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How to Write Objectively on a Personal Topic

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Write Objectively on a Personal TopicWe all have at least one area of expertise in our life. When it comes to sharing this knowledge with other people, whether it be on our website, blog, social media or newsletter, it can be challenging to stay objective and make it relatable to an audience who doesn’t share this same expertise. A similar challenge is writing about ourselves. Of course we know everything on this topic, so how do we concisely convey this information to everyone else?

My clients have various areas of expertise and often challenge me with the task of transforming their knowledge into captivating content. While there is no magic formula per se, I have found several strategies for writing objectively on a personal topic. Let’s take a look…

Do your research.

Doing research on a topic you already know intimately well may seem a bit odd. .What more could you stand to learn? A lot, actually. A simple Google search or browsing the Wikipedia page on the topic will highlight what the rest of the world deems as the most important and essential information.

Additionally, your research may uncover recent news coverage or articles that could impact how others feel about your topic. Preparing yourself with knowledge and being aware of public sentiment is an important first step to objectively writing about a personal topic.

Begin with an outline.

Now that your research has provided you with even more information on your topic of choice, create an outline to help organize your thoughts and highlight the most important points you wish to cover. One of the biggest challenges of writing objectively on a personal topic is boiling the information down to a clear and concise message. Your outline will let you see how your points flow together and if there are any gaps or holes you need to fill.

Hone in on your purpose.

When writing on a familiar and passionate topic, it’s easy to lose touch with the purpose of the content. All of a sudden you have pages upon pages written with no clear “take away” for your readers. When looking at your outline, are you able to quickly identify the main purpose of your writing?

For example, your personal topic might be creating your own bio. Of course you know yourself better than anyone else, but rather than spilling your whole life story in no particular order, you want to strategically pick what it is you want your readers to gain from reading your bio. Do you want to highlight your entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills or love of education? Hone in on the purpose of your content and carry it throughout your writing – beginning to end.

Edit and simplify.

By this point you likely have way more content than you need. A 5-page bio is a bit excessive even for the President of the United States. Uncap your red pen or turn on the “review” feature on your Word doc and get to chopping. Read your writing out loud and look for redundancies, insignificant details and long winded descriptions that can be eliminated. This will be one of the hardest, but most important steps for creating content that will captivate your readers.

Ask for outside input.

Finally, ask a friend or family member who doesn’t have near the amount of expertise on your particular topic to read over your writing. Their outside perspective is valuable for identifying areas that need more explanation or industry-specific words that need to be defined or replaced with something more common. This input is a great litmus test for how your target audience will also respond to your writing.

What personal topics have challenged you when it comes to objective writing? Share how you overcame this struggle – or ask your questions on how to do so, by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Write Objectively on a Personal Topic

How to Write Objectively on a Personal TopicWe all have at least one area of expertise in our life. When it comes to sharing this knowledge with other people, whether it be on our website, blog, social media or newsletter, it can be challenging to stay objective and make it relatable to an audience who doesn’t share this same expertise. A similar challenge is writing about ourselves. Of course we know everything on this topic, so how do we concisely convey this information to everyone else?

My clients have various areas of expertise and often challenge me with the task of transforming their knowledge into captivating content. While there is no magic formula per se, I have found several strategies for writing objectively on a personal topic. Let’s take a look…

Do your research.

Doing research on a topic you already know intimately well may seem a bit odd. .What more could you stand to learn? A lot, actually. A simple Google search or browsing the Wikipedia page on the topic will highlight what the rest of the world deems as the most important and essential information.

Additionally, your research may uncover recent news coverage or articles that could impact how others feel about your topic. Preparing yourself with knowledge and being aware of public sentiment is an important first step to objectively writing about a personal topic.

Begin with an outline.

Now that your research has provided you with even more information on your topic of choice, create an outline to help organize your thoughts and highlight the most important points you wish to cover. One of the biggest challenges of writing objectively on a personal topic is boiling the information down to a clear and concise message. Your outline will let you see how your points flow together and if there are any gaps or holes you need to fill.

Hone in on your purpose.

When writing on a familiar and passionate topic, it’s easy to lose touch with the purpose of the content. All of a sudden you have pages upon pages written with no clear “take away” for your readers. When looking at your outline, are you able to quickly identify the main purpose of your writing?

