Probably the biggest mistake novice blog writers make is choosing topics that are too broad. Here are tips that will help you focus your writing on a single topic.
So you want to write a blog for your business but you’ve got writer’s block. You’ve got a big idea that encapsulates everything you want to say…but your fingers are tapping randomly on your desktop instead of punching your keyboard.
One reason you’re probably struggling is you’re trying to do this:
Your topic is a boulder you’re pushing uphill. It’s too big and too broad to handle. The ideas aren’t flowing because they’re so general you can’t put them into words with any level of meaningful detail.
As a professional editor, I can tell you the biggest mistake novice writers make is choosing general, broad topics instead of focusing on a specific idea.
If you keep trying to push that boulder instead of chipping away at it, you’ll never reach your destination.
Or if you do manage to push through, you’ll end up with dull, vague writing.
So, if you’re thinking about topics like How To Market Your Business Online or Turn Your Passion Into Your Business, remember that you’re not writing a book. You’ve got to chip that down into something far more specific or you’ll end up with a lot of words that don’t say anything.
Here are some ways to chip away at that boulder.
Write the First Draft
Delving into your ideas and ending up with something tight isn’t easy.
In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do as a writer.
The best step you can take as you face your boulder is hit it – start breaking it up. You do this by writing the first draft.
When you have an initial draft, you can start doing this:
This draft won’t be good. It will mainly be a pan full of vague and disorganized mud.
But in that pan may very well be the nugget of gold you’re searching for.
Specific, intriguing, unique topics hide from writers. But you can use the writing process to sift through your mental sediment. Within that ugly first draft, a new idea will glisten and you’ll realize that’s what you really want to write about.
Drafting out versions of your piece is the essence of the writing process. When you find a topic that really stands out, that’s your opportunity to write something special.
There a few things you can do to help you chip away at your topic before you write your first draft. One is brainstorming lists (see below).
Also, take some time and think about your idea. Let it germinate in your mind. Your subconscious will continue to work as you do other things and you’ll suddenly have an aha moment that helps you dial in your idea.
But remember they call it the first draft for a reason; there will be a second. The best way to dial in your topic is to work through the writing process and refine your ideas.
One way to avoid having to do too much panning (re-writing) is to brainstorm topics before you start.
Start with a broad topic and make a list of related topics that are more specific.
For example, connecting a “passion” in life to business goals is a popular topic but too big for a blog post.
So brainstorm what you’re passionate about in life. A quick example:
I take one of these things, like riding a motorcycle, and brainstorm again:
- Unique way to travel
- Stay alert
- Safety Gear
Something strikes me. To ride a motorcycle, you need to be well prepared and mentally on-point. If you’re distracted or tired, you take a greater risk when you ride.
I can make that connection to starting a business – preparation combined with passion. Motorcycle riding is the analogy that I develop the story around.
Now I have a more specific topic to get started with. It’s a topic I care and know about, which will make it easier to write.
Great Topics Lead to Great Writing
I always have to laugh when I tell someone I write professionally and the first thing they assume is that I can spell any word or quote any grammar rule from memory.
This has little to do with it. I’ve met great spellers that could pass any grammar test who struggled when it came to developing ideas or organizing their writing.
Others write with flow and fluency. Their sentence structure is solid and the words roll off your tongue.
But it’s easy to find website and blog copy that’s fluid – even poetic – but never makes a point. Instead, they substitute creative or critical thinking with buzzwords and circular reasoning.
Nowadays, content presentation – alone – is a commodity. Designing a pretty webpage isn’t difficult. Blogs and social media make it remarkably easy to publish content.
Anybody can hit the “publish” button and post a thousand words. The value isn’t derived from just presenting your content. It comes from knowing your audience and communicating an authentic, useful, persuasive message.
To have any chance of catching people’s attention, you need a unique perspective. Nobody cares about your general observations. But the world needs bold, personal perspectives and unexpected insights more than ever.
Comedians get this. Jim Gaffigan shows us with a 5-minute riff on ketchup, and most of it is about ketchup packets.
Seth Godin is the master of dialing in topics and writing concise, insightful business blogs. For example, consider how powerful his point is in this post about being busy.
This type of perspective comes when you take a sledgehammer to that boulder and smash banal generalities to bits. Then sift through the word gravel to find a nugget only you – as the writer you are at this moment – could find.
You’ll know you’ve found your topic because a tingle of excitement will run through you. You’ll realize you can’t wait to communicate this idea.
And your fingers will start tapping those keys.