Then storytelling might be the thing for you

We love telling stories. Tall tales, sob stories, romances, drama, stories that got blown out of proportions, we gobble it all up.

Stories are everywhere, everything is a story

I have an artist friend, and she’s amazing with a pencil. Her secret? Telling stories with ink and paint. She recently wrote that she is growing as an artist and is diving into storytelling. But whether she knew it or not, she was already telling stories through her artwork.

I find it remarkable that we’re only now focusing on stories. They have always been a huge part of our history. It’s not a new thing.

Regardless, I’m cheering on the movement shift from ‘buy my amazing product’ to telling a story. Sharing stories can only lead to good things, even if it relates to a product.

Storytelling can take all shapes and forms. When I was younger I discovered photography and got obsessed with macros. Later I got into drawing. At the time it seemed like my stories had dried up. I stopped writing while all I ever wanted to do was be a writer. There were no more stories to tell.

Looking back I knew that wasn’t true. I never stopped telling stories, it shifted.

So I focused on drawing and doodling and photography — something I loved doing. But what I didn’t realise at the time, was that I never stopped telling stories.

Not once.

I moved from one outlet to another. Telling stories has always been a big part of my life — even when it wasn’t. I kept reading, watching movies, diving into new series. I especially love Once Upon a Time because of the intricate script. Everything is connected in that series, that’s telling a story at its finest!

Content marketing is storytelling

It’s fascinating how content marketing and storytelling come together. It has become part of content marketing, though I’m not sure I agree with that. It would make more sense if it was the other way around.

Yes, you need to have a marketing plan, but the real question is: what is the story you want to tell and how do you want to tell it?

You can put the marketing front and centre all you like, but I know no one who watches commercials anymore. They either click away or they mute the tv. And even on websites, there are ad-blockers and all sorts of tools that people use to hide the advertising.

But we love stories. Who doesn’t cry when they see the #becauseofmom ‘commercial’? Or the Christmas commercials where an old man fakes his own death to get his family to come home for Christmas.

Those are more than stories to back up a brand. That is storytelling at its finest. They walk the line between entertainment, marketing and brand awareness. A story that gets us thinking and even walks the moral line always gets our attention.

Find the line and walk it

It’s human nature, to find lines, try to cross them and see how far we can go before we get called back. Like a naughty child that didn’t hold his mother’s hand. But do we have to stay within the socially accepted border?

Looking at children it makes you wonder. They test the borders every single day. As they grow older, those borders keep shifting and changing daily and that is a good thing.

I’m not saying we should move the moral borders, but stories that tickle those borders are refreshing. Looking at novels and series, the ones the successful ones dare to step out of the set comfort zones.

So here’s my challenge to you, step of out of your comfort zone today and tell your stories. I know you have them in you.

Share your why, share your life, your doubts and your journey. But most of all, don’t be afraid be vulnerable. That one thing that you don’t want to share creates the most powerful and heartfelt stories.

Whatever you do, put your story front and centre.

Think out of the box, dig deep and I guarantee you, people will notice. A good story always stands out from the crowd.

Just one word of caution: once you start telling stories there is no going back. Because once you do, you’ll be a storyteller for life.

Creating a content plan is the best thing you can do for your business and blog. It will help you move forward and make sure you always know what’s happening in with your content. Basically, it will make your life easier, and that’s something we all want, right? Right!

We’ve already talked about how to create a great content plan (if not, go read it now, it’s super helpful), so now it’s time to dive into tools you can use to make this process a heck of a lot easier.

For myself, I use a number of tools together. Some are really free, easy, straight forward and paper-based, while for others you need to pay a small fee monthly. I’ve put them all in one place so you have a great overview of your options and can find something to fit any budget.

Excel or Google Sheets

I love using Google sheets (Excel if you’re an Office user). It gives me a clear overview of what’s happening at a glance. It’s very easy to use and you can customise it to fit all and any of your needs. For instance, if you’re working with your clients, it’s helpful to know who is working on what and what the status of the posts are. On the other hand, if you’re working alone it’s great to be able to jot down what tasks still need to be done. So I’ve created a template that accommodates all of this (and you can swipe it here). But it’s simple, it’s easy, low maintenance and best of all: it’s totally free!

TAKE BLOG POSTS &NEWSLETTERS OFF MY TO-DO LIST

Evernote

I honestly can not live without Evernote anymore. I am in no way affiliated with them, but ever since I started using it, there was no turning back for me. (The epic elephant logo is a big bonus too).

