Writing For My Fellow Non-Writers.

27 Feb 2015
I had look at my blog and since moving domains I've been adding a new post approximately every ten days. However I haven't written much since the turn of the year and so I must address this. I had a few partially written posts lingering around so I figured the most suitable way to kick-start my writing habit was by writing about writing. Especially for one such as I who does not generally write to a professional standard; and this is about business so the 'M' word will be used (marketing), as this is why many people in all professions these days must get into the habit of writing.
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Are you a learner-writer?

Content Marketing - not just a buzzword

Content marketing is a term you hear a lot these days, and content marketing is what I do with my writing. If you are within a small business and reading this because you need to write more too, then content marketing will be what you're thinking about. It is creating things that people will want to read, use or view, that also raise the profile of your business. Rather than shouty advertising, content marketing is something that people will seek out, enjoy and keep. A blog is a good example of content marketing (providing it contains good content), and while writing isn't part of the definition of content marketing, it is very common within it. While content marketing sounds like a bit of a buzzword, it actually has a very long history, going back to the days when flour-makers would produce recipe books.

I write a lot these days, both in my blog and in the various parts of my website, and on various social media platforms. This varies from specific lengthy articles to captions for photographs. I also of course have to write as part of the necessity of doing business, things such as business proposals and even emails. Few of us however are gifted with natural writing ability, and those who are are often professional writers. My own writing skills are certainly somewhat lacking, and I have often found it a rather stressful activity, with hours spent staring at blank pages doing nothing. However writing is an important skill for various reasons, so it's best to find a way that works for you. This is what works for me.

Writing more is also important in showing a bit of your personality. People buy from people and written content will help your potential customers learn more about who you are, and this is one reason that while you may be able to hire a professional writer to write some things for you, you can't hire them to write everything.

I'd like to think I'm a fairly good photographer; at the very least I'm better with images that with words, and often I think purely in images, with something in my head that has no accompanying text, no way to be represented. This is where pictures excel and I would struggle as a photographer if all the images in my head were so easy to write. But nevertheless, words are not my forte.

If you are like me, then you can probably empathise with that momentary panic you get one you've had an idea for something to write. You feel that you can only hold it in your head for so long, and the anxiety builds as you struggle to bash it out on a keyboard before you forget it. Simple things like waiting for software to open seem to take forever and threaten the stamina of your memory. You can touch-type, but still, you physically can't type fast enough to get to the end of the paragraph before the abyss snatches it away from you. You can feel a migraine coming on and perhaps it would be best to abandon the whole project. Anything you have written by this point might just be a mess of stream-of-consciousness gobbledegook.

I've written quite a lot already, without even talking about what I do and how I've managed to get this far, so perhaps it's time to get started on that… after one more coffee maybe, or a beer.

Searching for inspiration

Coming up with ideas is the first, and often most difficult thing when you know you have to write. I work in an entirely visual industry and so finding something I can say with words is more of a novelty to me, something I actually avoid doing where appropriate (which for me is most of the time). I can't say where the ideas do come from when I do have them, random inspiration, but I do get into the habit of jotting them down as and when they do come so that I have a ready supply of subjects when I need them.

Mostly, I write about my own experiences as a photographer, and I think this is where you have to be a little bit brave, and put your personality on the line. There is a feeling that you might unwittingly expose your weakness, but we are all only human and wouldn't be in a position to start writing if we didn't have strengths that outweigh any weaknesses. Sometimes things don't go my way and as a result I learn something, or at least gain an amusing little anecdote. Sometimes something I see or read provokes an emotional response, and if I can get over the fear that people may not want to see emotions in their photographer, then it can make for a good jumping-off point for an article or post. Even if you have neither of these, and can only come up with things that seem mundane to you, they can always be written about in an interesting way. Mundane is exactly how I felt that an article about writing might be, but it was an idea and I wasn't about to waste it so I pushed on and here I am.

A methodical approach can make writing easier

Inspiration having been found, the next challenge is to actually fashion those ideas into a good structured article. I find that a methodical approach works best, working from outline to detail. I start out by writing some key points, which then I turn into paragraphs. I might even have sub-points that become sentences. Avoid waffle, which is to say, avoid saying the same thing twice in different words (see what I did there?). Having a key point which you know is only worth a single sentence or paragraph is a good way to do this, but the happy side-effect is that you end up with a more structured text that is easier to read.

Writing is not just about marketing either, but getting into the habit of writing things down can help you to crystallise your ideas. If you have an idea and write it down, then if you come back to it later and still understand what your idea was then your writing skills have helped you to develop that idea and you don't risk losing the flash of inspiration that came to you in the first place.

Finally, as you get used to it writing can be a good way to relax. It is something you can take to a café or bar to do, or do at home if you don't like feeling chained to your desk, in fact I find a change of scenery helps. As I say, I'm by no means an accomplished writer, I'm just a photographer who needs to write more, but I've learned a few things that come from my perspective of writing as a necessity for work rather than work in itself. The only thing I haven't quite got the hang of yet is how to wrap my articles up in a nice satisfying conclusion.

Blog Self Portrait
Articles about photography, tips and tricks, insights into the world of commercial photography and the marketing industry from a photographer's perspective, and the occasional humorous rant. Brought to you by Will McAllister, a commercial photographer based in God's own county of Cumbria.