For example, your personal topic might be creating your own bio. Of course you know yourself better than anyone else, but rather than spilling your whole life story in no particular order, you want to strategically pick what it is you want your readers to gain from reading your bio. Do you want to highlight your entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills or love of education? Hone in on the purpose of your content and carry it throughout your writing – beginning to end.

Edit and simplify.

By this point you likely have way more content than you need. A 5-page bio is a bit excessive even for the President of the United States. Uncap your red pen or turn on the “review” feature on your Word doc and get to chopping. Read your writing out loud and look for redundancies, insignificant details and long winded descriptions that can be eliminated. This will be one of the hardest, but most important steps for creating content that will captivate your readers.

Ask for outside input.

Finally, ask a friend or family member who doesn’t have near the amount of expertise on your particular topic to read over your writing. Their outside perspective is valuable for identifying areas that need more explanation or industry-specific words that need to be defined or replaced with something more common. This input is a great litmus test for how your target audience will also respond to your writing.

What personal topics have challenged you when it comes to objective writing? Share how you overcame this struggle – or ask your questions on how to do so, by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing

pencil blank paper

There’s a widespread misconception about writing that needs to be cleared up. We read a captivating blog, spot a witty billboard or receive a thought provoking direct mail piece and assume that some very talented writer sat down, opened their mind and let the words flow onto the paper. Done! The perfect content was crafted in a moment of sheer inspiration. Unfortunately this writing fantasy rarely exists in the real world. Instead, inspiration must be paired with strategy and a great deal of pre-planning before fingers ever hit the keyboard.

Oh it’s tempting to dive right in. Feeling a rush of creativity, you figure the smartest thing you can do is to get it all out while you have it. I’ve tried this myself. Still, all I’m really left with is a disorganized doodle of words and phrases that, while they sound great independently, require as much time and editing to string together as if I were to just write a new article from scratch.

I’ve since realized there’s one thing I must always do before I begin writing. I don’t write the introduction, craft a title or pick out a piece of accompanying clip art before I’ve answered just one question…

What effect do I want to produce on my readers?

This is more specific than how it reads, so let me explain a bit further. Every great piece of writing evokes some type of emotion – hope, joy, fear, excitement, doubt, anger, trust, curiosity and the list goes on and on. After pondering this, I promise you that you will analyze what you read the rest of today more critically. And you’ll find that it’s true. Effective content centers on emotion. What you must determine before you begin writing is exactly what emotion from your readers will be of most value to you and the purpose of your writing.

One of the forefathers of professional copywriting, Robert Collier, says it like this. “Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.”

Create a Magnetic Headline

Once you’ve selected your desired emotion, every other component of your writing will work to emphasize it. A big one is your title. This should be carefully crafted to be emotionally charged. Aim to create a magnetic headline that readers can’t pass up. Check out the one I chose here, “The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing.” As the reader, this plays to my insecurity of always striving to be a better writer. I wouldn’t dare miss out on learning the one thing I “must” do before I write. It evokes an emotion that is strong enough to drive me to read on. This leads to another important point…

Select the Strongest Emotion

You want to choose the strongest (relevant) emotion that will make your readers act. My example of insecurity is a powerful emotion that identifies a reader’s weakness and leads them to seek a solution – which your writing should provide. Less influential emotions like empathy or contentment won’t create the same urgency for action. If using a negative emotion, you must make your readers feel uncomfortable enough to want to change something. If using a positive emotion, you must tempt readers with a benefit so life-changing that they can’t pass it up.

Avoid Scare Tactics

Emotions lead us to act, but if too strong, can also turn us off. What may appear to be just words on paper actually hold the power to draw us in to a new reality (talk to any Harry Potter fan), so use with care. When selecting a strong emotion, don’t overly dramatize your writing. Scare tactics and overwhelming sadness can make readers uncomfortable enough not that they’ll act to resolve the emotion, but that they’ll shut down and tune out. One classic example of this in video form is the ASPCA’s “Arms of the Angel” commercial. It’s been spoofed many times over because I don’t think anyone can watch the whole thing without turning it off or crying so hard you can’t see the phone number to call to make a donation. While it certainly evokes a strong emotion, it’s overpowering to the point of becoming less effective than some of their newer, toned-down commercials you’ll see on TV now.

