During the first Virtual Blog Writing Day, I invited Writing Coach Debra Marrs to share her blog writing tips and how to tap into your creativity. In her 30 minute presentation, Debra outlined numerous ways to record ideas, keep yourself motivated and create a wealth of content to draw from when you feel less than creative. Debra's presentation was recorded and transcribed for you.
You can listen online, download the mp3 audio file, as well as read or download the pdf transcript.
TIP: Use the Print button at the end of the page to print out this post and then grab a pen, take notes and jot down your ideas as you listen to the presentation.
Virtual Blog Writing Day Special Presentation
by Debra Marrs
Denise: Hi, this is Denise Wakeman, your Online Visibility Mentor. The following is a special presentation by writing coach, Debra Marrs.
This 32-minute presentation was done as a bonus for participants of the first virtual blog writing day I hosted. Grab a pen, paper, and get ready to take some notes as Debra shares her excellent advice for bloggers for on staying on track and motivated to consistently create content.
I am very, very honored to introduce you to Debra Marrs. Debra and I have been connected, she reminded me, since 2006. I know there are some long time people on this call. Connie Green is another person I’ve known for a very long time.
We met in 2006. Of course, virtually. I’ve never met Debra in person, but I feel like I know her very well. If I ever get to Florida, I’ll be seeing her.
Debra Marrs helps busy writers define, organize, and refine writing projects for publication through her popular online writing courses and coaching programs. She teaches a unique approach to writing, one that honors both the masculine left brain and strategic energy, and feminine right brain creative energy as the quickest way of getting unstuck and being really clear about your message. Writers leave her program hyper-focused with a strategic formula to write more and write often to get words on the page, ready for publication.
Debra believes in the power of the authentic voice and teaches the mechanics of creative, non-fiction for business owners, as well as memoir, short story writing, essays, personal journaling, and blogging.
Debra shares her writing and creativity tips at www.yourwritelife.com. That’s a link to her website and she is also giving you a gift today.
Debra, are you on the line with me?
Debra: I’m here Denise.
Denise: Thank you for being here with me today.
Debra: Thank you for inviting me. You did such a great job at setting things up in the first session. I hope most of the people on the call are here because I think when I look at today and as I thought about what today represents, I’ve participated in these virtual writing days myself and actually host some of them for me and my clients.
Actually all of us on this call today, because I’m also participating with you, it’s all about moving your writing forward. I think if we can always approach our writing that way, it helps us not to be stuck. It helps us to prevent being blocked if we can approach it with, “I’m moving my writing forward today in any manner possible.”
Over at www.yourwritelife.com we say everything counts. I really mean that. Sometimes it means taking a nap. In naptime we dream and generate other ideas. We’re not napping today. We’re focused. We’re hyper-focused.
It all starts with setting an intention, which Denise invited us to do in session 1. By the sounds of the check-ins, this idea has really resonated with everyone.
I loved hearing all the success stories. Some of you may be feeling still a little bit stuck. Maybe you’re thinking that you came to this because it was all about getting things done and being strategic and organized and publishing those blog posts.
That’s great. In fact, what that is, you’re using your masculine energy when you’re in that mindset. The masculine is the part of you that loves order, loves strategy, and loves being committed to getting things done.
On the other hand, we all have this creative side to ourselves. As a writer, you have these two components whether you’re a male or female. We both have this kind of energy. I want you to just go with me today a little bit and shift your brain into what part of you are you approaching your writing with today.
The creative part of us is the part that’s really juicy, needs time for things to gestate, it’s more about birthing, it’s a feminine energy, and creating.
I’m going to share with you, some broad categories today about idea generation and then approach your writing with some other ideas around complete awareness for your drafts and editing your drafts to get them ready for publishing.
Then if there is time I’d like to share some tips on writing from your authentic voice.
When I work with people I find there is an early question that comes up for people. Do I sound like myself? I want to share some tips on that too.
How does that sound Denise? Are you still there to?
Denise: I am. That sounds fantastic.
Debra: Okay. A little bit more about the masculine and feminine energy.
