Saturday, December 02, 2006

Writing On The Web - Part 5

Bytepowered Articles Mind Games: How To Eliminate The 5 Negative Thoughts That Shut Down Your Writing

By: Daphne Gray-Grant

Have you ever reached for a brownie when you were trying to lose weight? Or stayed in bed when you intended to go to the gym? Or put off paying bills because it was "too much of a hassle"?

There are lots of different ways in which we sabotage ourselves. This is true of life in general and also true of the writing life.

Writing depends not just on discipline but also on the complicated interplay between what we know and what we feel.

I've worked as an editor for just about 30 years (honest, I was really young when I started) and I've noticed there are five key negative feelings or thoughts that tend to shut down our writing -- in much the same way that a circuit breaker shuts down electricity. BOOM and the lights go out.

Often, simply being aware of these thoughts is enough to take away their power. At other times, it's important to challenge them head-on. So let's see which ones are disrupting your writing (and therefore taking a bite of your income) and figure out what you can do about them.

1) I'm a lousy writer; I don't have the talent to do this.

This is probably the most common negative thought of all. My theory is it's usually born in high school when writing teachers single out one or two people in the class for praise and use their red pens too liberally with the rest. (To this day, when I'm editing, I make a point of never using red to make suggestions or corrections!) And too much of a focus on grammar and spelling in childhood often mean trouble for the adult writer.

But here's the interesting truth: We're all born lousy marketing writers. The people who become "good" are the ones who are prepared to do the following simple things:

- Read good writing and work to emulate it;
- Write a lot -- because writing is like exercise: the more you do, the better you get;
- Spend double the time on self-editing that they spend on writing.

If you discover that you're constantly bad-mouthing yourself as you write, replace the inner negative chatter with the following statement: "Writing is about practice. The more I do, the better I'll get. When I finish this article (letter, report, etc.) I'll have more experience and I'll have improved."

2) I don't have the time to write.

This is one of my favorite negative thoughts because it's so common and sooo easy to blow out of the water. The writing world is littered with people who quit their day-jobs so they could work on their books. But here's the secret: The published novelists and non-fiction writers are almost always the people who continue with their regular work and write in their spare time.

Just as the cactus thrives in a hot, dry environment, writing thrives in the absence of time. Yes, you read that correctly. Writing not only can be done quickly; it is better done quickly. That's partly because, if you're fast enough, you can usually out-run and out-write the negative chatter in your head.

People often make the mistake of trying to set aside huge chunks of time for writing (especially for reports). Me? I love writing in 10-minute bursts. Not only does this allow me to get ideas out of my head and onto paper when they are fresh, but it also gives me a big payback down the road. That's because when I go back to the document I often discover my article is much further ahead than I'd realized. No blank page. It's a great feeling.

I do like having a decent chunk of time to self-edit -- a different task from writing -- but I'm talking maybe 30 to 60 minutes. Not all day.

When you're planning your writing time, think in small increments, not big chunks. Remember: If you write 300-350 words a day, you'll have written a decent-length book by the end of a year.

3) I'd better do a really good job on this (article, report, letter) because my reputation/sales results hinge on it.

Of course you want your writing to be good. And of course certain pieces of work you do can be important to your business or career. But to understand why this negative line will do you in, it might help to think about professional sports. Take tennis for example.

Do you think Martina Navratilova won a record nine Wimbledon singles championships and 58 Grand Slam titles by telling herself, "I really need to win this game; if I don't, I'm in trouble." Of course not! I don't know about Martina, but I do know many professional athletes work with psychologists precisely so they can learn to turn off this unhelpful chatter. After all, this sort of self-talk is more likely to cause them to choke than to win.

Similarly, when you're writing, you need to shut down the tiny yet persistent voice that tells you how much you have riding on this job. Instead, do what the athletes do. Focus on the ball -- in your case that means: focus on what you're writing.

And if that doesn't work, tell the voice that you don't have time to listen to it while you're writing, but you'll attend to it when you're editing the piece (when it can't do so much damage.)

4) I need to write about this topic.

Truth is, unless you're a journalist or someone else who writes professionally, there are precious few topics that anyone is going to force you to cover. Sure you might need to write a pitch for a bank loan or sales letter to promote your product, but if you're writing an article for your e-zine or website, don't be bound by duty. Instead, focus on topics you feel passionate about.

Readers can smell disinterest the way lions can smell a steak. I've seen too many consultants who start an article by saying to themselves: "This is a hot topic in my industry right now." Or, "I want the search engines to pick me up on this one." Or, "People expect me to be an expert on this." Yawn.

Instead, choose a topic that excites you and has you fairly bursting to write. Then think hard about how to make it relate to your business, your keywords or your target market. Your enthusiasm will not only captivate your readers, it will also inspire you to write quickly and fluently.

