If you’re a content creator than you can encourage, inspire, and equip your audience through writing, podcasting, and creating digital education.
So why don’t you?
You struggle to create great content because it’s hard work. There are obstacles to creating great content. I know what they are and I know how you can overcome them.
Making a Living Creating
I’ve made my living creating content for the last eight years. I’ve sold digital and print books, webinars, and digital courses. I know the obstacles to creating content because I’ve battled them. The obstacles can be defeated if you know the strategy that overcomes each one.
Overcomplicating – Spending too much time creating content and feeling overwhelmed by the details of writing, editing, and promoting your work.
Honesty – Creating realistic expectations about what you’re capable of so you complete what you start when you set out to create.
When you create, you can put our content in many different places. A post on LinkedIn, a video on YouTube, a podcast on iTunes, a post on our blog or Medium, a post on our Facebook wall, Page our Group, a tweet on Twitter, the list goes on and on. You can do so much but get paralyzed by the options.
To avoid overcomplicating the creation process you must be honest with your capacity. You must decide where you’re going to put your content before you start. If you know that you’re going to create a podcast episode that’s 15-20 minutes long, then you should know exactly what goes into completing that task. If you have a blog post then it’s not going to be 5,000 words, it’s going to be 500-1500 words.
Honesty defeats overcomplicating the process because it sets realistic expectations for your creation process.
Isolation – The loneliness of creating content by yourself.
Celebration – Celebrate the wisdom of other creators to spur you on in your own creating.
It feels like you versus the blinking cursor, the word count, the inner critic, and distractions. Creating can be a difficult, lonely business.
Writing and creating, in general, is something you do alone. You can’t change that you do it alone but it doesn’t have to feel lonely. So how can you feel less isolated during the content creation process?
The key is to pay attention when you’re consuming, not creating. The first part of creating content is consuming it. Creators consume other creator’s content. When you read other people’s content, you compare it to your own. It’s natural. Here’s the antidote to isolation.
Reject the feeling of comparison and choose celebration.
When you read someone else’s content, think of their words as water for your ideas. Other people’s work will help you grow your own if you let it.
The same words that you used to compare your own with can now fuel your work to make it better. I believe there is nothing new under the sun. We’re all just borrowing ideas from each other and putting our spin on them. That’s why reading is a vital activity for writers and creators. Creation creates more creation. Being around creative people will make you more creative. Being around people who are bold will make you more bold.
You are a creator. You are part of a small but important group of people.
Instead of comparing ask yourself you you can say it differently? How does your audience need to hear that concept?”
When you use one person’s words, it’s stealing. When you use many different voices, it’s research. Adopting the mind of a researcher is the answer to your feeling of isolation. Celebrate the wisdom of others and keep going. You’re not alone, you just do something alone.
Comparison – The need to measure yourself against other creators.
Camaraderie – Encouraging and sharing other creators as partners in your field.
Remember how you used to measure yourself against someone when you were a child? You would put your back to their back and hope you were taller. When you compare yourself to someone else, you’re putting your back to their back. You’re facing away from each other to see who wins. There’s no mutual effort, just comparison.
Who told you that creating was a competition? When did other creators become the enemy? They’re not. Other creators add to the ideal pool that you pull from. They’re contributing, just like you.
The comparison isn’t just discouraging; it’s paralyzing. It will keep you from writing because you’ll never be “them”. It will slow you down as you lose your voice and try to sound like someone you’re not.
Camaraderie is the feeling we get from being on a team, volunteering for the same ministry, or working at the same business. Camaraderie isn’t about you; it’s about the connection between everyone on the same journey.
The comparison is about who is better. Camaraderie is about a shared experience.
There’s always a loser when comparison happens. There’s always belonging when camaraderie happens.
Choose belonging over comparison.
Confusion – A lack of clarity and direction.
Bravery – Making difficult choices.
Derek Sivers tells a story of two runners at the starting line of a race. They finish line isn’t visible from the starting line, but they both know it’s somewhere ahead of them. The first runner starts running and the other stays. He stares in confusion as the runner sets out on a course unknown to both of them. He yells to the runner ahead. “Where are you going? Where’s the finish line?”
The runner stopped and looked at the man standing at the starting line. “I don’t know where it is, but I’m closer than you are.”
The path to clarity isn’t visible from the starting line. Action brings clarity.
If you start moving and get lost you can turn around and you’ll learn along the way. The answer to your confusion about what you’re going to write about, what your audience wants, what your signature service is, and what your daily disciplines should look like, will reveal themselves through taking action.
