September 25, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

On Writing.

On Writing.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but am always looking to improve–and, like many writers I struggle with occasional writer’s block. It’s especially true for blog posts, I’ll think of a topic and then decide either: I don’t know enough about it to write lucidly on the topic, or it’s been done before, or that I don’t have an original enough take on it…and so on.

I kill many a blog post before I even start typing. We aren’t going to talk about the “drafts” folder either.

On the “always looking to improve” front, I recently checked a book out of the library, titled “Writing Brave and Free.” Their solution to writer’s block? Lower your standards.

This makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If you are struggling, you’re likely over-thinking things or trying to be perfect in the first draft. This is absolutely a stumbling block for a writer, if you are pitching and criticizing sentences before they are even down, you will get nowhere.

Of course, telling a Type A perfectionist with very high expectations for both her own writing and the writing of others to “lower her standards” has roughly the same impact as ordering a repetitive hand-washer to leave her hands dirty (hey, look, I have issues with that too!). It’s so out of character it’s hard to pull off. But, in the interest of just getting started already, I’m trying it out for a bit.

Writing is a process, and as a communications device it deserves to be crafted with care and attention. But if care and attention are getting in the way, it’s good to set them aside–but only for the first draft. “Lowering your standards” is not a mantra, it is a device to break through writer’s block.  You still owe it to your audience to write well.

The issue of writing well is, I think, about to become a major issue with the recent prominence of several self-published authors. People see the success of Amanda Hocking and others like her and think “I can do that.” To be fair, some can. Just like some can make compelling and insightful or funny videos that take off on YouTube. And then there’s the rest of the content on YouTube. However, there’s an easy way for the good YouTube content to bubble up–it’s free to view and generally only takes a few minutes, plus it’s easy to share.

Self-publishing is a little different. First, people have to find the content. This means you will have to market yourself and cut through a lot of clutter online. Next, people have to be willing to pay for the content. One of Amanda Hocking’s effective marketing tools is her pricing strategy. While most e-books have prices set by publishers (typically close to the cost of a paperback) Amanda set a lower price for her novels: $0.99 to $2.99. That’s not a lot, but it is more than free, of course. And regarding easy-to-share, I think e-books are going to rely on good old word of mouth for their greatest kick-start.

We’ll see. I think self-publishing successes will be like the “discovered on YouTube” singing sensations–notable, exciting, and fairly rare.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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