I use it for just about anything. With the web clipper integrated into my chrome browser, I can easily clip and save any type of research I want to save.
I also use Evernote to create my first drafts, store my ideas and save all the little technical bits that I need (like the colour codes for my website). What I love about Evernote is that it syncs to all of my devices. So if I am out and about and I have an idea, I can just jot it into Evernote and I have everything safely stored into one place. I don’t use it so much for creating the actual plan, but it is an integrated part of my content planning system and routine. If you want, though, you can easily use it to create a content plan as well. And if you’re looking to get more out of Evernote, or are just getting started with the program, check out this guide too. Evernote has free and paid options.

I don’t use it so much for creating the actual content plan, but it is an integrated part of my content planning system and routine. If you want to though, you can easily use it to create a content plan as well. And if you’re looking to get more out of Evernote, or are just getting started with the program, check out this guide too. Evernote has free and paid options.

Content calendar (WordPress)

Whenever I set up a new WordPress website, this is the first plugin that I install. I love having a calendar overview of what’s happening and when. I can see at a glance which post is up next and it makes it very visual too (I love me some visuals). It makes the posts easy to move around, edit and delete. Whenever I’ve decided on my content, I’ll pop it into WordPress straight away so I can see at a glance which post is due when. Best thing ever. And free too.

Awesome & Free Tools To Create A Killer Content Plan

CoSchedule

Tagging on to the content calendar, there’s CoSchedule. This is an integrated Content Calendar plugin for WordPress. At a glance, it looks the same as the previously mentioned plugin, but this one goes above and beyond. you can schedule your content, create to-dos and even schedule all of your social media updates with it too. it even integrates with Buffer. It’s truly a one-stop solution for all of your content marketing. It comes with a price tag, though. The cheapest option is $19 a month, with minimal features, whereas the one step higher costs you $30 a month and the one about that’s $60 a month. However, it can save you a lot of time and really help you to get your work out there.

Paper diary

One of my favourite tools: good old pen and paper. To be honest, I don’t think this one is ever going out of style. Sure you can’t use it to schedule tweets in one go, but it’s reliable, you can make notes, scribble, doodle and draw on it, and really make it your own.
One of the best paper systems I found for this is the Bullet journal system. This is a system you can fully customise and make your own and really get the most out of it.
If this is not something you’re interested in and you just want a done for you format, there are tons and tons of blog planners already out there that you’ll love. How about Filofax or the Happy Planner. Just have a look around and decide which one is best for you.

What are some of your favourite tools to create a content plan and make sure your blog stays organised?

This post contains affiliate links. This will not add an extra charge to your bill when you choose to purchase and has not influenced my opinion on the product in any way. 

One of the things I hear the most when people talk to me about blogging, is that have no idea what to write about. They feel like they have nothing to share with the world. And while I get that it’s hard to communicate a clear and cool message to the world, I believe you have more ideas in you than you know.

But how do you find those ideas? And if you have them, how do you know if they’re any good at all?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Begin with your audience

Most people start a blog because they have an idea or a story to share with the audience. But if you run a business and your blog is part of that business, you have to flip it around and start with your audience or customers.

If you are, say, a designer, and you write about design and composition than that is something you’re intimately familiar with. It is, after all, something you do daily. Your audience however, might not be familiar with it at all or find it confusing. So if you create an in-depth post about something super cool (and slightly nerdy) relating to design, your audience might not get it and you might lose them (and thus some a future customer too!).

So ask yourself this, where is you audience right now? Why do they come to your website? What is something they are struggling with right now? I bet you, you already have a few amazing ideas right there.

Ask your audience

Though sometimes using your audience beginning as a starting point, might not work simply because you’ve already addressed all of their struggles. So now what?

In this case, you can ask them directly. On social media, via your email list, on your blog, whatever works for you. Ask them where they hang out. And ask them directly what they need from you. How can you help them? And what are they struggling with? Or ask them what information they are hoping to find on your website and blog. Once you have this information, go and create it for them – they will thank you for it.

Share what you’ve learned

As you grow your business you will learn a lot of useful skills. You come across a new to you programs, or there is a new social media platform released. Even if you hone your craft, you will learn more and new skills (yay!). So why not share this with your audience. If it’s new to you, or something you are struggling with as a professional, you can bet there are (a lot of) people in your audience who have the same problem. So go share all your cool new insights! Plus sharing your knowledge will help you to establish yourself as an expert.

4 Step Guide To Crafting Ideas For Your Blog

Remember your journey

Do you know what you did when you started out? How did you grow, what did you do? See if you can retrace your steps. Where there things you would have liked to know when you were starting out and what are some of the best lessons you’ve learned since you started your business?

All of these make great and amazing posts for your audience. Remember, you might be well on your way to becoming an amazing boss, but out there are a lot of people who are just like you once were: starting out. So share your knowledge and skills like someone did with you when you were starting out.

Hopefully, now you have a few great starting points to start creating your own list of ideas that your audience will love. Remember, always keep your audience in mind and ask yourself if this is helpful and give them a key insight that will help them move forward. And then go off to write some amazing content.

