Think B2B writing is %&$! scary? Face your fears with these 8 writing tips
Asana, Trello—whatever your project manager of choice—is slowly ticking down the days until your next blog post is due.
Tick, tock; tick, tock….😱😱😱
For many of us, these looming blog post deadlines can fill us with dread and send us running for the nearest hiding spot (and bin of cake frosting!).
Plus, stress is already high! You’re part of a super small (or party of one) marketing team that’s busy to the brim. You wear so many hats—how can you possibly get everything done? Maybe you’re doing events, you’re running ads, working with a graphic designer, diving into analytics, doing PR...the list goes on.
You’re chipping away at a marketing plan, and no matter how much you get done, you always feel behind.
So you’ve already missed several weeks of posts.
It’s only a matter of time before your boss starts asking what’s up with the spectacular marketing calendar you presented earlier in the quarter.
So many times, the things we don’t get to are blogs, articles, social media posts—written content that sounds stressful to produce and takes a long time to put together.
Writing isn’t quick and it certainly isn’t easy for everyone—it’s downright intimidating for most of us! It keeps getting pushed back, and when you really care about your work, that feeling of failure can keep you up at night.
It’s time to face your fears! Here are 8 writing tips to help you tackle your next writing assignment with confidence.
8 writing tips to help you tackle your next writing assignment with confidence
Start with your very, very, very worst idea
Sometimes we get hamstrung trying to focus on coming up with that one great idea. Instead of toiling away, trying to find the diamond in the rough, the McDonald’s Theory suggests that you start with your absolute worst idea.
If you’re like me, the prospect of deciding where to eat with a group of people is downright exhausting. Jon Bell posits an easy way to solve this common problem: suggest McDonald’s.
The groans! The cries! Not McDonald’s; what are you insane?
Rallying around anything not McDonald’s, people suddenly have inspired ideas.
Our brains work the same way. To stave off the chance that you’ll actually go with that awful idea, it’ll suddenly start churning out better ones. And better ones after that. Eventually, you’ll get to the winner hiding underneath the wreckage.
Instead of hiding from your bad ideas, dare to put them on paper. It’s the first step towards weeding out the weasels so you can find your inspiration.
Seth Godin calls run-of-the-mill marketers the ultimate narcissists—persistently interrupting, always assuming their company’s desire for attention or revenue trumps whatever it is you're in the middle of. They’re constantly a battering ram at the door, flogging us with the best words to describe themselves and their work.
But, think of using the best words to share a great story with a friend. Changing to a sharing mindset instead of a soapbox mindset can make the writing process easier.
Focus on how you can help instead of trying to prove your knowledge
People ultimately buy things to better their lives. It’s your job to share how they can reap the benefits of your product or service. It’s not your job to baffle them with a yawn-inducing account of cryptic technical specs—a task that puts even the writer to sleep.
Especially in B2B, marketers forget that a product or service is meant to improve somebody’s day by making their work life easier or helping them feel accomplished by creating a better product.
Instead of focusing on how they can help people, most businesses are like, “how can I sound smart?” “How can I bombard this reader with fat words so they think I’m smarter than the widget seller next door?”
When we are trying to “look smart,” we immediately trigger fight or flight. We become so entrenched in “proving ourselves” that we become paralyzed, incapable of putting down words. We’re grated with: How can I get out of this? How can I delay working on this? What more preferable things will I do once I get this done?
Instead, retrain your brain to focus on creating content that helps someone—something that’s far easier than trying to posture smarter than anybody else in your industry. Think about:
What do you know that can help your customer be better at their job?
How does your product or service help them feel happier in their job? Like, how much less soul-draining admin work will they have to do if they use your product?
Will your product send them home feeling better or brighter at the end of the day? Maybe it makes them so efficient that it reduces the dread of their boss prodding them for a status update.
Will your product help them meet the revenue goals that will cause managers to celebrate, respect, and promote them?
How does your business help them get their message out to more people?
By focusing on the reader's needs instead of our own, it becomes easier to craft writing that’s useful, helpful, and interesting!