5) Writing is too hard.

Let's get something straight. Lifting bricks is hard; waiting tables is hard; telling someone they have cancer is hard. Writing is not hard. Writing is just writing.

There is a romantic notion -- perpetuated by Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler and others -- that writers must be tortured. In fact, writing is just a job. Sure, sometimes it's more difficult than other times -- just like it's hard to return voice mail messages when you're headachy and grumpy or hard to go for a run when you're bone-tired.

But overall, writing is actually pretty cushy. You get to sit in a warm dry place. You can have a steaming cup of tea or coffee beside you. You don't have to do any heavy lifting (with Spell check, you don't even have to lift the dictionary!) And best of all, you get the privilege of sharing your thoughts -- the ones inside your head -- with other people.

So, dismiss the notion that writing is an onerous act. Writing is something we all can do. Sure, some of us are better at it that others than others. But that's mostly because of practice. And if you write more, you too will improve.

Get at it.

Article Source:

A former journalist, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach who helps people writer better, faster. Visit her website at where you can sign up for her free weekly newsletter on power writing.

Next: Writing On The Web Part 6; Making The Most Of A Career In Writing

Friday, December 01, 2006

Writing On The Web - Part 4

Writing Articles - 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

By: Nick Summers

Calling all writers and non-writers - now is the time to start enhancing or preparing those creative writing skills!

Alongside the development of modern communication technology, the popularity of information-based marketing has grown; it is now one of the best established and most effective techniques in getting targeted prospects to sites and converting them into buyers. This is why article writing, submission and publication is also increasingly popular.

There are already many tools that people can use to make the process of distributing their articles easier. Although wide distribution of articles is invaluable in getting their contents more exposure, that is only half the story.

First, let us take a quick look at the common mistakes that some people make before submitting their contents to article directories:

1. Confusing the reason to promote the articles with the reason to write them.

When you write articles, there are three key benefits from distributing them: branding, lead generation and promotion. These are all part of your search engine optimization and traffic generation efforts.

However, there should be only one real reason why you write any article - informing your audience. If your article is not focused on this crucial and most significant purpose, it will fail to achieve any of the three promotion benefits because no one will be interested in reading it!

To make your articles work for you, people must want to read them and then want to find out more - so they will then click on your resource box. You can only achieve this by producing well written articles with high quality information and other content.

2. Failing to maximize the promotional opportunities of article marketing.

You may know already that your articles can help you generate additional links back to your site. But do you know that you can get more visitors and better search engine results from those same articles?

To optimize traffic generation and search engine results, you will need to mention keywords at strategic places. However, you must be sure not to overdo them or your search engine ranking can actually decrease. You can also use keywords effectively in anchor texts but do bear in mind that many directories are not able to support this.

Remember that is not only about the links back to your site from your resource box once the articles are distributed. Part of doing well in your article marketing is being recognized by major publishers who will have a large audience. You can then gain the ability to leverage and joint venture with other brands because of the quality of your work. Relevant links and promotion from related sites will lead to better search engine results.

Having said all that, these things might not put much money in your pocket. There are other factors that can turn your article marketing efforts into an opportunity that can boost your earnings rather than just increasing the number of visitors to your site.

The main principle to ensure your success is to plan you article to make sure that it will fulfil the function that you intended it to have.

3. Publishing content that does not help your readers.

Maybe in the process of writing articles, you fall into the trap of thinking that all that you want is to have links back to your site, and that any visitors it can generate are fine. But guess what? Not all article banks and directories are going to accept your content automatically. They regularly have guidelines and specifications on the type of articles that they accept.

You can double the number of sites you can submit to when you are writing articles that the directories will want to share with other people. All it takes is one publisher with a hundred thousand regular readers and your potential audience will increase overnight.

You should be aware and make use of the fact that general articles submitted on directories may not receive the same level and type of exposure as targeted, specialized content articles geared to a narrow group of people. Learn the difference between these two and it will surely help you know what kinds of articles to write and to submit.

Basically, you need to write articles that publishers want in their publications if you want your article marketing to work in the most effective way. This also means you have to obey the standard guidelines: spell checks, correct grammar, well researched content and an interesting and relevant topic. It may even mean that you have to hire a writer to produce good content on your behalf.

In the end, it is all really a matter of choice on your part. You can start getting a little exposure from increased links back but on a very basic level, or enjoy massive exposure from the relatively small amount of extra time it takes to research and produce quality content.

Article Source:

Nick Summers runs Content Cow Article Directory, a directory dedicated to offering the best of the web's articles formatted the way you want them. Visit today for all your content requirements.