You can do this! Because you’re awesome.

Be sure share the links to your posts in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with.

I’ve always considered myself as an in the moment, caring person. I’d pride myself at noticing all the things around me. True I was the only one who noticed a horse making sudden funny movements as we zoomed past in the car and I can get profoundly excited when I see swan chicks. But am I really an in the moment person?

Recently I’ve started to question my own mindfulness.

A lot.

Growing up, especially as a late teenager, I considered myself super spiritual. Yes, I was one of those teenagers dressed in black, leather boots, and long velvet dresses. As much as I loved those clothes (and secretly still do), looking back, they weren’t very flattering. Neither were the multi-coloured cardigan I wore on top of most of my outfits, and the coat with a pointy hat was. I dabbled with using some crystals, and fiddled with herbs (read: collect jars full of dried herbs). I felt very in tune with nature.

Looking back I’m not sure that I ever was. But that’s not the point now. Somewhere along the way I’ve let it slide. I got caught up in the business of work and live.

I had a demanding job in a different country before I decided to become an entrepreneur. And even though the business changed, the feeling of stress, being chased by a never ending to-do list and a feeling of being pressured for time, stayed.

And now here I am. Working as a full-time entrepreneur (yay!), doing what I love (yay!) and struggling to concentrate on what I love doing most every single day (euh…). I love to write, it’s in my blood and I have been doing it for more that two-thirds of my life. And yet, when I sit down to do it every single day, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to do it.

My mind feels like it’s scattered all over the place. Every time I try to focus it feels like I have to pull all the little pieces together and force them to look in the same direction. It’s exhausting. Especially as an entrepreneur. If I can’t get my mind to focus I have no hope in Hell to create a successful business. (I admit, I clicked away mid-sentence here to check out a website for something useless… it’s that bad).

I need my mind back. And I needed it yesterday (modern impatience much?)

Now before we go any further I want to make clear that I’m not struggling professionally. I always make my deadlines, get the work done and deliver quality. It’s just at the moment, my brain feels scattered, and I want to be able to really focus on one thing and kickass.

So, that’s why I came up with this challenge and I am going to take you gals along for the ride.

365 days of mindfulness as an entrepreneur

Starting this week, even though June is already on its way out, I’m starting a 365-day mindfulness practice. I am hesitant to call it a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, it will be a challenge, more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, but I want to reprogram my brain, my mind and become nicer and respectful towards myself. Really give each task my 100% focus. No more multitasking, be in the moment and really taste my food when I eat it.

To help me do this, I’ve created a set of monthly themes to help guide me. They were born from a list of things I hear mindfulness gurus (and normal people) talk about too. And I have to start somewhere right?

So here we go:

June – Pay attention – one thing at a time
July – Eliminate distractions
August – Meditation
September – Yoga
October – Live & eat healthy
November – Detach from electronics
December – Read read read
January – Art, creativity & play
February – Create room
March – Retreat
April – Self-Confrontation
May – Manifesting
June – Pay attention – one thing at a time

Now it’s easy to give into temptation and read about mindfulness a lot before I dive in. But I’ve decided (even though I am ready reading a lot of the non-off-with-the-fairies books) to just dive in and go for it. I can put it off until the cows come home, but it will not help me get more done any sooner. And as we already established, it’s time to get focused.

So here’s to diving in, being more mindful and being scared shitless in the process of what I’ve hidden in the depths of my mind.

I don’t know about you, but for me, writing blog posts is never a problem. I admit it helps to be a writer, but I have ideas are brewing in my head all the time. The only thing I have to do is to put my fingers on the keys. Where it gets tricky, though, is finding time to edit the posts.

Now in contrary to what some of you might believe, editing is not merely a simple matter of checking for spelling mistakes. (All though this is a big part of editing as well.) Editing is where you take a good idea, and polish it up to become an awesome idea. Think of it as finding an antique silver teaspoon. You recognise its beauty, but it will only really start to shine for you when you’ve spent time going over it with silver polish.

Writing is just the same and the polish is the editing process.

A lot of entrepreneurs struggle to get their ideas clear and out on paper. I completely understand, writing is hard!

Writing those ideas in a clear and unique way is even harder.

That’s where editing comes in. You see, in order to capture your great ideas you need to write without trying to make every sentence perfect. You just need to apply these simple guidelines to get your first draft: butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, GO.

Before you know it, you have a blog post. But it still feels kinda meh. That’s because editing is where the real magic happens. And don’t be surprised when this takes a lot longer than writing the actual post. And trust me, it’s totally worth it to take the extra time to make your post shine.