Sometimes when we stall it’s because these two energies are in combat and struggle with one another. What happens is one shuts down the other. As I said, the masculine wants order and organization and wants things to be done and published.
The masculine in you is the person who loves to outline and see everything in a row. The bullet points, and know that one idea follows another. It’s logical. It’s that left brain part of ourselves working if you’re familiar with that terminology.
The feminine, on the other hand, she hasn’t finished. She likes the creative part. She really dwells very well in the area of discovery. Discovery comes to us through reading, research, and synthesizing.
I’ll be speaking a little more about synthesizing later when we talk about idea generation. Sit with that just for a minute yourself. Can you recognize in yourself those two energies that drive you?
There’s this part of you that needs order and then there’s this part of you that wants to be creative and fluid and even messy.
Let’s look at idea generation through that lens of the masculine and the feminine. I always ask people first when they are saying, “I need to write more. I want to write more.”
We’re all here today because we’re focusing on getting more blog posts out, right? We’re doing that because it’s important to attract more clients for our business and to increase our profitability. What inspires you?
In literary terms, we talk about this idea of stimuli and response. What that really means is when you read something or see something, how do you react to it? Most of us immediately come with some ideas. Right away, there is some inspiration right there. That’s a way to generate some ideas is to read and react to it.
I encourage you to start and keep an inspiration file that is both a physical file, paper file from print documents, articles you read from the newspaper, even TV shows you watch and can jot down a few notes.
Also keep an electronic file where you can save urls, blog posts, articles as well as eBooks that may, I think almost all of us, at least I do, when I read something I go, “I could write about that.”
I have a reaction to that. I love her tips. I could to add to that and I’d like to give her credit for those 7 tips too.” Ask yourself this, “What can you teach?” Our readers, when they come to our pages, want to not only be inspired, that’s the other thing to ask ourselves, how can you inspire others or motivate them, what can you teach them?
People come on the Internet and read blogs because they want one of two things usually. Really, it’s one of two things.
They want to be entertained or they want to be educated.
I think we all can do both. When I get to the part on authentic voice, I’m going to talk about and share some ideas about where you can come through with that with some personal stories.
Besides the two parts of “what can I teach, how can I inspire or motivate my audience?” you may simply want to be a sharer, a person who is an aggregator, a content curator. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we should mix it up.
Right there I just gave you some ideas, I hope. Help people get what they want when they arrive there. Show them how you solve their problems when they get to your blog post.
A great way to get started with that is you fill in the blank, headlines that ask a question that you can answer. Stimuli-the question is the stimuli. Your response is the answer.
Some great ones are:
“Are you afraid of _____?”
“How to deal with _____?”
To get that generated again the masculine likes order. He’s going to really like lists and focusing in on the content for that. The feminine is going to still be out there looking for more ideas.
One of the things that I highly recommend is coming up with a system to park your ideas. For those of us using WordPress, we love WordPress (at least I do) because I can park ideas in there and save them as a draft. I can just go to my draft column and look at all the posts I have started.
As a matter of fact, today as part of this accountability program I went in and went, “Boy, I have plenty to write and finish up.” It was the feminine part of me that did the juju and got it down, got something down. Now I need to go in and give it some more juice.
That may mean I need to do a little bit more research. I may need to synthesize.
The two great tools that I teach folks is (1) the working table of contents. Besides perhaps going ahead and parking your ideas in your WordPress site, I don’t think there’s anything better than having a menu that you can go off of.
It can be a simple template. If later you don’t want to do it now-go to my website right there on the first page is a post about the working table of contents. It’s basically where we park our ideas or our started articles and that’s any kind of writing that we’re doing.
If we’re writing articles, chapters for a book or a Kindle eBook, no matter what you’re writing you would park this on your working table of contents. This becomes a menu then that you can come back to to select ideas on your writing days.
Denise shared earlier about batching and doing things all in one day. I’m so on board with that. A lot of people I know who are really successful bloggers, set aside a whole day and that’s what we’re doing today, that’s what we do.
