This week has been such a beautiful week for me. I've been dreaming of this challenge for months: the people that would be a part of it, the dreams that would be born and expressed through words and images, the web of support that would be created. And, as with many things, the reality of it is yummier and more divine than I imagined.
One hundred and seventy brave souls have signed on to these two weeks of writing dangerously, and dedicatedly, and you're one of them. We are a group of entrepreneurs and poets, healers and doulas and seekers, artists and coaches of every stripe.
Today, though, all of the excitement caught up with me...I was in the process of trying to upload the writing challenge for today, which for some reason didn't upload last night, and narcoleptically fell asleep. (For those that don't know, I'm eight months pregnant right now. I haven't had narcoleptic nap days since the first trimester, but it seems they are returning). Anyway, sorry for the delay!
Today's Blog Your Heart Out Mission: begin getting organized for a successful week / season / year of blogging by curating a beautiful list of topics that you want to write about, and that your readers want to read about.
This is a very important step whether you are starting out and narrowing down your many passions into something cohesive that is more magnetic and juicy than "my blog," or you have an established blog that is getting a makeover to be more authentic and aligned with who you are today.
The most important aspect of this creating a strong and cohesive list of topics that you are passionate about, and that your readers are excited to read about.
Without your own passion to express yourself about the topics at hand, writing becomes a chore and, frankly, it's really unlikely that you're going to be able to keep it up past a couple of posts.
But if you aren't able to tap into the minds and hearts of your readers and clients, you won't be able to develop a strong readership, which means you'll miss out on the warm and fuzzy feelings that bubble up when folks email you to tell you how fabulous something that you wrote was, or seeing your list grow, or the strategy sessions start rolling in and your programs fill with people who are excited to work with you.
Meaning, you also will find writing a chore and hard to keep up.
At its heart, blogging is a medium devoted to communication between the writer and the reader. Think of each post as a conversation starter which you get to invite the reader to continue with you-- whether that's in the comments of your blog, a free session, a personal email, or reading other amazing posts on your blog.
Alright, smarty pants, you may be thinking to yourself. I'm onboard. I'm ready to brainstorm a supremely awesome, interesting, and reader-connected list of topics that I can't wait to get started on. Now how the heck do I do that?
So glad you asked. I've done this a couple of ways that have worked really well for me and my clients, but today, I want to introduce you to the first of two different methods that I adore. Tomorrow, we'll play with the other one.
The Top-Down Method of Topic Generation:
Starting with Stellar Headlines
This version is great for those of us who are writing more straight forward kinds of blogs, whether they are for building private practices, giving information and recipes, writing about current events, etc. But I recommend all of us to try it and see what comes about. It's a great way to get the juices flowing and play with our writing, even if -- or maybe especially -- it feels like it won't work for the style of writing we're doing or for our particular niche.
Step 0: Fluff your writer's sanctuary (of the day) and get ready to settle in for 15-30 minutes. Include, as usual, a delicious beverage to sip while writing and if possible some great tunes. If this whole "writer's sanctuary thing" sounds totally new to you, go back to your welcome email and scroll down to the PS's. It's in there.
Step 1: Take three breaths into your heart. Connect your heart to the hearts of your future readers, your ideal clients, and the joint venture folks who are waiting to meet and collaborate with you. You might visualize a gossamer golden or brightly-colored web connecting you to them, already in conversation with you. Use your intention and the power of your imagination to begin investing energetically with these folks who are already out there, and perhaps in some ways beyond the obvious, already in conversation and relationship with you.
Step 2: Set a timer for 15 minutes and quickwrite, without stopping, on the following questions. (You might find it helpful to set a timer three times for five minutes each, especially if you're a Virgo or a sock-drawer organizer).
- Who are your ideal readers (and/ or clients)? What do they wear? What do they think about during their days, and what makes their heart sing? What brings them down? Are they a certain age, gender, or have similar jobs to one another? Do they have tattoos, or wish they did? Is there a movie character or celebrity that has a similar feel?
- What are a couple of problems they have, that keep them up at night, and trigger them to go on google in the middle of the night to find more information or someone to help them? How would they describe those problems in their own words? How would you (the smarty pants that you are) describe those same problems?
- What's going on in your own life right now, or recently, that your readers would really relate to? What story would you tell them if you were sitting down to tea together, about a challenge that you overcame, that would help them get to the next step of their journey, or that would make them laugh, or give them a special glimpse into who you really are?
Step 3: Now play with crafting headlines. Write a list of juicy, exciting topics that your readers would love to know more about.
Start from the heart-centered place of connection: what magazine headlines would your ideal readers spot in the grocery store that would inspire them to pick it up, and what headlines would do that for you? How might it be different if they were feeling stuck versus feeling fabulous about themselves-- would they pick up Yoga Journal, The New Yorker, or Cosmopolitan?
Next, let yourself branch out, even get silly. Try on some of the following headline starters, and let yourself be playful with it. Don't think about whether or not you'd ever use these headlines, because that's not the point. The point is to tap into a young, imaginative, creative part of yourself and see what's in there.
Here are some headline starters to try:
- The Zen of...
- Can't Keep it Up? 7 Ways to Simplify [Blank]...
- The Crazy Truth About...
- How to [Blank] in 10 Minutes...
- 4 Mistakes That Make You Don't Know You're Making About...
- The Top 10 [Blank]..
- How to [Blank] Without [Problem or Challenge]...
- 6 Secrets Every [Audience] Should Know...
- A Step by Step Guide to [Blank]...
- My Top Three Tips for [Blank]...
- My Secret Love of [Blank]...
Again, the point of this isn't to necessarily come up with something you'd ever use in print anywhere - it's to play with the style and potential of blogging, and it works whether you're being genuine or ironic.
If these headline starter's don't work for you after you've tried a couple, ditch it and imagine that you're the editor of your favorite magazine or online publication, and see what comes up.
Step 4: Get out your highlighters and zero in on the crème de la crème. Look over your list and circle the things that speak to you the most. I like multiple highlighters of different colors for this, so that I can track similar themes, using a different color for each theme (I'm warning you, this can be a little crazy making if you let yourself get too perfectionist about color-coding. Go easy on yourself).
Then, rewrite these into a supremely awesome list of topics that you can't wait to get started on. They can be as specific as a headline you like, or more general, like "Gluten free cooking," or "My Trip to India and What I Learned."
Step 5: Post a couple of your topic ideas in the Facebook Group and get feedback. This will give you a sense of what people really resonate with, and probably also lead to more fabulous potential topics.
Step 6: Write. This is optional, but if you're fired up, go ahead and throw yourself into one of those fabulous topic ideas and get something up. Short, long, whatever - just let yourself be carried by the motivation and inspiration you feel.
Alrighty, that's it from me for today. I've got to get to my own topic list! If you have any questions, definitely post them to the FB group... most likely if you have a particular question come up, someone else does, too.