But one glance and your schedule and you feel like throwing your hands up in the air. Where do you fit editing in your schedule to really give it the love and attention it deserves?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

how to find time to edit your posts

Make it a regular appointment in your calendar

As an entrepreneur, you schedule a lot of appointments in a week. So why not make editing a non-negotiable appointment every week? That way you know you’ve reserved time in your schedule and will save yourself from the feeling of ‘never being able to get around to it’. It will take a whole bunch of stress away from your blog and it will give you time to get everything done in time.

Do make sure you do your editing ideally two to three days before your post goes live. If you notice a mistake or want to rewrite some text, you can. If you edit your post five seconds before it goes live, you will have robbed yourself of the opportunity to really make it shine (or have to push back the publishing date, also not a great idea)

Schedule longer than you need

When planning your editing time, make sure you schedule longer than you need. Ideally twice as long. This might feel like a big chunk out of your schedule, but it will, in fact, save you a time in the long run.

Doing this will make it easier for you to really focus on the editing, and when you want to change and move things around, you don’t have to feel like you have to rush things. Another great benefit is that you can use the time you have left to schedule your post, create your social media update and graphics – major bonus!

But… I hear you say… I don’t have time to schedule that amount of time. I hear you!

Schedule small chunks at a time

We’ve all read the science, it takes 20 minutes to sink into a task and if you get distracted or switch, you have to start all over again to get back into it. But sometimes, you’re too darn busy between running a business, keep your family organised and fed and trying to get some sleep. It’s just too hard to block out two hours for editing a post.

So schedule several blocks of time throughout the week. If you only schedule 15 minutes (at a minimum) at a time and really focus for that amount of time, you really can get a lot done – trust me. Just make sure you block out all other distractions and really sink into the editing for 15 whole minutes. Then make sure you schedule several of those blocks during the week.

Prioritise

This is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing you can do for your blog.

Make editing a priority.

Seriously. If you want to get stuff done and done right, you need to make it a priority. Not just one of those things that you get around to some day when you have the time.

Schedule little chunks when you feel you don’t have time and even then, I bet you that you do. We all ‘waste’ time in front of the tv, use a 15 minute (yes, they are that long) commercial break to mute the tv and dive into your editing. Or skip one crappy reality show a week to do your editing.

However you do it, it’s all a matter or priority. If you don’t make it a priority, you are less likely to really get stuff into your schedule.

So do you make time to editing and polish your posts? And how do you make sure you fit it into your calendar. We love to hear how you do it in the comments!

Creating content is a pain.

There. I said it.

The hardest part is just to know where to start. What do your readers want to read? Do you even have a something to share with them? You ponder and ponder on this and before you know it, you haven’t written a single post in weeks. Yikes!

So now what? You know that a core part of your business is giving your readers value (because you’re a smart awesome business woman), but you find it hard to sit down and write the posts on a moment’s notice. Running to catch up is your default mode.

That stops here.

As a former editor-in-chief, I have been on all sides of content creation – and frustration. And getting frustrated about generating ideas is a real thing even in the magazine business.

Since magazines work three to six months ahead it can be really hard to anticipate where your audience will be. Not just that… you have to take in account upcoming holidays as well. I have known magazines to close the curtains and pull out the Christmas decorations in June to brainstorm their Christmas issues. And I myself have been bouncing around in my sparkly dress with baubles in my hair in June for a Christmas shoot for one of my magazines.

But, once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard. And you can totally create an awesome, balanced and kick-ass content plan for the coming three to four months.

It just takes a little effort at first to build the routine… but once you do, oh boy, you never have to stress about ‘what am I going to write about now?’ ever again.

So let’s dive right in shall we?

Use a content calendar

If you want to have a good content plan for three to four months in advance, you need to actually do some planning. It’s that simple. You can’t (and you don’t want to, trust me) hold 4 months of content in your head. And no, scribbling a random list at the back of your journal where you can pick and choose from won’t work either. I can’t say this enough:

You need to have a good, solid content calendar.

A template works great for this. You can fill in your topics and see what’s coming up within seconds. It will save you a ton of time and stress figuring out what to do next.

Another bonus: you can see at a glance if your topics are building on each other. This is key in a good content plan: you’ll take your reader from where they are right now to where they want to go.

That’s all there is to it.

Readers come to your website to learn something. They want you to solve their problems. Even if they don’t even know they have a problem. Actually: especially if they don’t know they have a problem with something.

But, you have to meet them where they are. As much as you love your subject, business or hobby, you are the expert and your readers are novices. So if you talk to them, expecting the same background knowledge as you, you lose them. They will get confused, click away and all your awesome knowledge is lost on them.

So start with the basics. A post like ‘Start with _topic here_’ or ‘The beginners guide to _topic here_’ is a perfect place to start. And then you build from there.

A content plan will help you map out this growth path. This is also perfect if you want to work towards the launch of your product – in fact, it’s the perfect way to prep your readers for your product.

