Truly connecting with your customers and clients via the written word is a challenge that many content marketers and business owners face every day.
But if you aren’t building your platform on something meaningful, with an array of engaging content, it’s nearly impossible to stand out from the crowd or become a trusted and likable expert in your niche.
Perhaps no one wants you to successfully connect with your audience more than the ever insightful, online marketing maven Lisa Barone.
An award-winning writer, content marketer, and social strategist, her sharp-witted humor, and sometimes disarming point of view is a refreshing call-to-arms for online publishers trying to cut through the crap and connect with an audience.
Ms. Barone is in the business of helping businesses build strong brand identities, and craft thought-provoking, innovative content that gets noticed out on the digital frontier.
As an industry leading voice, Lisa has been featured in dozens of high-profile publications (including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine), co-founded a leading national agency, grown blogs that have earned spots on AdAge’s Power 150, and even found time to drop by Copyblogger a few times over the years.
Today, she offers advice to you and I, writers and content creators, on everything from avoiding fear and burnout, to finding your passion, and the best technology you will ever hope to find as a writer.
It is with great pleasure that I invite you to flip through the file of Lisa Barone, writer …
About the writer …
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lisa Barone and I’m the VP of Strategy at Overit, a digital marketing agency located in Upstate, NY. I help clients create brands that people want to talk about, using a bunch of marketing methods like content, social, video, and other stuff in between.
What is your area of expertise as a writer or online publisher?
I write primarily about the areas of marketing, social, and content, and how to use them together in perfect harmony.
Where can we find your writing?
I write for other outlets, but Overit is my home base these days.
The writer’s productivity …
How much time, per day, do you spend reading or doing research?
I’d estimate ten hours. I’m constantly reading and researching topics. The only way to become a better writer is to learn more about your topic and expose yourself to more voices. That equates to reading a lot of stuff.
Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?
Empty the bladder. Fill up the giant water bottle. Block out the world. Write.
What’s your best advice for overcoming procrastination?
Locking my Droid in a drawer, minimizing all other windows, and putting on headphones (even if I’m alone).
Also, deadlines. Without deadlines, I would be royally screwed and nothing would get written.
What time of day is most productive for your writing or content production?
7am to 8:30am. It’s after my morning workout, but before anyone else has hit the office. It creates the perfect storm of endorphins and stillness.
Do you generally adhere to a rigid or flexible writing system?
It’s rigid in that I have to write things every day. It’s flexible in that I can usually plan out when I write what. Being able to tie the task to my state of mind is helpful in knocking out different projects.
How many hours a day do you spend actually writing (excluding email, social media etc.)?
Do you write every day?
Are there people who don’t?
The writer’s creativity …
Who are your favorite authors, online or off?
Can you share a best-loved quote?
Your priorities are the things you do. Not the things you say you do.
I’m not sure who said it but it kicks me in the gut. It’s a reality check to help you define if you’re moving in the right direction based on the things you say matter to you or if you’re chasing your tail.
Do you prefer a particular type of music (or silence) when you write?
I can’t write with music on. I end up getting swept up in the melodies and it becomes way too distracting. When I write it’s rain or white noise.
Editor’s note: these sites are freaking fantastic. OK, back to Lisa.
How would you personally like to grow creatively as a writer?
I’d like to find my voice a bit more. Or rather, find it again. When I read things I write today they don’t sound as authentic or as raw as they did maybe a year or two ago. I’ve undergone a big transition over the past year and I’m still fighting to get that unadulterated Lisa back. I’ll get there, but it’s a work in progress.
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
Writer’s block is an excuse. I believe in fear and being burnt out. Writer’s block is what we call those things when we don’t want to admit to them.
If I can’t write because I’m burnt out, I go do something else. That sounds simple but most people don’t do it. They continue to bang their head against the wall and wait for something to change. It won’t on its own.
Running or a good workout usually does the trick for me. Not because I’m particularly smart or healthy, but because I have a lot of aggression and pent up STFU’ness that I need to get out on a regular basis. I’ve found exercise is a great way to do that and it doesn’t involve punching people in the face.
If I can’t write out of fear, I’ll often put “Dear Lisa” at the top and pretend I’m writing a letter to myself that no one else will read. Then, once it’s done and awesome, I’ll strip off the top and publish it.
Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?
Right now I’m inspired by the idea of showing people a better way. I read the blogs and trade magazines and there’s just so much crap out there. I want people to know that’s not real.