Denise shared during segment one that she will only probably get 4 blog posts done and that’s a stretch. Yet, we’re looking at 8 hours today. That’s typical. That’s common. Setting aside one day and if you’re on a schedule to post 2 blog posts a week, you’ll have that just by setting aside a whole day from your business to do that.
The second tool I really like for parking ideas is actually a plug-in. Many of you may know this. For those who don’t, it’s called WordPress Editorial Calendar. That’s a free plugin that you can get at www.WordPress.org/extend/plugins. What this does is adds a calendar.
Why I love that tool is it does something else that I teach my writers and that is we must, must, must tie our to do’s to a time to do them. If we just have a lot of drafts out there like I’m sure that I do, they’re not going anywhere. I need to use my own best medicine and tie them to a time to finish them.
Those are some tips about idea generation and parking those ideas and helping keep them organized. I bet you’ve already intuited there’s some of that feminine energy working because feminine energy is the one that’s thrown up the blog posts. The masculine is saying, “When are we going to finish these things? When are we going to get focused?” We’re honoring those.
My point about the masculine/feminine is again honor and know which one you’re in, which phase, how you’re feeling today if you will, or during the hour or two that you commit to work on your writing in any regard, what kind of energy do you see for you right now?
Is there a strong need to organize? Is there a strong need to synthesize and do more research and reading? Those will always be at play. Sometimes you have to reign in the one that’s causing you to drag off into a far corner and not get it done.
Does that make sense Denise?
Denise: Yes it does. Absolutely.
Debra: Good, good. I hope it does for everyone listening too.
Let’s move into, this is going to be more about being efficient when we write. I have a model that has 6 phases of writing. Again, it’s all about knowing which phase you’re in as you approach your writing. It’s so important to recognize that.
I notice so many writers fail when they fail to really name it, name where they are in the 6 phases of writing. For the purposes of today and because this is about posting to our blogs I’m going to cover just 3 of these really. Actually, 4. I’ll give you 4 of the 6 phases today.
The first phase is prewriting. That includes any kind of research and idea generation. It may mean creating a series. I want to tell you-I’ll share that in a second. Idea generation, sometimes what prewriting also includes is de-cluttering. I’m a really, really big fan of de-cluttering.
That can mean de-cluttering your desk. It can be de-cluttering and organizing little snippets of paper that you’ve written, post-its for these ideas of blog posts. It may be organizing some of that content into these inspiration folders. Again, we are all about moving our writing forward.
Whatever you need to help with that, that’s what we’re doing today. It doesn’t necessarily always mean you’re going to be in, I don’t want you to feel guilty and beating yourself up if you’re not inside actually writing words. Sometimes this prewriting phase needs to be taken care of in order to honor the energies.
The second phase of writing are down drafts. Down drafts are just like it sounds: get it all down. A lot of times this is about just writing to your audience. I recommend you find your authentic voice; we’re going to get into that now.
Gather together 3 to 5 people who are your intended audience. Make them really friendly people that have smiles. You can go on Facebook, go on their websites, copy and print their pictures. Make a little collage or montage to put above your computer or writing desk.
Then when you sit down to write, write a down draft. Get it down as if you’re talking to them. Part of your authentic voice is going to be write like you speak.
Don’t try to sound like an authority. Write like you speak. Share personal segments in there, it doesn’t have to be that you dump out your whole world. It could be something like, “On my walk today I saw something that reminded me of the 5 tips of how to do x, y, z,” and what you’re going to talk about.
So, people understand that you have a life outside of the business life. This helps them connect to us too.
I want to tell you a really quick tip about down drafting. You’re writing down things, a lot of times we stop. We have our ideas flowing, we’re typing or handwriting. Then we get stuck or we want more to go so here’s what you do.
In your draft, when you’re handwriting (this works really best when you’re typing) put in the letter TK. Why you put that in is those are two letters that are never in any word in the English language. You can use your search and find in anything that you’ve typed for TK.
I like to think of TK as “to come.” Whenever I’m stuck or don’t know how to finish out an idea or a thought because I’m just down drafting, dumping things, I type in TK and keep moving. That will help you stay inspired and moving.