So what are you waiting for? Swipe my content plan template and start creating your content plan to hook your readers.

TAKE BLOG POSTS &NEWSLETTERS OFF MY TO-DO LIST

Monthly themes

So now you have the basis of a content plan (if not, go download it now and fill it up alongside this post), it’s time to fill it (yay!). This is where the magic happens. It might sound like a daunting task… but it’s not, I promise! It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of monthly themes (I lovingly blame my magazine background for this). They’re such a great skeleton for your plan and will create a cohesive feel across all your content. As a bonus, it helps you map out the reader growth plan.

To start: pick a theme that speaks to your readers where they are right now. What comes first?

Say you’re writing about marketing (because you’re a marketing queen right?). Start with introducing the readers to the different types of marketing. Shares ins and outs, new insights that will help them pick and choose which form of marketing will fit their business.

Note: this is not a repetition of everything that is already out there or a direct copy of the platforms description. Really help your audience decide which form of marketing is right for them (it’s super important to know your ideal client by heart and really speak to them).

So now you have your first theme: forms of marketing. What comes next?

Exactly!

Creating content.

You can dive into all the different types of content creations around marketing, pros and cons and so on. There’s your second monthly theme. And after that?

You’ve got it!

Growing your reach and audience of course!

That’s the beginning of a three-month content plan right there.

So now it’s your turn. Grab your free content plan and start filling it with your monthly themes.

4_easy_steps_to_a_balanced_content_plan

Series

Series can form a great basis for your content plan. I run a Monday morning series on my blog (check it out here). It features an awesome lady boss every week who shares how she sets her week up for success. It’s inspiring, I get to connect with other bosses and it shows up every Monday on the blog without fail.

Series come in all shapes and sizes and you can really go to town here. Staying in the marketing corner, why not create a series around Pinterest where you discuss one tip a week to make the make the most of it? Or if you’re more of a Twitter kinda girl, focus on that one. Or you can do a roundup every week with the latest on other blogs that will interest your readers (giving other people some love is a great marketing tool too!).

The possibilities are almost endless – and it’s a great way to build the knowledge of your readers (bonus: turn your posts into an ebook so they can download it)

Be in it for the long haul

It can be hard to come up with topics a few months in advance. I know and I struggled with that myself while I was a magazine boss. It can be so hard to come up with inspiring Christmas ideas in February (true story). So what can you do to make it easier?

As business owners, we’re into this for the long haul (if not, what are you doing here?) and that’s great news!

No really, it is. Here’s why:

Certain things will come around time and time again. Like Christmas, Valentines, 4th of July, they are all annual. So while you still have to come up with topics far in advance (there is no point to introducing a Christmas decorations DIY post on the 24th of December), you can take notes of your ideas during the holidays.

Come up with post ideas of things you could have written about. Create titles, add a few bullet points (this is super important! You want to make it easy on future you), and then add it to your content calendar for next year.

That’s right! No one said you should limit yourself to only working on the next two months.

So imagine this, you’re packing your suitcase and planning to go on an amazing holiday, and you rush to finish the last things on your blog, and finish scheduling your social media updates. While you’re doing this you notice this would be a great post to help your readers prepare for their holiday.

Make a note of it!

Seriously, do it right now.

Make a note of it, add bullet points and add it to your calendar at a time that would be most beneficial for your readers.

That, my dears, is how you make things easier for yourself.

Are you ready to create your own awesome content plan? Start with grabbing your content plan template and start planning your own content right away.

TAKE BLOG POSTS &NEWSLETTERS OFF MY TO-DO LIST

Garfield hates Mondays and most (not all!) people with day jobs frequently agree with him. But for us girls bosses Monday is another start of a week doing what we love. So how do you start your week with a bang and make sure you get a ton done? Each week an awesome girl boss will share her Monday Morning habits to inspire you. This week Annalisa Parent shares hers!

Annalisa HeadshotCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

HI! My name is Annalisa Parent of Date With The Muse, LLC. I am a writing coach. I help writers start, finish and bring to publication writing in all genres.

How do you start your Monday Morning? And what time do you get up?

Monday is an early morning for me, though I let the time be flexible. I am always writing by 9 AM, so on Mondays I get up well before that.

I plan out my week, align the individual tasks for the week with my monthly and quarterly goals.

What is your favourite way to plan out your week?

I keep a running tally of to-dos in google tasks. That allows me to brain dump, when I am doing task A, but task B pops into my head. Monday morning is my time to prioritize all of those tasks, and place them on a day of the week  for actual completion.  Deadlines are SO crucial to getting things done. Plus this is a time for me to be really realistic about what can be done and what the real scope of any given project is. (I am a specialist in biting off more than I can chew.)

Do you have a Monday Morning ritual? Is it different compared to other days of the (working) week?

