The Key to Producing Outstanding Content

The Key to Producing Outstanding Content

The other day, someone asked me this question: “What’s the key to produce outstanding content?”

My eyebrows rose, and I couldn’t resist a glib mental answer: A direct line to The Muse, the strength of Hercules, the cunning of Hades and a really nice magic wand.

You see, there’s a problem with “the key to whatever” advice – it implies there’s a single method of gaining entry into a place you’d love to get inside.

The truth is there’s no such thing, and even if there were, I’m not convinced this key would work consistently in the secret lock for everyone, every single time.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but as human beings, we’re chasing fool’s gold to think that we can ever find the key to the realm of Outstanding Content and enter this state of mind  any time we so desired.

That’s just not realistic.

Of course, plenty of people out there would have you think they know the magic recipe and that they just whip it out anytime to create sheer genius content.

They don’t, and there isn’t such a recipe.

Yes, have a great headline. Yes, use storytelling to draw people in. Yes, have good voice and be authentic.  But you can have all this and still never know whether what you write will get accolades or crickets chirping.

There’s never a guarantee.

And believe me, even the pros telling you how to write outstanding content don’t get it right every time. They’ve all written “meh” blog posts and not-so-hot content, and they never reach a point where every single piece they write always knocks it out of the park.

They do get close, of course. Pros write a lot of content, and every time they do, they learn from it. They get better at it. They learn to edit their own work. They improve their skills through direct hands-on practice, and many techniques become easy second nature.

They learn how to write what others think is outstanding. And of course, they don’t tell you about the stuff that never got published because it didn’t quite make it.
It’s hit and miss, always, for anyone. You can write great content consistently, good content frequently, and blah content invariably. But outstanding work, every time and on demand?

Nope.

Perhaps that’s the true key to producing outstanding content: the realization, understanding and acceptance that most days, you’ll just write well enough, and that ‘outstanding’ is a rare surprise that sometimes happens.

And it’s perfectly fine (and quite healthy as well!) to be happy with “just good” most of the time. That lets you feel good and appreciate the days when outstanding comes along.

Do your best, keep the pressure off, stay balanced with your self-expectations, and just enjoy writing as often as you can.

Here’s the bonus:  By taking the pressure of “outstanding” off yourself, you neatly sidestep performance anxiety and writer’s block block – which leaves you happily writing, stress-free!

 

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Thanks James,
    I get so much encouragement from your posts. Some days you can write like a dream and some days those words just don’t materialise.

    I don’t know that I always enjoy writing but I enjoy having written!

    ” Write drunk, edit sober” might be the way to go.

    • Rena Tucker says:

      Hahahaha! “Write drunk, edit sober.” I tried that last night and thought my work was brilliant. Then, in the light of day this morning…well, not so much. ;-)

  2. I totally agree with Carole — this was brilliant!

    May I ad an extra bonus? ‘What is said applies to so many things in life…’

  3. Hey there!
    Just the FACT that I’m writing makes me feel great and the best therapy I can have (except time with spiritual friends and prayer).
    When I’m working on my Facebook blog, sometimes my typing fingers write so fast, stream-of-consciousness-like, to the point that I misspell words and write “think” instead of “thing”, “right” instead of “write” or forget the final stop in the last sentence. But then I go back to what I’ve done, and in spite of those horrors, think WOW, this is not so bad… Well, perhaps I’d need a mentor to tell me how bad it is, LOL, but for someone who is a perfectionist, her own worst enemy and toughest critic, to go back on my writings and actually like them, is a great advance.

    I love the fact that I’m almost fully bilingual. You who are native English speakers can judge the results. But the fact that I can write pretty fluently, without agonizing over every single phrase, is a wow experience for me.

    And editing is great. I can usually improve the end result, both in my translations and in my own writing products. I typically find lots of little mistakes or things that are “perfectible”. But the “write drunk, edit sober ” concept is really useful! Thanks for sharing. :)

    Kindest regards from Argentina!

  4. First, I agree with the idea here. Thinking you always have to write something fantabulous is a lot of pressure. However, I’m also seeing that the definition of “good” is really getting twisted, especially in the Kindle ebook realm it seems.

    I’m seeing more and more people who are slapping some blog posts together, or hiring a sort of English speaking writer, getting 20 pages or so together, loading it up to Kindle and calling it “good”.

    Some of what I’ve seen wouldn’t even come close to passing the mark in junior high, let alone for most of adult readers/buyers. At least adults that I assume still want quality writing even if it only costs a couple of dollars.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to anyone to fall to far to either extreme. I think if we aim for something above those who aren’t serious/don’t care that much, something worth paying for if that is the situation, and even more so, something worth people’s time, I think we’ll hit the mark just fine.

