Can we all agree that writer’s block is the absolute worst? There is no feeling that makes me more anxious than sitting down to write and realizing I have no creative juices flowing! While a great cup of coffee and a relaxing Spotify playlist usually help me get into a groove, bestselling author Daniel Pink recently sat down with HubSpot Academy instructor, Lindsay Kolowich, to share some of his pro-tips in the brand new Business Writing training, covering a number of topics, including pre-writing, writing, and proofreading strategies. Pink is the author of four bestselling books, so I’ll save my amateur tips and share some of Pink’s highlights below!
1. Research Before Writing
“It doesn’t matter how well versed you are in a topic: the scope of any piece of writing should always go beyond your own personal experience — and that’s where research comes in.” – Lindsay Kolowich, HubSpot Academy
Credibility is critical. Researching your topic extensively before writing will not only help you to clarify your thoughts, plot an outline, and develop a persuasive argument to sell your point, but it will also give merit to your writing.
Research is essential to building trust with your audience. Not to mention citing sources, or including expert quotes, may help you get valuable links to external sources, which could give you a lift in SEO.
Research can also inform how and what you write. Sometimes, you’ll need to cut your writing down. One way to do that is to keep the portions where you have the strongest evidence and research. Other times, you may struggle to form a complete piece; research may illuminate new possibilities for topics and content.
2. Build an Outline
“You need some kind of an outline in order to get started. You need some kind of map to know where you’re going. For me, the map has to have the major highways, where the cliffs are, maybe where the lake is. But I don’t have to know every tributary; I don’t have to know every alleyway or anything like that. I just have to have a general map.” – Daniel Pink
Outlining your writing will clarify your argument, indicate where more research may be required and is one of the best ways to prevent writer’s block. The good news? There is no “right” way to structure an outline. Finding the way that works for your writing style may take some trial and error, but just make sure to sit down and map out your initial thoughts before you begin to write. If you ever feel stuck in your writing, return to your outline for support.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Bookends
“The most important thing, I think, is a sense of intentionality. You wanna be intentional about how something begins, you wanna be intentional about the signposts along the way, and you want to be intentional about how it ends.” – Daniel Pink
Your title, introduction, and conclusion can have a major influence on the audience opinion on your writing. Your title should be intriguing – it’s the very first impression! Make sure your title is informative and will spark curiosity in the reader.
Your introduction sets the stage for the entire body of writing. It should hook your reader. Good hooks include vivid stories, interesting statistics, or thought-provoking questions. The strongest introductions link the audience’s problems, desires, and curiosities to the piece of writing, so make sure to tell the reader why your work is worth the read!
The conclusion should pull the entire piece together, but this is much more than a formality. Impactful conclusions encourage the reader to pause. Pink notes that you want the conclusion to interrupt their life, even if only for a few seconds, to think critically about what they’ve just read.
4. Read Your Writing Aloud
“I really recommend this to people, reading out loud. It’s a different experience, it’s a different sensory experience.” – Daniel Pink
Like most of you, I do my writing on the computer. After staring at a screen for hours on end, my eyes simply do not pick up every little spelling error or grammatical mistake. One remedy is to audibly read your content. This will help you slow down and spot any writing blunders. Moreover, reading aloud will give you a sense of the piece’s cadence and will help you to identify if there are any ideas that need more context. You can read aloud bit-by-bit or read the whole piece at once, but make sure to carve out time to read your work aloud.
5. Ask for Edits
“If you can find someone in your life who you can coerce, who you can trick, who you can bribe into reading your words out loud to you, you’re going to learn a lot about writing and you’re going to produce better work.” – Daniel Pink
Perhaps even more important than reading your work is to have someone else read your writing. Having fresh sets of eyes to review your writing will help spot any spelling mistakes, missed commas, inconsistent formatting, or fuzzy thoughts. While this person does not need to be an English major – although that is certainly a bonus! – make sure you trust this person to give you honest, constructive feedback. Include questions for your editor, like: “How would you summarize this point?” or “Were there any topics that did not make sense?” If they mention something confusing, there is a high chance that you’ll lose your general reader, so challenge yourself to be receptive of feedback. Never fall in love with your first draft!
The Major Takeaway: Don’t Let Writing Overwhelm you!
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I do not enjoy the process of writing. I get totally freaked out by the idea of writing a piece of content. My brain rushes to a number of thoughts: “Where will I begin? Will the reader see the insights as valuable? Does anybody read this anyway?” Daniel Pink recognizes these emotions as totally human and very normal. Instead of freaking out, there are a number of practices writers can put into place to think strategically and write successfully! For all of Pink’s pro-tips, make sure to watch the full training: “Business Writing Course: Master High-Impact Writing With Bestselling Author Daniel Pink.”