The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Well, this is it.
With the new website launching next month, it's time for me to say goodbye to MTM Translations. It's been my digital home for eight years, and writing this last blog post feels kinda weird now. But I want my new digital home to be ready on the big day, and there's still a lot to do.
No sad faces, no Academy Awards-style speech. I'm just taking a short break from the blogosphere to start the next leg of the journey off on the right foot. And I look forward to seeing you around my new cosy little place soon.
Want to be in the loop? Reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.
I won't post that often over the next few weeks - but will be there.
See you soon?
We all have those days, you know.
Days when you don’t feel like writing, and every sentence looks crammed and soulless.
You blame it on the weather. You blame it on white page syndrome. Then, you think of something else to blame. As you fiddle about, the deadline approaches. And before you know it, writing becomes a time-sensitive race.
Ranting is OK – for a bit. But when you write for a living, you can’t drown in whining for too long. So, how could you get your writing mojo back – and quickly?
Warning: there's no universal answer to this. But here you can read some of my go-to strategies. Browse around, and find what might work best for you.
#1 Acknowledge your human side
Zero motivation days happen. But when you can’t write when you should, a sense of guilt often comes into play. And when it does, it triggers a downward spiral that only makes it more difficult for you to start writing again.
So, acknowledge your human side. Negative sentiments don’t help.
#2 Start with your audience’s reactions
Sounds crazy, right? Well, it kind of is. But it's a great trick – and one of the best ways to reinvigorate your writing when your content looks dull and flat.
Start with the kind of reaction you’d like your audience to have - in other words, apply the popular think-feel-do marketing paradigm to your writing:
The answers will help you define the mood for the piece, and decide on the key information you need to share. Which is a pretty good start.
#3 Embrace writing formulas
When you don’t feel like writing, the blank page is daunting.
But you don't need to have it all on your shoulders.
Need to write a blog post quickly? Pick a proven copywriting formula to outline your piece at ease. Stuck on fiction works? Have a closer look at classic story structures for inspiration. You can also start with typical text structures (see below), and select the one that suits your content best.
#4 Spice up your writing space
I get it. You can’t always trade your studio for a stroll just-like-that. It would be nice, but that’s not how life works for most of us. Yet, you can create a refreshing new scenery … straight in your office. Here are a few things you can do to trigger your inspiration:
#5 Write something different
If you’re stuck on business writing, try something different. Tickle your brain with inspiring writing prompts, and craft a short story or two.
It might not be Pulitzer material, but you might come up with an idiom, a joke or else you can use to reinvigorate your "must do" pieces.
#6 Chunk it
When your writing motivation is low, tackling large projects is bloody scary. Chunking that gargantuan piece in smaller writing tasks is a good way to get back on track.
For blog posts, you can easily apply this chunking scheme:
You might still need to complete more tasks during the day. But creating sub-steps can help you get back to writing quickly. Also, ticking them off your list is a natural motivation booster!
What about you?
What are your favourite strategies for getting your writing motivation back?
What's your favourite trick for overcoming your lack of inspiration?
Have your say in the comments!
“Show them you care” is a phrase we hear a lot when discussing customer relationships, social media, content marketing. And yet, it seems that the meaning got lost in between the urge for sales and list building.
Think newsletters. While the goal of newsletters should be nurturing a relationship with your audience, they rarely do. Most are bags full of “buy my stuff”, “look at me” etcetera. Not much of a conversation starter.
«But there’s a discount code in it. Because I care about my audience»
Wrong, pal. A discount code isn’t about them - it’s about your sales. And yes, offering a coupon is nice of you. But if that’s all you do to show that you care, you’re doing it wrong.
So, what could you do instead?
Narrow your focus. Stop looking at “the audience”, and zoom in on the people within.
What would make Jason happy? Could you make Laura’s life easier? To find out, you have to be with your audience. Be part of your community, not the minister. And listen to what “your people” are saying.
Paying attention will help you seize opportunities for personal conversations. Like the very personal newsletter I received from Gill a few weeks ago.
Wondering how she did that? That’s easy.
I’ve been enjoying Gill’s posts and tweets for a while. She’s a smart content creator and web consultant, and a very attentive one. On Twitter, Gill engages with all people that interact with her messages. And one day, she noticed that I had shared her newest post before she did.
She could have stopped at the nice thank you tweet she sent me, of course.
But she didn’t. Instead, she took the time to:
No sales pitch. No coupons whatsoever. But Gill’s focus on conversation made a difference. Her fresh approach made her stood out and come across as a flesh-and-blood human being.
And people engage with people, not broadcasters.
When Blizzard Entertainment launched Hearthstone in 2014, I was happy.
As a deck-building game enthusiast, having a quick alternative to classic Magic: The Gathering sounded great. With a much smaller cards database, I could easily build a deck and play a couple of test games over a lunch break.
And it was great, for a while.
Then things changed.
With new expansions and mechanics, you could well think that the game would be more interesting. And it was, in a way. I loved trying new combinations, and merging deck-specific staples with unusual effects, creature types or mechanics that weren’t “meant for it”.
Results varied, but that’s part of the thrill.
You try something new and see how it goes.
But the bulk of the Hearthstone community seems to go in the opposite direction. With decks available for the new meta (i.e. the strongest strategies based on latest game developments/updates) days before the new expansion comes out, you can simply copy a deck that works.
No need to think, explore or figure it out. You can even follow sponsored pro gamers and YouTubers that tell you how to play the stuff you just copied. You can go with the “proven formula” and enjoy a quick win.
And while I still enjoy developing decks with my own brain (and mixed results), it now feels like I’m playing against the same opponent over and over again. The trend is so common I can usually “guess the deck” within a couple of turns.
But challenging a copycat is no source of inspiration.
Even when you win, you haven’t learned anything new.
And it’s not that much fun anymore.
I get the same bitter feeling from most blogs and discussions on business networks lately. I see more and more people opting for “proven formulas” and sacrificing their true voice on the altar of traffic and visibility. The result? More of the same – same topics, same advice, the “thought leader” approach.
Exceptions exist – in Hearthstone and in business. At times, I come across a deck (or a blog post) with a different, a personal angle. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s meta-perfect (or viral). For those gems inspire reflection and change.
Writing something original isn’t about “proven formulas”.
It’s about putting your heart into it and thinking for yourself.
While sharing your opinions may be scary, it’s worth a try. Other people might be encouraged to do the same. And that’s what starts a conversation, and triggers creativity.
Results vary, but that’s part of the thrill.
Got sick of all the love-themed writing going on this week?
Want to nurture and challenge your creative side with something different?
Have a look at this mini-collection of writing prompts, designed for short stories and flash fiction revolving around mysteries or odd situations. Enjoy!
1. The explorer's diary
2. Rainy day riddle
3. Wedding, disrupted