thanks for the suggestion….
Nice, Michael! It’s in the same vein as what you teach… Success comes from the little things we do consistently.