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Curing small business writer's block

Posted by Jason Keith  August 30, 2012 10:24 AM

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One thing that small businesses always seem to struggle with is writing. In my conversations with them, it's always a topic that comes up. Owners aren't sure what to put on their website, emails, blogs, even social media updates. Sometimes even flyers and postcard mailings can become difficult to write for. It's understandable, writing isn't easy and there are many forms that small businesses have to know if they are going to succeed. Considering all the marketing materials that have to be produced and social media now working into the mix, being nimble enough to write in many different ways is important.

But oftentimes small business owners stare at a blank word document or a website, a promotional item and freeze. It's called writer's block and it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, some of the best writers on the planet often suffer from it on occasion. Sometimes the brain just can't catch up and make the hands push out a perfect string of words. Not to worry though there are cures for writer's block, so next time you find yourself paralyzed at the computer screen, try these four tips:

Open the floodgates:

Instead of trying to come up with the perfect sentence or group of words, just start throwing anything down onto the paper. Start typing, and don't even think about it. Even if you're typing things that have nothing to do with what you wanted to accomplish, you'll start to get your brain working and thinking. Do it for about 5-10 minutes, then stop. Walk away from the computer for a few minutes, come back and see what you wrote down on the paper. Chances are you're going to see something that strikes you as good or relevant. And sometimes you just have to "break free" from the constraints of the writing process in order to get the creative juices flowing.

Read, read, and read some more:

Every great writer will tell you that they hone their skills by reading other great writing. The question usually is, what should I be reading? The answer is anything you can get your hands on: novels, magazines, newspapers, websites. There are all kinds of good (and bad) writing out there that you can take a look at and get inspired by. Find some time every day to read something, even if it's just one story in the newspaper or online. You'll find that if you read with the purpose of becoming a better writer, you'll read differently, focus more on the words and usually take something away from it.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery:

Good copy in advertising and marketing is duplicated, built on and emulated every single day. If you think that companies are always coming up with "great copy" think again. Usually they're coming up with copy that has been changed or tweaked based on OTHER good copy. It's rare you see something new and what works is duplicated over and over and over again. That's why it works. And when it stops working, that's when it's time to change. So if you're looking for lines to use in an email campaign, sign up for emails from big companies. Study what they say and how they say it, and how it might apply to your business. The same is true with websites, direct mail and even social media communications. There's a "formula" that each piece of marketing follows, the trick is mapping that formula and those words to what your business is doing.

Simple is always better:

We live in a verbose world (this blog post alone is 600+ words) and that's not likely to change. But any good copywriter will tell you that less is more. When in doubt, cut the word count down. What is accomplished in 50 words can certainly be accomplished in 25. If successful, the customer is going to be more likely to digest what's being asked and hopefully act upon it. Instead of trying to find that "killer phrase" it is typically the simplest of words that have the biggest impact. Think of some of the best slogans in advertising history. "Where's the beef, Just do It, and Think Different" are all examples of simple but powerful copy that resonates today.

Have you ever run into a case of writer's block as a small business? What did you do to bget over it?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email jasonpkeith@gmail.com.

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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