Just as mentioned. In addition to that ritual: Every day around 3 pm, I get the sleepies. I give myself an hour for journaling, reflecting, reading business books (which is where a lot of my to do tasks and ideas come from) or just dozing off if I need it.

How did your week planning change over the years?

This is my first year as a full time entrepreneur. It’s nice to have more time to focus on the business and not have a job on the side. That said, sometimes tasks can fill as much time as you give them, so that’s hard.

I’ve always been a planner and had a very structured calendar.  The challenge in transitioning to full time entrepreneur has been setting my own priorities and bringing projects to completion.

IMG_3635What planning system do you use? And do you prefer paper or digital?

I am SUCH a paper person. But it’s just not practical–I can’t find what I need when I want it or I have to do lists that cover several sheets of paper. I force myself to go digital for practicality’s sake, but it’s not my preference.  The one concession I allow myself is that my daily task list is paper. There’s something gratifying about crossing things off.

One unique thing I do is keep a DONE list. Do you ever have those days where you feel like you spend the whole day chasing loose threads and got NOTHING done? I keep a done list so I can say “Oh yeah, I did some stuff today.” It also allows me to look back and see how well I am keeping to my priorities.

I just keep it as a narrow column in my journal that I keep anyway. Maybe my grandkids will look back and say “Why did she keep a running tally of how often she did laundry and sent invoices?” 😉

Which planning app or program is something you can not live without?

Journal. Hands down. Must write and reflect. We run around so much, but the thinking is an important part, remembering the why, evaluating if this to-do is still relevant, and just dumping my brain at the end of the day.

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What is the most important planning lesson you’ve learned?

It will ALWAYS take 86,000 times longer to finish than you think.

Can you share your number one planning tip?

Stay on top of it. Planning is a discipline. It’s like the bills–if you let them pile up, you are NOT going to want to attack that monster stack (Yup, I’ve done that.) But if you have a relationship with your goals, and think of planning time as part of that relationship, things go a little more smoothly.

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Where can we find you, your website and your social media accounts?

You can find my website over at www.DateWithTheMuse.com or on Twitter, Facebook or Medium: Chair & Pen: Musings on Writing and the Writing Life.

As a professional writer, it’s a true gift to be able to write in the voice of your clients, or write in a way that appeals to different audiences. It takes a different kind of skill to be able to write in someone’s voice. However, when you’re creating your brand and your own voice, it’s not a good idea to write in any voice other than your own.

Trust me, I learned the hard way.

When I started writing at eleven (I’ve got the stories to proof it), I’ve started with imitating my favourite authors. Lots of writers start out that way and that’s totally cool (just not for publishing). In fact, everybody learns by imitating. Walking, speaking and even eating. We all learn from watching our parents, and mimicking their behaviours.

At some point, though, we all have to find our own way. Think of it as telling your mother you’ve become a vegetarian when she presents you with a juicy meatball.

However finding your own voice can be hard when you see others succeeding. If that’s what the audience wants, then that must be the key to creating killer content. Right?

Nope.

Your brand and your blog are built on your personality. Your voice is unique, so are your views, opinions and experiences. Throw that all together and you have a pretty spectacular mix that only you can provide.

But how do you bring that unique voice of you to the party? Here are 5 expert tips:

5 Ways To Stay True To Your Own Writing Voice In A Noisy World

Write to a friend

One of the best ways to write like you talk is to write a letter to you friends, or mum for that matter. Think about it, you wouldn’t talk to any of them in a big corporate voice, would you?

Of course not!

Next time you’re writing, start off with ‘dear mum’ or the name of your best friend (or even better, the name of your ideal client). Don’t worry, you won’t have to publish that, it’s just to help you get in the right mindset.

Next, write the entire post as if you’re talking directly to them. When you’re done, read it back and notice the difference in wording and how much more free flowing your writing is. Now you go back in, do some editing, add some structure and subheaders.

Record your stuff

If you have a microphone (most laptops do) and access to Google docs, start dictating your posts directly into your computer. This is a great, quick and easy way to get your voice down on paper. Especially if you struggle with finding your voice on paper. Just talk as you normally would and your posts will be filled with words you use when you talk and tons of personality. You will have to go back in and edit, as the technique is far from flawless, but it will also help you greatly with speeding up your writing process. Bonus.

Just talk as you normally would and your posts will be filled with words you use when you’re talking (and it has personality!). You will have to go back in and edit, as the technique is far from flawless, but it will also help you greatly with speeding up your writing process. Bonus.

Ask a friend

If you’re not sure if your writing really sounds like you, ask a friend to proofread it. Preferably one that is honest (the more honest, the better) and will really tell you what he or she thinks.

Sometimes, especially when it comes to writing in your own voice, it’s good to have an extra set of eyes on your text. You want to be sure it absolutely sounds like you and sometimes you look at yourself differently than your friends and family do.