Remember, when it comes to incorporating emotions in your writing, a little goes a long way. First select the strongest, most relevant emotion that will compliment and promote your message. Then, center all other aspects of your writing, like creating a magnetic headline, on this emotion. The end result will be content that is organized, creative and effective – from start to finish!

How do you determine the effect you want to produce on your reader before you begin writing? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Embracing the Non-Monetary Benefits of Entrepreneurship

sunny park chairs

The ability to work from anywhere – and enjoy a beautiful summer day – is a wonderful benefit of entrepreneurship.

I’ve shared my insight before on how fellow entrepreneurs and business owners might choose to price their services. It’s a fine balance between earning what you’re worth and remaining competitive. One of the biggest challenges comes when you’re just starting out. With little to no prior experience and only a small portfolio of work to showcase, new clients often hire you on a hope and a prayer that you’re half as good as what you promise. This situation often requires you to charge far less than market value for your time to even get your foot in the door. Even a seasoned entrepreneur can recall such a time in their career. The glitz and glamour of being a “business owner” can quickly become jaded by the lack of money, time and sleep in return for countless hours of hard work. So how do successful entrepreneurs overcome this starting hurdle? When I was first building Bennis Inc from the ground up, had I measured my success and happiness in income, I may have thrown in the towel before I ever really got going. Instead, I quickly learned that I had to embrace the non-monetary benefits of entrepreneurship until I reached market value. If you’ve also taken the entrepreneurial leap, focusing on these benefits can help you overcome the “I’m WAY underpaid“ blues.

Flexibility

Even when I was just making ends meet, this didn’t impact my ability to enjoy life’s no-cost luxuries. I was (and still am) able to go for a run whenever I feel like it. I can grocery shop at non-peak hours and enjoy a peacefully empty store all to myself. I can take an early weekend (say, starting on Tuesday?) or grab coffee with a friend who’s swinging through town. With my 9-5 job, I felt guilty even scheduling a doctor’s appointment during the day. Now I can get a haircut whenever it’s most convenient—completely guilt free. Of course, this type of free time and flexibility is balanced by sometimes having to work late into the evenings or on the weekends, but at least it’s at my discretion. When I have work to do, I do it and when I don’t, I’m not stuck chained to a desk. As an entrepreneur, soak this up! Your friends may have chosen a more stable, traditional career, but they likely can’t do work from a park on a sunny summer day.

Creative Freedom

You’re a business owner – that means you also own every decision that’s made. This can be a scary reality, but also an incredibly rewarding one. While you might not be raking in the “big bucks” just yet, remember that the ability to make a decision and not have it be second-guessed or turned down is a luxury most people would place a pretty big price tag on.

Building Something All Your Own

This is all you. When you’re building a business you get to take complete ownership over how every piece comes together. Do you want to steer things in a new direction? Sure! Is your goal to someday have 100+ employees? Go for it! Is your goal to work remotely and travel 10 months out of the year? It can be done! The beauty of building your own business is that you have the ability to make it unique and custom fit to your goals. I have yet to see an example of a corporate job that allows for the same.

Leadership

During my time of really embracing the non-monetary benefits of entrepreneurship, I found that this is truly one of life’s ultimate leadership experiences. It requires a great deal of self-confidence, trust in your instincts and quick thinking. I always felt like I had leadership qualities inside of me that would shine through when it was required, but as an entrepreneur, leadership is required every day. Some might say it’s baptism by fire, but I think one of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurship is the “leadership boot camp” it provides. You’re forced to step into this role quickly and without hesitation.

At the end of the day, it’s important that we remind ourselves that we’ve chosen the entrepreneurial path for a reason. Hopefully it wasn’t for the money (because that can take many, many years to get flowing) but rather it was for the flexibility, creative freedom, ability to create something new and unique and life’s ultimate leadership experience that is entrepreneurship. Before long, the money will follow, but if you embrace these non-monetary benefits early, the money will no longer be the ultimate goal.

