Creating Content and Writing Style: An Introspective On Arguably the Most Boring Topic Ever (<=== You Should Read This)
I received an email the other day from a good friend of mine, Jon Goodman, whom many of you may recognize from The Personal Training Development Center (an awesome, FREE, resource for any trainers out there reading), as well as such book as Ignite the Fire, Race to the Top, and his soon-to-be-released project, Viralnomics, which he’s currently writing in Hawaii. On a beach. While starring at the ocean. And probably being hand fed grapes and coconut milk.
I hate you Jon. I hate you so much……;o)
Anyways, he reached out to me the other day with an interesting query, and I felt compelled to use it as blog post today as I know there are a lot of trainers, coaches, and exercise enthusiasts who read my site on a daily basis (thank you) who often contemplate and express interest in writing. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, many wind up dragging their heels out of intimidation or frustration.
Anyways, here’s Jon’s email he sent in its entirety:
I’ve got a question for you because it’s something that I’ve struggled with a lot and continue to struggle with. Perhaps you can lend some insight.
I’m asking you because you are the most consistent blogger out there. You pump out quality content multiple times a week and have been doing it for years.
So here’s my question:
How do you not get bored? You manage to keep the information fresh and always write in an inviting and entertaining tone but let’s be honest, how many articles have you written about deadlifts, and women lifting weights, and shoulder health etc.
I seem to lose interest really quickly.
Any ideas to ignite my fire?
Note: what follows isn’t (entirely) what I sent to Jon. Some of it is, but I also added a bit more knowing that 1) I had more to add and 2) I knew a fair number of people reading would hopefully benefit from it.
First off: how in the heck am I supposed to “ignite the fire” for a guy who wrote a book titled Ignite the Fire? Talk about pressure!!!
Your question is a good one, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with myself all…..the……time.
I get writer’s block just like everyone else, and often find myself sitting in front of my computer screen thinking to myself, “I have absolutely no idea what to write about today.”
I’ll load up on some caffeine……nada.
I’ll put on some classic music to inspire some creative juices……nope.
Hell, I’ll even talk to my cat who’s usually lying there right next to me….and that generally leads to nowhere. Except for a slight detour to Snugglesville, USA.
While it rarely happens, it happens. And when it does, sometimes I just call a spade and spade, admit that I don’t have anything to say that day, and go make a tuna sandwich.
Typically, though, I somehow I manage to fight through it, and feel the following strategies and insights are what help the most as far as helping me continue to stay consistent with my writing:
1. I write! I’m stubborn like that. Giving full disclosure: the whole process of writing does not come easy to me. I used to struggle quite a bit just to type 500 words.
500 words gave the impression that I was writing my own version of War and Peace.
While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s what it felt like back in the day.
Sometimes it’s still an arduous task, and I feel like throwing my face through a wall. But as with anything, it’s about setting a schedule and sticking to it.
For the most part, every morning from 7-9 AM, I sit in front of my laptop and write. That’s what I’m doing right now, and it seems to works for me.
Some people on the other hand, like John Romaniello, prefer to do the bulk of their writing at night. That’s when he feels he’s most productive.
Everyone operates differently, and maybe it’s just a matter of finding out when you feel you’re most productive and your creative juices are flowing?
2. I think one of the things that keeps me “fresh” is that I’m not scared to go off-topic when I want to. I mean, I have Miscellaneous Miscellany Mondays which allow me to write about movies, books I’m reading, hot chicks, and/or discuss cool restaurants that my girlfriend and I go to.
Take for example this past weekend. While I ended up NOT making this part of some random blog post, I easily could have.
Feeling absolutely drained from the previous work week, I had absolutely no intention of doing any work at home. Sometimes I carve out a little time on Sunday to catch up on programs I need to write or any articles I need to work on. This past Sunday, however, I was a complete sloth.
Instead I decided my time would be better spent watching a Michael Mann marathon. In succession I watched The Last of Mohicans, Collateral, and The Insider.
All of them were ones I’ve seen before – repeatedly – but I love Michael Mann and always enjoy watching his films and dissecting every nook and cranny that come with them. The man is a perfectionist to the “t,” and it’s not unheard of for him to use 50 takes for any one scene.
I think Collateral is one of the most underrated movies of the past decade, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve reacted the scene from The Last of the Mohicans where Daniel Day Lewis’s character screams, “You STAY ALIVE. I will find you, no matter what occurs.”