Just keep in mind that you have the last vote when it comes to what goes on and what stays out of your text. This is just to get a second opinion.

Share your stories from the heart

We all have stories and experiences that are really specific to us. It’s our stories and experiences that make us unique and give us a story to share with the world. If you don’t share those elements in your text, it will make you sound robotic, plain, boring and, well, not human.

That’s not what you want. Trust me.

In order to reach people, to teach them and to make them feel like ‘she gets it’, you need to find your writing voice. You need to share you.

Good thing: your audience loves to hear your stories. Yes, it’s all about what you can teach them and the value you give them. BUT…

…They want to know that you understand them. That you have faced their struggles too and that you practise what you preach.

The only way to do that is by sharing your stories and experiences with them. Show them your human side, show them that you are vulnerable too and that you get them. That’s the only path straight through their hearts.

Plus it’s one of the core values to back up what you’re trying to teach them.

Use your catchphrases

We all have expressions we use all the time, ways of saying things. Adding those into your posts is a great way to add more personality. Who said that writing and talking are two different things? Yes, writing is a more efficient way to get a point across fast, but no one said boring is the way to go.

Start writing the way you talk

Tagging on the previous point, if you say ‘right?’ at the end of a sentence a lot, who says you can’t add that to you writing as well? Not every sentence, of course, balance is the key, but enough to make it sound more authentic.

Your aim here is to get a conversational tone. That’s what gets people hooked and makes them keep reading all at the same time.

So add in your expressions, your funny inside jokes, dry humour and really make it you. Go over the top, scale it back again. Whatever works for you. Experiment, go nuts, but most of all: be yourself.

‘I can’t’ ‘you’re no good’ and ‘you’re going to be found out’. I bet my hat (if I was wearing any) that your inner voice has said this to you at least once. But what if this is something it says on a regular basis. All. The. Time. What do you do then?

Honest truth: I’ve always felt like I was no good. Like I would never amount to anything. Heck, why was I even thinking that I was anything special? I didn’t shine in high school, nor in college, I was an average, overweight student. And yet, here I am running my own business making a full-time income doing what I love most: writing.

Cue Imposter Syndrome.

Back in school and growing up, I had no idea what this was, but I suffered from it. Badly.

Truth be told, I think most creatives suffer from this. Neil Gaiman sure did as he says in his famous speech. (Don’t know it? Watch it here! It’s the best pick-me-up when you have a severe Imposter Syndrome attack). Even though I have a lot of artist friends, I still have to meet the first one who is completely confident about his or her work.

And that’s ok.

There are so many posts out there that will give you action tips on how to beat your Imposter Syndrome.

This is not one of those posts.

You see, I think, no I believe a certain kind of discomfort is necessary to help you grow.

This man agrees with me:

I think there are two kinds of Imposter Syndrome. The one that knocks you out and makes you hide under the duvets for about a year and makes sure nothing gets done.

And the other kind.

Now this other kind looks and feels very similar. It will tell you you can’t, that you’re no good and that you are going to be found out. It will knock the wind right out of your sails, it will make you hide in bed and… kick the duvets off yourself angrily.

They say you can’t? You’ll show them you can #insertstrongword!

For me, this was becoming a writer. In journalism school, I was vanilla. My Dutch spelling wasn’t my strong suit. And my first staff job was just not right for me and didn’t play to my strengths. My Imposter Syndrome had a field day!

I wallowed. I was sentenced to a vanilla life and I was just going to have to make do. But I didn’t listen.

One day I woke up, looked myself right in the eyes and told the Imposter Syndrome to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Everyone said I couldn’t? I would prove them wrong. I would prove myself wrong!

Long story short: I did.

And so can you.

Here are some tips to get you started:

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Look it in the eye, identify it

For a week, acknowledge your Imposter Syndrome. Invite it to hang with you. Let it speak freely (it will most certainly scream its head off inside yours). Notice when it starts protesting the most. What are the tasks, projects or moments in your life it seems to grab a hold of you?

Steven Pressfield who wrote The War of Art and Going Pro is not only a genius, he has a point to. He calls the Imposter Syndrome ‘Resistance’.

You see resistance will flare up right before you’re about to make a breakthrough.This might sound like a lot of bull and mumbo jumbo, but hear me out here.

Think back to moments where you felt scared to do something, or when you didn’t do something because ‘it didn’t feel right’. Where there moments where you pushed through that feeling and ended up with amazing things because you did it?

That feeling, that’s Resistance, the Imposter Syndrome or whatever you want to call it.

For me it became painfully obvious when I had a massive crying spell on my boyfriend’s shoulder (thanks for letting me love), feeling like the biggest failure in the world. Why did I think I could run a business?

Want to know what happened a week later? I landed a whole bunch of dream clients and could quit my bridge job.