 

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The Best Work Comes From Complete Creative Freedom

tied handsEntrepreneurs, freelancers and contractors need to maintain some sense of creative freedom to do their job well. In fact, I feel confident enough to expand this statement to apply to every career field out there. Creativity is the lifeblood for employees at all levels. It’s what allows us to enjoy our job, maintain a feeling of control and build a vested interest in our work – but it’s not always granted freely. Whether it’s a controlling boss, a particular client or a company culture that demands you color inside the lines, sometimes our hands are unfortunately tied and creative freedom is stifled.

As a client or customer, coming to a business with your own non-negotiable plan in mind is the same as taking the pen out of an artist’s hand. Take for example an architect versus a drafter. An architect is more often hired for his artistic eye and ability to bring new and innovative ideas to the table. This is who you want to work with when you want someone else to direct the vision for a project. A drafter on the other hand is most often hired to outline the logistics of a pre-existing plan. This is who you want to work with when you already have a firm idea in mind and simply want someone else to bring it to fruition. Reasonably, less creative work is needed or expected from the drafter. You pay more for the architect, and understandably so.

The important point I want to communicate is that if you’re paying the extra money for the “architect,” don’t treat them like a drafter. Allow them the creative freedom they need to provide you with their full scope of expertise. And to fully do so you’ll want to closely consider following these next three steps:

 First, agree on your most important objective.

A client and a contractor foremost need to communicate the objectives of a project clearly. If they don’t first start on the same page, they have no chance of ending on the same page and a lot of time and talent will be wasted as a result. I advocate for using something like a “creative template” that can be a simple one-page sheet designed to capture a client’s most important thoughts on a project. Whether it’s creating a company training video, billboard ad or blueprint for a house, both the client and contractor should be able to clearly tell you what it is they’re trying to achieve. They must have a firm grasp on the objective.

Second, provide no more than three “must-haves.”

We will all be clients at one point or another, so it’s important that we learn how to be good ones! Such skills will also help us to get exactly what we want, while allowing the contractors and freelancers we hire to do their job with complete creative freedom. I’ve found that having no more than three “must-haves” as part of your expectations allows you to still feel in control without overhauling the project. Along with an identified objective, your short list of “must-haves” allows you to specify colors, content or style that’s important to you. Contractors have expertise and vision, but they don’t have the ability to read minds. Knowing what’s most important to you provides just enough direction. Think of your “must-haves” as the non-negotiables you want out of a significant other. So long as these criteria are met, everything else should be at least open for discussion.

Third, relinquish control!

Now that you’ve established an overarching objective and a short list of “must-haves” for a project, the only other limitations should be the sky. From a freelancer/contractor’s perspective, having to meet just 4 specifications is a huge difference from having a laundry list of needs and wants spelled out for you. As the final step, the most important thing a client can do is to relinquish control. And the most important thing a contractor can do is to satisfy the objective and must-haves and then strategically choose all other projects details with that particular client in mind. Knock their socks off by giving them everything they never knew they wanted!

 One final thought…

At the end of the day, all business owners must sign their names to whatever finished product they produce. If you take away creative freedom, this no longer remains an accurate representation of a business’s quality of work. If you’re a business owner, you’ll likely agree that protecting your reputation and the type of work you put out there is just as important as giving a client the finished product they want. It’s a touchy balance to maintain – but a critical one nonetheless.

How do you seek creative freedom in your job or career field? Or maybe you can recall a specific time in which your creativity was stifled and a project suffered as a result. Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below!

 

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The Repercussions of a Word Smith

broken pen inkI didn’t always have the gift of the golden pen. At least I never considered myself as anything but an average writer throughout my earlier years. I would do the assignments asked of me in school, but rarely did I earn high marks or a place on the honor board for my work. Outside of the classroom, I wrote silly poems and experimented with “novel” writing, but I’m sure if I could find these journals now I wouldn’t be inclined to ship them off to a publisher. However, at some point during the awkward years between Junior High and Senior High school, a much deeper physical transition took place. Somewhere in my brain, the part for creativity and the part for words finally synched.

We all look forward to the point in our life when we tap into a natural talent. Raw and uncharted, we anxiously explore its depths and push its boundaries. For some this is football, piano, dancing or math. For me this was writing. Though I had always earned good grades, this was the first time that writing courses were almost effortless. It seemed unfair that though I scored about the same in my math and science classes, I had to put in so much more effort and time to do so. The thrill I got out of writing is the reason I continued to make it an integral part my college major and the career I now enjoy. As my passion for both written and oral communication became clear, all other subjects blurred into the background.