Clarity comes from taking action.
Clarity is rare because bravery is rare.
Busyness – Never being done
Invest – Put effort towards long term rewards
My neighbors have better-looking lawns than I do, all of them. I’m also rarely busy because I know where to invest my time. I choose time with my family, working, or resting, instead of manicuring my lawn. I’m not trying to fit everything in because not everything is important.
Do you know the feeling of coming to the end of the day and being frustrated that you didn’t get more done? You always feel busy but you never feel finished.
The antidote to busyness is investing in fewer things that will result in greater returns. You have limited time, energy, and mental energy. You must invest in less things in order to finish them.
Creating is an investment.
Will anyone read this? You won’t know until you publish it.
Will anyone buy this? You won’t’ know until you sell one.
Will anyone appreciate this? You won’t know until they can judge it.
You make hard choices when you’re a creator because you can’t do it all.
Here’s an example of how I choose to invest. I end 95% of my work days at 4 pm. I also rarely work on weekends. I invest in the things that I believe will give me the best return on my time and then trust that I’ve done enough.
If you’re too busy, then make a decision to invest in fewer things. Invest, in less.
Hiding – Avoiding being found
Deadlines – A date, time, or location where you are finished
In the basement of my childhood home, my parents had a full sized barrel that we kept blankets in. It was a great place to go for hide-and-seek. If I wanted to hide I could completely conceal myself and then pile on blankets after I was in the barrel. Hiding worked.
Today your most common hiding places are email inboxes, Facebook walls, and picture focused apps like Instagram or Snapchat. They’re always close by and have no low barriers to entry. They make you feel good, and they’re easier than doing the work. Hiding makes you feel safe, that’s why you do it.
The antidote to hiding is setting a deadline. Deadlines don’t let you hide. Deadlines push you, even when they’re completely arbitrary. Pick a time. Pick a date. Pick a location. A deadline puts an urgency in us that doesn’t exist without it.
Don’t hate yourself for wanting to hide. Hiding makes sense if the goal is to feel safe. Hiding is a human reaction to danger, pressure, confusion, and conflict.
Can you achieve what you are meant to achieve by hiding? Can you become who you are meant to become by avoiding hard work? No.
Hiding is when we wait for someone else to initiate. A deadline is when you promise to show up with a finished work.
If you want to finish then pick a deadline and keep it.
Wasted Effort – The unnecessary work you go through when creating without a plan.
Workflow – A process that provides the easiest path to reach your goal
Have you ever opened your computer to work on something you had already started but then couldn’t find the original file? Do you have dozens of unfinished projects and ideas in notebooks?
It feels like so much wasted effort, because it is.
To stop wasting energy you need to create the right workflow.
There are two parts of content creation.
2. Tools used during the workflow
Your workflow may be different than mine so I’ve created a guide to the tools you can use for your writing. It will help you create a workflow to start creating faster.
Here’s the workflow I suggest and the tools I use to execute it.
You may want to use different tools or even a different workflow, but if you feel like you lack traction try this it.
1. Capture ideas – Evernote
Evernote gives you the ability to capture ideas by voice, image or text and keep them all in one place. Adding tags (think of them as labels) to your Evernote notes will help you keep track of them as you add more and more ideas to your Evernote account.
2. Develop ideas – ByWord
ByWord provides a completely distraction free writing environment for you to develop your ideas. My friend Michael Hyatt uses ByWord for all of his shorter writing. I use it to start all of my writing projects.
ByWord has line and paragraph focus which focuses your eyes on the sentence or paragraph you’re writing. The typewriter mode keeps the line you’re writing in the middle of the page so you don’t have to scroll up as you write. These may seem like small tweaks, but they create an amazing writing environment for you to create.
3. Refine Ideas – Grammarly
Grammarly can be used for free in your browser or as a paid stand-alone application on your desktop. It does require an internet connection to work. It actively scans through your content to look for punctuation and spelling errors. It finds common writing errors like the use of passive voice instead of the active voice.
4. Build a Content Library – Evernote
If you could only use one tool for your content creation, you should use Evernote. After you’ve refined your writing in the other programs, you can store the finished writing in Evernote, including appropriate tags so you can find it later. Evernote never forgets your content and makes searching existing content easy.
The Seven Obstacles To Creating Great Content And How To Overcome Them
1. Overcomplicating vs. Honesty
2. Isolation vs. Celebration
3. Comparison vs. Camaraderie
4. Confusion vs. Bravery
5. Busyness vs. Faith
6. Hiding vs. Deadlines
7. Wasted Effort vs. The right tools