Take that Imposter Syndrome!

Improve your skills

One thing your Imposter Syndrome will keep telling you is that you’re not good enough. That you don’t have the skills to pull it off and that you just don’t have the know-how.

Best thing to prove it wrong? To learn those skills and go do it anyway.

I always had a problem learning new languages. So I went back to uni to learn Old Irish. Because I always wanted to do that, because I wanted to prove that I could and mostly because I could do it.

And let me tell you, it’s such a big rush and kick to get back your translation exam with a big fat A on it.

Prove it wrong

Maybe I’m just a rebel, or maybe I’m just stubborn, but I always felt the need to proof anybody wrong who said I couldn’t. Even myself.

There are so many people out there looking to cure and get rid of the Imposter Syndrome. And while that’s understandable, I don’t think it’s right. I think it part of a package deal. One that will allow you and help you grow.

Just like the lobster.

The way I see it you have two choices… you can either let it stop you from doing anything, or see it as a big challenge and a hurdle to overcome.

I know which one I’d choose. What would you do?

I get it.

You want to get stuff done, but that comfort zone is pretty darn comfy. You’ve been meaning to get real about showing up on social media, or writing those blog posts, but your to-do list is a mess.

You’re playing catch-up and planning is something you’ll come around to eventually.

What if I told you that planning is fun and so is setting goals?

Take a page out of Frodo’s book, you know that little guy with the hairy feet. He did something he didn’t think he could do but did it anyway. In fact, I would encourage you to go watch an epic fantasy movie right now (or better, go read the book). Go on, I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve gone and done that, what did you notice?

Exactly!

Each of the characters is faced with odds that seem unbeatable. Most of them involve a life or death situation. Surely, if they can face that, you can set big goals for yourself. Right?

Still not sure?

Here are seven lessons learned from those books and movies to help you on your way and plan for greatness.

#1 But I’m just a Hobbit

Have you ever heard that you are not good enough, not experienced enough of just too young to do something? For instance too young to follow your dreams or to really land your dream job.

I sure have been told that on many occasions.

But you know what, you’re not. In fact, if you aim big, you are more likely to succeed and to really go for it. Small goals that seem super doable, are most likely to end up on the back-burner because you will get to them eventually.

Just like Frodo, when something seems like an impossibly large and daunting task, you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

#2 “Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day” – Terry Pratchett

No big goal can ever be achieved without learning something along the way. Whether that is something about yourself (you can do this!) or a specific skill, you can use this to grow your business even further.

So not only will you be able to get your ‘big thing’ done, you will also create more space for your business to grow. It’s basically a big awesome side effect to getting things done.

And even if you fail, you will have learned some super valuable skills that will go a long long way.

#3 Is it worth fighting for?

When you set goals, do they really matter to you? Are you really willing to put in the hours and put up a fight

Time to drop the bullshit goals and really aim for the things close to your heart.

A fight is only ever won when you truly believe that you can win it. The same goes for you to-do list. If you don’t think you can accomplish your goals, are you like to start them?

Nope.

So set goals you believe in, work towards something you want without a shadow of a doubt. If you’re all in, you will make it happen, I promise you.

#4 He who shall not be named

Fear of the name will increase fear of the thing itself. Declare your goals, don’t be afraid to spell them out to people. The only way to make you goals real and seem doable is to face them.

Get them out in the open and tell the world. That will make you accountable and launch you into action-mode.

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#5 Battles are messy

You to-do list is a mess, do you really want to add more to it? You fear that if you add even more, you’ll add more to your ‘couldn’t finish that either’ list.

The opposite is also true.

Adding goals and plans will give you more direction. It clearly spells out the steps you have to take in order to get where you want to go.

Don’t worry, it may look like you have more to do in the beginning; It will get worse before it gets better, but when it does it will keep on getting better.

Sometimes life just gets messy.

#6 We have a Hulk

Soft goals never made anyone work for them. Bring out your inner Hulk to the party and put some force behind your goals.

Hard deadlines, clear goals and everything else you can think of to make sure you put some force behind all the things you want and need to do.

Setting yourself a deadline is also a really great tool to inspire urgency and spiral yourself into action. Find out what does the trick for you and then go do it. Hulk smash!

#7 Winter is coming

There will be periods every year where work will slow, you can bet on that.

So make sure you have reserves, and nurture what you’ve got, keep client relations warm, plan for the long term, not just right now. Make sure you are prepared.

And when this period does come around, make sure you have some great things to do by the fire. These times are great for working on personal projects, honing your skills or just relaxing with a good book. Whatever you do, don’t despair when things get slow. It’s the natural way of life.

Now go and watch another epic movie for more inspiration and see how you can use that in your daily life. (Oh and I’d love it if you come and report back to me what you’ve learned!)