As I’ve grown to accept this as my given talent, I’ve also realized some curiously common situations that seem to unfold for most gifted writers I know. I see these as the “repercussions” of a word smith. Really it’s a small price to pay for a talent that is useful in almost every line of work. But whether you’re a fellow writer or someone who has benefited from knowing one, I’m willing to bet these sound very familiar:

Group projects somehow bear only your writing – Group projects are already miserable for so many reasons, but when you’re identified as a “good writer” they become even worse. No matter how hard I tried to prevent this from happening, the end result was inevitable. I would either have to start the project from scratch or rework the less than stellar writing of my group partners. By the end of it, the writing always seemed to be my own. Sometimes this was me being taken advantage of, sometimes this was for the good of the group (and our group grade), but sometimes this was just me being a writing control freak. I can admit it…finally.

You’re the go-to “first drafter” – With my school days now behind me, the repercussions of a wordsmith have still kept in tow. Rather than the finisher for group projects, I have now become the go-to person for taking the first stab at letters, short bios, resumes and blog posts for family and friends. I’m always happy to offer my two cents, but creating something from scratch requires a bit more energy and effort than just two pennies worth of my time. As you might expect a dentist to get tired of hearing about tooth ailments on the weekend, writers also like to be just people from time to time.

Heck, you’re the go-to “final drafter” too – Though revising a final draft takes a different set of skills than the initial writing of one, it still requires a good deal of energy and effort if you want to do it right. Sure I can quickly review a document to make sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed, but it’s hard to tone down a skill set that, when used for my livelihood, is kept at high octane. If I see a poorly written letter, I can’t not fix it. I’ll sit there and pour hours of my life into a document I shouldn’t have more concern over than that piece of chewing gum I just threw away. But when you’re passionate about something, you do. When you ask your writer friend for a “quick once over,” just remember that he’ll give you the same quality of service that he would give a client or put into his own work. A thoughtful thank you from time goes a long way.

Greeting cards and party invitations get sent your way – Much like the first and final drafter, a wordsmith is also often called in for input on Christmas card phrases, meaningful words for a thank you note and creative rhymes to put on a birthday invite. This is the fun stuff! And personally the stuff I love creating the most. But it can become a burden when you receive these casual requests on top of a pile of mounting client work. Also I tend to put pressure on myself to come up with the most perfectly witty or thoughtful lines – a pressure that is not intended or required, but a habit I’ve developed all on my own.

It becomes seen as an endless fountain of creativity – As I mentioned above, it’s an exciting experience to explore the depths of a new found talent, but I don’t assume it is indeed endless. My hands and mind do get exhausted to a point where eventually I slump into a couch pillow and stare at the wall for a little while during a busy writing day. It’s a compliment to have so many family members and friends turn to me for my opinion and input, but I do feel the need to conserve my creativity or at least let it refill from time to time. After all, what would I do for a living if it somehow ran out?!

I hope these “repercussions” of a word smith have resonated with you in some way or if not, at least made you smile. Though my talent is with words, I know these situations are not unique to writers. I imagine doctors, artists, athletes and politicians all have similar gripes about how their talents have made them feel like a mere resource to the world around them. The best we can each do is to celebrate each other’s talents by not only utilizing them, but also by giving them a day off from time to time.

What are some of the repercussions your own talent has brought you?

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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Last Call for the Bennis Blogger Battle

It’s been a fun ride for sure, but it’s time we bring the Bennis Blogger Battle competition to a close! There’s room for just one more entry this coming Monday, April 16th and this slot is first come, first served. (email me at Stephanie(at)BennisInc.com) If no entries are received by Saturday, April 14th at Noon, we will proceed with the announcing of the Grand Winner of the Blogger Battle on Monday morning!

I’ve been diligently tracking blog hits, likes, thumbs-ups and comments and you’ll be able to see how every blogger did and revisit their blogs if you’d like. If you haven’t given your support to your favorite entries, you still have time to go back and give them some love. This is also a prime opportunity for blog authors to share your entry with your networks in hopes of boosting your rankings.

Best of luck to all competitors and any final entries should be submitted as soon as possible for a final chance to be featured on the Bennis Inc Blog!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Guest Blogger

 

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