In the course of a week I write about 30,000 words. Articles for publication, promotional articles for clients, my books in progress, a book I’m writing for a client. That doesn’t even take into account the thousands of words written in client notes, coaching via email or chat, and Facebook conversations.
And in the course of a week I have “blank page syndrome” at least five times. I had a killer case of it when I sat down to write my column, the one you’re reading right now.
No matter what kind of content you create in your business or to promote your business, it’s normal, when faced with a blank page, for your brain to try to pull a Sergeant Schultz from the old comedy, Hogan’s Heroes;
“I know nothing, I am not here, I did not even get up this morning.”
No matter how often my brain goes AWOL I have to goad it into performing. I have a lot of tricks to get those first few words on the page, maybe the best one is something I heard from a poet during his reading; “To cure writer’s block just lower your standards.” But when I’m creating content like this, the purpose of which is to provide value to readers like you, there are three writing prompts I fall back on. They’ve never failed to help me get answers on the page.
1. What questions did I answer today?
My inboxes are always full of questions. Clients ask me questions all the time. Even the random stranger who asks, “So, what do you do?” is asking a question I can write about. Think about every conversation you’ve had, go back more than one day if you need to, and think about the questions you’ve been called upon to answer. Most likely one of those questions, and the response you gave, will be of value to many more people.
Related: 7.1 Steps to Writing Your Book
2. What questions am I asked most often?
Sometimes what we think is the most valuable insight or information we can offer isn’t what others want most from us. I realized that I was far more than a business coach when people asked me more and more questions about channeling their inner artist, creating meaningful content and even how to navigate personal relationships that were impacting their business.
I used to resist when people referred to me as a “creative coach” or “life coach” or even a few times as a “spiritual coach,” but my writing took on new dimensions once I accepted that I was seen as a valuable resource in those areas. I started publishing in new outlets, I finished a novel which is best described as “spiritual fiction” and took on a project of ghost writing a legacy story. All from paying attention to the kinds of questions people frequently ask.
3. What questions have I recently answered for myself?
I’ve heard that we teach best what we most need to learn. There is some truth in that. But we write best what we’ve only just discovered. As we unwrap the gift of the new knowledge and wisdom we share it with enthusiasm, with the joy of a child ripping the wrapping paper off of an unexpected gift.
I know people who are afraid to write what they haven’t tested over and over, or who are afraid to write what they know someone else discovered long ago. And yes, some advice needs testing. What I’m writing now has been tested for about 20 years. Yet, it’s new truth to me because I’ve only just realized that there is a method in how I keep the “blank page syndrome” monster at bay. It is exciting to me to realize that my method might work for a lot of other people. And yes, I’m also sure I’m not the first person to group these three questions, in just this way, and for just this purpose. But if you have never looked at content in just this way, if you have never seen these writing prompts as a solution for “blank page syndrome” then this is as new for you as if no one had ever written anything vaguely similar before.
You see, valuable content isn’t about sharing something no one else knows, it’s about sharing what you know in a way that your readers can connect with it, consume it and put it to use in their own lives and businesses. When you fill the blank page with that kind of value, you create impact. And impact is what creates income.