Use a less judge-y app
For some people, looking at the blinking cursor in Google Docs or Word feels like you’re staring right at your boss.
We feel like every word we put down is immediately judged by a tribunal of ultra-critical managers.
They’re waiting on the edge of their seats for us to make a mistake.
They’re ready with their best insults.
So take your writing into a less “judge-y” environment!
Sometimes all the bells and whistles of a more official word app make us feel like our early ideas are set in stone. Use a Plain Text Editor or your phone’s Notes app instead.
Grab a pen and paper. Some people are more comfortable expressing themselves with pen and paper. Use a napkin, an errant sheet of paper by the printer—whatever you need to get those words out of your brain and into the world.
If you draw a blank when typing, record yourself talking out loud about the topic and transcribe it later.
Find yourself violently scrutinizing each and every word as you type it? Some productivity experts go as far as recommending writing in white text so you can’t follow your thoughts in real time.
Nothing’s perfect at the start! Getting more comfortable with the early phases of our writing helps us gain more confidence over the long run.
But what the hell does this nebulous but pervasive advice even mean?
For some reason, when it’s time to write about anything that has to do with our career self, our brains revert to a stuffy caricature of a businessman.
After all, the second we step into the job world, resume sites are always swimming tips to use words like “problem solver” and “solutions provider”—corporate jargon that, in reality, falls on deaf ears. It can be hard to turn this spigot off!
The good news is, most of us aren’t naturally an overstuffed suit. We’re more conversational and free-flowing—the kind of tone and style that actually relates with readers.
Readers want to hear from a real person. They don’t want to hear from a mysterious entity known as a corporation.
Being yourself means taking a breath and not being what junior high taught us was business writing. Except for a very narrow band of companies, more conversational, real-world speak is the most effective way to talk with your customers.
Set reasonable time limits
In episode #485 of the Tim Ferriss podcast, comedian Jerry Seinfeld underscores the importance of setting time limits when writing. He uses the analogy of an appointment with a personal trainer. If you ask, “how long is this session?" and they answer, “it’s completely open-ended,” you’re more likely to angrily head for the sofa than grab a set of weights.
Would you start running in a race if you had no idea how far the course was?
You would have no idea how fast to run, how much effort to put in, or how many water stops to take.
So, you become overwhelmed by frustration. Your brain just can’t prepare for the journey because it has no concept of the constraints.
Putting precise bookends on a project can help get the creative juices flowing. Decide you’ll work on a project for 30 or 60 minutes and set a timer. When time is up, move onto another project and come back to your writing assignment later.
When your brain can quantify the effort required, it starts churning through the steps, creating an achievable blueprint to beat even the most challenging topic.
Respect the process
Getting more comfortable with writing requires a mindset shift. Most of us only count words on the page as “the work.” When there are no words on the page, we feel like a lazy failure.
But, the preparation is a vital part of the work.
Ogling blankly at the blinking cursor, scrolling through research articles, staring at the wall while your mind works through a concept—it’s all part of your brain chipping away at a big idea.
Sometimes, I absorb everything I can on a topic before I head to bed at night. By morning, my brain is cranking ideas out so quickly that I can barely grab a pen in time. The “sleeping on it” is just as important as getting words down on the page.
Just like a prep cook slicing, dicing, and shredding the ingredients before dinner service, organizing beforehand is just as important as the meal itself. Start respecting the prep work—it’s as much of a priority as typing up a draft.
Finally, head out the door!
You don’t have to stare at a screen until you're numb—head out for a walk! Watch birds hop between trees. Mull over why trunks, barrels, and cables bunch together on some power poles and not others. Listen for a babbling brook, or if you’re in Los Angeles, the thrumming of a leaf blower.
Allowing your mind to wander away from the topic at hand can jumpstart your brain with refreshed creativity. It’s almost like a magic pill. When you’re finally not thinking about writing, that’s when the big idea strikes!
In fact, I actually wrote 80% of this blog post while out for a walk—check out the view below.
Are you struggling through a draft and need an extra pair of eyes? Send it along—I’d love to check it out!