I give an Oscar worthy performance every time – except, you know, instead of Madeline Stowe saying her lines back to me, I use a pillow, and I don’t end everything by plunging through 50+ foot waterfall after the fact.
But other than that, it’s uncanny how spot on I am.
And while I can’t say for sure, I think some of what makes my blog and writing style so “successful” is the fact that it’s relatable and that it’s not uncommon for me to talk about non-fitness stuff.
I’m not just some strength and conditioning cyborg that does nothing but talk about deadlifts and how to address glenohumeral internal rotation deficit.
I think much of what keeps me engaged and interested in my own writing is that I’m not apprehensive to go off-topic, take myself too seriously, and throw in the occasional poop joke from time to time.
So, with that, maybe you just need to write about other stuff? Not that you need to go into heavy detail on your personal life or anything, but don’t be scared to open up just a teeny tiny bit and give people more of a taste of your personality.
I find that when I do that, I get into a sorta “flow,” which makes transitioning into what I ACTUALLY want to write about – fitness, training, making people more badass – easier.
3. But I’ll be honest…..I’m lucky in that I live in a perfect bubble where I’m surrounded with a lot of bright people at the facility. I have Eric (Cressey), Greg Robins, Chris Howard, and all of our interns (who are always eager to talk shop) by my side all day, and we’re always bouncing ideas and thoughts off one another.
If anything, this environment serves as the perfect “incubator” for coming up with new ideas and things to write about.
Along the same lines, we have staff in-services every week. We tend to alternate on a week to week basis where we discuss anything from assessment, program design, case studies, or why Eric is so obsessed with Linkin Park.
Too, we’ll often have people come in to perform in-services. Case in point, Mike Reinold came in a few weeks ago and discussed which is more important to establish first: stability or mobility?
That’s actually a trick question, because neither matter much if someone is out of ALIGNMENT.
As Mike noted, if you stretch into mis-alignment, you create more instability.
Conversely, if you strengthen into mis-alignment, you create more muscular imbalances.
This is easily something I may turn into a blog post in the near future.
Additionally, I have any number of clients and athletes who ask me questions (or say something completely asinine) that I can use as ammo for blog posts or articles.
I can’t advocate going out of your way to surround yourself with more like-minded individuals enough. Even if it’s just going to observe someone else coaching for a day or heading to a local commercial gym to watch people train is enough to spark some kind of fire.
With the latter, you may even be lucky enough to find blogging gold like this:
4. Another thing to consider – and this will definitely pertain to Jon (it’s not unheard of for him to write 8,000+ words per day) – is possibly thinking about writing LESS. Just like people in other careers who tend to burn out and go “postal,” the same can apply to those who engage in a fair amount of writing.
I make it a point of posting a blog 3-5 times per week, which can easily stock pile the word count on a weekly basis. And this doesn’t take into consideration all the time that goes into answering emails and writing articles.
I’m sure there are some out there who may feel otherwise, but I “think” I’m able to provide solid content with each and every post. But I don’t consider it the end of the world if I truly have nothing to say on any given day.
If that’s the case, I don’t write. Simple as that. Or, I just find someone to write a guest post for me instead (Holla!).
To that end, maybe for some it’s a matter of CUTTING BACK and reducing their writing frequency. Sort of analogous to a deload week from training.
I’ve often found that when I take a day or two off from writing content-heavy posts, I’m able to come back with a bang.
5. Lastly, this doesn’t necessarily pertain to Jon, as I know he’s well read guy. But for others out there who are still paying attention and have made it this far (which is saying something), go out of your way to read. A lot.
I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I’m reading anywhere from 2-4 things simultaneously – most of which are related to my field, but not always. I’m always reading some non-fiction (Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely, Michael Lewis, etc) and fiction too (anything but Twilight).
I’m constantly in awe (and envious) of certain writers, and often gain valuable insight and pick up on lesser known things like style, sentence structure, and how to use a semicolon correctly. Still learning that last one.
And all of this isn’t to say that I know what the hell I’m talking about. I don’t really even consider myself a “writer,” but in the 6+ years that I’ve been doing it, I like to think that I’ve picked up a thing or two.
Anyways, I hope that helps somewhat. Certainly nothing earth shattering, but hopefully it helps shed some light.