The next phase of writing is up draft. What you want to do here is go back in and look at whatever you have and add to it. You’re going to go back into the TKs and put in what you have left out. Sometimes it means taking out some things.
Let me just say folks, I see people erring on the side of content that’s too long. You don’t want your blog posts to be long. People’s interest wanes. Actually, you want them to come back. Generally, when I look at blog content, I can break it down into three articles or at least two. Part I and part II will keep your readers coming back.
It gives you a way to reach out to them, to remind them on Facebook, tweeting. Say, “Hey, I’m finished with the article. Come find out the last 5 tips out of the 10 today over on my blog.”
The final phase that we’re going to talk about today is what we call the “dental draft.” It’s just like it sounds. It’s where we go in between every word, sentence, just like the hygienist does and cleans between our teeth. We’re going to go in and clean and polish up our blog post.
Denise: Going to floss between your words?
Debra: Between our words. Right.
Floss our words. Right. Clean them up. This is really an editing draft. The reason why I bring this to your attention, I’ll just back up if you’ve been taking notes, we have prewriting. This is taking care of business that’s not pen to page or fingers to typing in the typewriter or the computer, keyboard.
I’m an old school teacher of writing, Denise. We have that prewriting phase. We have the down drafts. We have the up drafts. We have the dental drafts. Don’t mix it up in your mind. Know how and where you’re approaching.
As Denise said in session one, we can go back to things. We can do the down drafts early today and then this afternoon come back in and do some up drafting on those drafts. Then maybe tomorrow complete them through some dental drafting.
I said I would share some ideas about your authentic voice. As I’ve already said, gathering your ideal audience in front of you I think is the easiest way to do that. Photographs are a great way to do that.
Another way to do it is to speak it but speak it through your fingers, obviously as you write. Connect with your heart. If you think of your heart it has a pulse and it goes down into your fingertips. If you come from the heart then you know you’re going to be coming from your authentic voice.
Another way to check your authentic voice is to go back and read anything you’ve ever written. You’re going to recognize your authentic voice because you smile. You recognize this persona that you like hanging out with. You recognize in that persona the person who is both organized and creative. That to me is probably the easiest way to recognize both in myself and reading that I do from others if they’re coming from that authentic voice.
Some really concrete tips here about that is to prefer the plain word to the fancy word. If we write like we speak, then we’re going to write using shorter words and not big gobbledygook words. We’re going to use words that are plain and easy for people to understand. In fact, in a lot of the blog platforms there’s a way to even test and see what the Flesch-Kincaid rating is. You want it to be in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade level.
Use contractions. I see so many people writing, “I cannot.” That’s not how you speak. You say, “I can’t.” Or, “I do not.” You usually probably say, “I don’t.” Use contractions. They’re okay. Forget that silly English teacher. Pardon if any are on these calls or listening on the recording. That’s for school. This is for us connecting with our audience. Using contractions, writing like we speak.
Those are words and word choices. If we move over now into sentences, prefer the simple sentence to the complicated. Again, most of us don’t speak in long sentences. We speak in shorter little clips. Honor that on the page.
Also, put your words that you want to emphasize at the beginning of the sentence. This won’t happen in your down draft. This will happen in your up draft or your dental drafting.
Don’t worry about it as you get it all down. Just come back and take a look at that later.
I don’t want to run out of time so you can get back to writing. I’m just going to look here. My last tip here on this is a really strong specific that’s really going to help you with seeing and hearing your authentic voice is to read whatever you write out loud.
Read it aloud. If possible, print it out and take it away from the computer.
What happens when we read it aloud is we hear how we speak. What I recommend is if you take it away from your computer, take a yellow highlighter and every time your voice stumbles, tick it with that yellow highlighter.
What that’s indicating to you is you need to go back in and say it another way. Say it the way that it comes from your voice and from your heart. If you weren’t able to read it easily, then you’re probably trying to mimic someone else or sound more authoritative than you really feel.
Come in with your own way of saying things and be fresh. Be fresh with it. Use those personal anecdotes. Be creative. Be juicy. Allow that feminine side to come forth first.