And I want to help them do things the proper way and get something real from it. It’s not the most creative of inspirations, but it’s what’s fueling me right now. Rising above the bullshit.
Would you consider yourself someone who likes to “take risks?”
I consider myself someone willing to point the light where other people aren’t looking or give a voice to things issues/people/topics that need one. Sometimes that’s risky.
I have an unrelenting confidence in myself and the belief that if I leap, something will catch me. Sometimes that means I have to knit the net myself, but it’s always been there.
When you live by the belief you’ll always land on your feet, nothing ever feels that risky.
What makes a writer great?
Making others feel something.
The writer’s workflow …
What hardware or typewriter model are you presently using?
At work I have Lenovo something or other. It’s only one of two non-Macs in the office, which is something I take pride in. As a writer, my best technology is inside me. It’s my voice. I don’t need anything more than a pencil and a pad.
What software are you using for writing and general workflow?
I mostly write in Word, though I’m using Google a lot more thanks to its ability to let me share docs with people and collaborate in real-time.
I also rely on Harvest as a time tracker tool to help me see where my day is going and keep me accountable to others (and myself).
Do you have any tricks for staying focused?
Staying true to the rituals listed above. And start each week with a clear To Do list. Obviously things will get shifted around and more items will always be added but know, without question, what you’re accountable to that week. Otherwise it’s too easy to let things slip through the cracks.
Have you run into any serious challenges or obstacles to getting words onto the page?
No. Once I have the idea cemented in my brain, getting the words down on the page is the fun part. That’s what I love the most about my job and life, actually.
How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?
I make lists. On Post Its. On pads. On my phone. On more Post Its. I hoard lists.
How do you relax at the end of a hard day?
Hard days for me are good days. They’re the days when I’ve been really challenged or when I’ve had to produce a lot of killer content. If the day is over, then I’ve been successful and that means I am walking out of the office AMPED on how awesome I feel.
Often a good workout will help me release all of what’s juicing inside me. Also, “celebrating” via a good dinner or bad television (I am a Teen Mom 2 junkie) provides some well-needed downtime.
A few questions just for the fun of it …
Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?
Epically failing. I’ve written a lot of crappy content, made a lot of huge mistakes, and stabbed myself in the eye about a million times. It’s really helped me see things clearly moving forward.
What’s your biggest aggravation or pet peeve at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?
Fear. I just find fear to be a totally useless emotion. Whether it’s your own fear that you’re using as an excuse to NOT do something, or it’s someone else’s fear masked as insecurity put onto you, I don’t see the point. What a waste of energy. Get over it and do something.
Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.
I’d really like have to dinner with Sonia Simone and Erika Napoletano. At the same time. I really respect and look up to both of them as strong voices in the digital space and I’d just like to hang out with them and talk. I think we’d have fun.
Do you have a motto, credo or general slogan that you live by?
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Refusing to settle. It’s easy to get comfortable and just stay somewhere because it’s easy or because it’s what people expect from you. I tend to fight against that.
I throw myself into new and uncharted situations and I like the process of tackling them and rising up again. The things I’m most proud of in my life and my career were usually a result of me saying “eff this” and trying something else.
If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?
I’m open to suggestions. I have a honeymoon to plan.
What would you like to do more of in the coming year?
Get more naked in my writing and show people who I am.
Can you offer any advice to writers and content producers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”
Figure out who you are and what you want to say and be true to that. Nothing else matters but your words. It used to be that marketers would all shake their fingers at me and tell me that was naïve, but it’s not. They were naïve.
Bleeding what you’re passionate about is how you attract an audience.
That’s what every SEO is trying to do right now – to write “great, passionate content.” The problem is, no one cares what they have to say because not even they care about what they have to say.
As a writer, your voice and your lens are the most powerful tools in your toolshed. Use them both to the max, and don’t accept any less than that from yourself.
Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Write what you believe.
And finally, the writer’s desk …
I can’t help but think of the writer’s workspace as a place where a sacrifice is given, a small invocation or prayer is offered, across an altar of our making.
Getting naked on the page for the whole world isn’t easy, because you will be exposed for who you really are, what you truly believe.
Do you have the courage to be great?
A snapshot of that sacred and utilitarian space, where words are crafted daily with the tools of an inspired writer, is always a welcome sight.
Many thanks for sharing Lisa.
And Thank You for Tuning In to The Writer Files …
We have more great Q&As on tap from the writers who inspire us.
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Now get naked (on the page that is)!