  5. All I can say James is “phew!” and THANK YOU! Just when I am again feeling a tad overwhelmed by this very issue, you come along with a reality check that allows me to hit my re-set button and exhale. Thank God for RSS feeds.

  6. Eric Roberg says:

    Great advice, James, as always. It takes practice, a lot of practice. It’s true. The more you practice, the better you get. I can’t praise my probloggers and their newsletters enough. I have improved my writing thanks to all of you.

    Yesterday I was looking back on some of my writing from only a year ago. There were exclamation marks everywhere, emoticons and endless, run-on sentences. I used phrases like “I think cooking with butter improves your cooking,” rather than “cooking with butter improves your cooking.” I lacked authority and confidence. Thankfully, you taught me how to get rid of those factors that sabotage my writing.

  7. This was definitely an outstanding piece of content! Very, very helpful. Thanks for helping take the pressure off us writers!

  8. Thanks, James. I really needed this reminder today. Am feeling low on inspiration and high on performance anxiety when what all I have to do is get writing in the first place. But looking back on my writing even from just a year ago, it’s gotten so much better.

    Thank you for the reminder to not sabotage myself.

  9. when I’ve worked with bloggers or writers as clients, very often the biggest shift that really unblocks them and creates flow as a writer is…. writing for one’s “hard drive”

    This is the act of basically writing for no one but your computers hard disk – giving yourself permission to put words on a page without thinking about who they’re for, what they’ll think, whether the headline will grab them right, etc etc.

    Your hard drive doesn’t judge. It saves your writing, entombing it in a digital temple, no matter if it’s a masterpiece or total drivel.

    The freedom that this practice creates results in easy, breezy carefree writing that very often creates drafts that can be built and polished into all-star home run pieces.

    But it starts with taking the pressure away.

    Good post Jimbo!

  10. Good one James,

    I think the key is in the title of this post “Producing’.

    I think you have to first understand that you are a content producer.

    Just like television shows, and radio talk shows have producers you are it on your blog.

    As basic as that sounds it’s not easy to understand for many people.

  11. Nice post James, makes absolute sense! Motivational rhythms here are the key, when you’re writing you have to work within your own motivational rhythms, if you not naturally creative at 11 o’clock in the morning, recognize the times that you are ” in tune” if it’s not happening simply can’t push it! When writing you can’t always strive for excellence, once you let that expectation go will find that everything will come to more easily and naturally. I think!

  12. I think of one word when trying to ensure (to some degree) that my community likes my topics…

    – FORUMS –

    These forum sites will get you results. What I do is check-out which threads are getting most comments or views from and I build my content based on what the thread is about.

    The high number of comments and views on a specific thread is a social stamp of approval that people like this specific topic. These saves me a lot of time and thinking as far as determining what the topic will be for my articles.

  13. James,

    I love this totally realistic approach to writing. So many new writers and others (clients…) think there’s something magical about writing good copy. They think that if you wait for the right inspiration, something amazing will happen (and once in a great while, it does).

    The plain truth is that producing good content comes with lots (and lots) of practice. Sometimes you have to produce lots of ordinary pieces before you can produce that special one that really resonates with everyone.

    Thanks for telling it like it is.

  14. Thanks James Chartrand for writing this.

    That is true times a million. People want a quick answer. People don’t want to hear, “It took me about 20 years to master copywriting. And I still don’t think I’m very good at it.” What? 20 years? I don’t have that type of time.

    Then why are you asking if your not willing to put in the work? Why do you want to be a copywriter if you are not will to put in 20 years?

    Great tips. Thanks a million,

    Alex

  15. John Waghorn says:

    I agree that when it comes to creating outstanding content there isn’t one single method. Your approach depends on a number of other factors too, such as the subject matter you are writing about and also the type of content that you are creating.

    I think a lot of it comes down to audience perception which is caused by conveying a solid idea to the right people. Sometimes it is hard to predict how your audience will react to a particular piece of content. Although I do think that if you get the required elements right, such as the ones you mentioned – headlines, storytelling, good voice etc, then you will be on the way to creating decent content. Writing with enjoyment will also transpire in your own content, making it more engaging for others too.

  16. Such good advice. The best way I know to kick myself into gear is to just have fun with it. Aiming for excellence every time would quickly take away all the enjoyment of writing since that is what frustration and disappointment tend to do… Aiming for good is realistic and leaves room for exceeding expectations :)

  17. Great Share James, and I would agree with the latter part of the article that you just have to write, write, and keep on writing. While focusing on improving with each page, and “Outstanding” will come here and there at first, and then… Continuously, once you master it. James Dazouloute

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