I invite you to come over to my blog and leave a comment anytime to share with me any of the things that I have mentioned that might be working for you.
Denise: Thank you so much Debra.
Debra: You are welcome. My pleasure to be here.
Denise: You were great. I love the phases: the down draft, the up draft, the dental draft. Excellent.
Debra, do you want to tell them a little bit about the 99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing?
Debra: Absolutely. Thank you. This is an opportunity for you to connect with me and get some juicy ideas. In this book, it’s over 30 pages of literally 99 ways plus other content. Some of the tips in here are things like go for a walk. For instance, even today, if you're blocked maybe going for a walk will help you see something in nature that will help you connect back to your content.
Another tip might be read the front page of the newspaper. A lot of times we’ll see not only something that we can connect, a lot of times it’s not applicable, but think outside the box.
Use that juicy, feminine side of yourself to think outside of the box and bring that back.
What I recommend people do is download this and then just open it to any page. Don’t read this book. It’s not a book to read. Open it to any page, point a finger at any prompt and see how you can use it to enhance whatever you’re writing whether it’s a blog post, a fiction story, your memoir, whatever. It works for all levels of writing.
Denise: Okay. It’s called 99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing.
Debra, I know we’re at 34 minutes past the hour. There’s a couple of questions, would you be willing to take those?
Debra: Absolutely. I’ll also just throw out that link real quickly since you’re right, some people won’t be seeing the link. It’s very easy to get to. You go to the website, which is www.yourwritelife.com/yes. I made it easy so we can say yes, you want 99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing.
Yes, let’s hear questions.
Denise: Okay, Rosalind asks, “What do you recommend as the minimum or maximum range of words for a short post?”
Debra: You know, 300 words can be short and 500 would probably be like max. I know a lot of folks are at 1,000 and 1,200 words. If we think about 1,200 words that is 3 to 4 typed, double spaced pages. Just think about that.
Go now and print out anything you have that’s 3 to 4 pages and see how long it takes you to read it and if you really are attentive and it’s your own content, so think about if you’re reading someone else’s. Cut it down to under 500 words, I recommend.
Denise: Okay. It was two of the exact same question. People ask that question all the time. Personally, my answer to that is however long it needs to be to get your point across.
Debra: I agree with that and I’ve known you to say that often. I agree with it and if people want to take the tip that I offered to break that up, if we’re talking about creating content and what makes you feel successful is having more, write more. That may be what you want to do.
Denise: Exactly. That too is my advice. What I often recommend to people who ask is write what you need to write. If it’s really long, see how you can make it into 2, 3, or 4 posts, a series of posts is a great way. What you mentioned Debra, it brings people back too. If you feel like you have to get it out there and it’s long, that’s okay. Then do your up drafting and break it up.
Debra: Can I add another tip about that Denise?
What you guys can do is have your masculine side and your feminine dialogue. I’ll tell you what, the masculine does that long post. He wants to get it all down and be done. He’s saying, “I want everybody to know all of this stuff.”
The feminine side is saying, “Dude, you know, I don’t like to read that long. It’s kind of boring, even though I like your content. I’d have more fun if I could come back again. I like you and I want to be with you some more.”
Let those two dialogue. Then let the feminine help the masculine find those breaking points, the points where you can break it into a series and make it fun.
Denise: So, let’s let you get going. You’ve received some great tips from Debra Marrs. Thank you Debra Marrs for sharing those excellent tips with us. I think that probably sparked a lot for people.
Thank you for listening (reading) to this presentation with Debra Marrs. If you would like to get links to Debra’s resources and her website, please go to www.denisewakeman.com/resources and that will take you directly to a post that lists more than 29 resources that were discussed during Virtual Blog Writing Day.
If you have comments or questions about Debra Marrs' tips, please post them below. If you have your own blog writing tips you'd like to share, add those as well and blog on!
Debra Marrs helps busy writers define, organize, and refine writing projects for publication through her popular online writing courses and coaching programs. Visit Debra at YourWriteLife.com