Here’s How Lisa Barone Writes

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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?

http://overit.com/blog

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?

Yes.

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.)?

4-5.

Do you write every day?

Are there people who don’t?

The writer’s creativity …

Define creativity.

Copying smarter.

Who are your favorite authors, online or off?

Dave Eggers
Brene Brown
Sonia Simone
Heather Armstrong
Penelope Trunk (she’s gone bananas but she makes you feel something)
Matt Logelin

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.

My mainstays:

rainymood.com
simplynoise.com
rain.simplynoise.com [not as good as rainymood, IMO]

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?

Be better.

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.

Overit blog: http://overit.com/blog
Twitter: http://twitter.com/lisabarone
Facebook: http://facebook.com/lisabarone

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.

Image of Lisa Barone's Desk

And Thank You for Tuning In to The Writer Files …

We have more great Q&As on tap from the writers who inspire us.

If you’re already subscribed to Copyblogger via email or RSS, the next installment will be delivered to you just like the rest of our daily content.

If not, go ahead and subscribe right now so you don’t miss a thing.

Now get naked (on the page that is)!

About the author

Kelton Reid


Kelton Reid is Director of Multimedia Production for Copyblogger Media, and an independent screenwriter and novelist. Get more from Kelton on Twitter and .

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Comments

  1. Wow, what a great, no bullshit interview! Loved every word of it.. Very awesome!

  2. Great post, love the interview. Good point about deadlines!

  3. These keep getting better Kelton. Keep ‘em coming. So many useful nuggets in here. I love Lisa’s no-nonsense, kick ass attitude. And her refusal to see “writer’s block” for what it really is. Inspiring. Time to go read, research, and write.

    • Thanks, Jerod. I’d be interested to hear if others agree with my definition of “writers block” but I really believe those are the true roots when it hits me.

  4. “Do you write every day?
    Are there people who don’t?”

    I love that! The only way you’re going to get better at writing is to do it day in and day out, every day from now until forever. Some day you’ll produce absolute junk and you have to learn to be okay with that as well. Just keep plugging away!

    • Actually, I was shocked, and shamed on reading that. And that’s because, yes, there are people who don’t. I myself am one guilty prick.

      My day job is my reason and justification for not being able to write everyday. I get home after work and depending on how much energy I have left, I may or may not be able have the time to write for my blog. Then, when what I’ve written is really crappy, I just trash it, bringing my output to nothing at all.

      My new favorite quote of the month, by the way, is “Your priorities are the things you do. Not the things you say you do.” Just simply wakes me up and see the silly and useless excuses I make to defer doing what really are important.

      • James,

        Do you write as part of your day job? If so, I’d say that counts.

        I know I found it very difficult sometimes to go home and write after a day of writing at work. That’s why my personal blog is so ignored. But I try to fit in, however, I can. Whether it’s a lengthy email to a friend or a burst of essay I know will be inserted somewhere at a later date, fighting to get something out helps calm me.

        But we’re all different. I certainly didn’t mean to shame anyone. :)

        • I don’t write everyday, particularly on the weekends. There was a time that I did, but I discovered that I was more creative writing less. And besides, most writers don’t stop writing even when they shut down the laptop. They are doing it in their heads. Great interview Lisa.

  5. From a fellow (lifelong) Trojan, great to see you here, Lisa. Inspiring interview that all writers can learn a great deal from. Congrats on your well deserved success!

  6. Kelton,
    Nice piece. I’ve always appreciated Lisa’s writing and I enjoyed learning about her motivations and process. She’s got a no-holds-barred style that’s refreshing and definitely wipes out any excuses that might be tied to whatever topic she’s writing about (in context of this article – “writer’s block,” fear, procrastination).

    I also find running is a great way to get focused and channel my energy. Now, to get that same level of unshakable confidence. Time to lace up and head out! ;)

    For Lisa: As for honeymoon vacations, Funchal (Madeira, Portugal) is amazing … beautiful landscape/flowers, cool aqua duct city garden, fresh fish. And a lifte-time experience of “walking in the clouds,” hiking the Pico Arieiro Levadas. That was my honeymoon, followed by a brief stay in Paris.

    • Exercise, right? Man, it works. As much as you’d wish it didn’t so you didn’t have to do it all the time, it can make all the difference in your mental state.

      Thanks for reading and for the honeymoon recommendation. I’ll definitely look that up and do some daydreaming. :)

  7. Great article, so much truth and honesty.
    Love the advice ‘Figure out who you are and what you want to say and be true to that’

  8. “f 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.”
    Great advice! I get the feeling you have to be really cultured and sophisticated to get “writer’s block,” but then I’m no more a card-carrying writer than a true artist…I just write and paint. ):

    • “I get the feeling you have to be really cultured and sophisticated to get “writer’s block,”

      Hmm, maybe that’s why I don’t get it?

  9. Lisa,

    Excellent stuff… Love that you shine a spotlight on gloriously overcast Upstate NY and I’m going to take your “Copying Smarter” strategy to heart.

    Thanks,

    Hanley

    Hanley

  10. Starting any piece with the word “Truly” disqualifies one from offering writing advice. Or maybe I’m just bitchy because of daylight savings time.

  11. In my case, I love music so that’s the main reason I can’t focus on writing if there’s music playing in the background (even if it’s classical or instrumental music) so I checked the resources you mentioned and I actually think they might work for me too.

    Already bookmarked the sites and going to give them a whirl later, thank you Lisa!

    Sergio

  12. This was a fantastic article. I found myself muttering (yes, audibly) “that’s right”, “yes”, and maybe even a few “preach it, sister”–but I’m not openly admitting that. I love the advice to write “meaningful content” to stand out in the crowd. So many blogs look the same and communicate little. As a reader, drives me a bit nuts, although I appreciate the efforts being made (it’s not easy). I also am at a point with my writing where I’m trying to dig a bit deeper and expose myself a bit more. It’s a learning curve. (How much raw nakedness does a reader really want and yet still project an authentic and true voice?) And yes, I want to make readers feel something, remember something, want to share their thoughts too– that’s the goal of every blog or article I write. I love when I write a post and a bunch of people chime in with their experiences, even if it’s a tad off-topic. At least I know I engaged the reader at some level.

    Finally, here’s to working out daily and finding a creative space. I find a good sweat, the rhythmic slapping of my feet against the pavement, or a hike up the mountain totally loosens my creativity. I just wrote an article for She Writes on the importance of finding a space that inspires creativity.

    Thanks Lisa.

  13. Great post, lots of solid advice. I also feel that I’m at write my best stuff just after exercise.

  14. I agree with you about the writer’s block, Lisa. It is non-existent and just a sad excuse for not focusing. Great read. Always admire your writing. I’ve always believed that I can if I want to….enough. :-)

    Thank you, Kelton. What a refreshing read!

  15. Do you have any idea how excited I was to see this title pop up in my reader?!

    I never tire of hearing how other writers work. This interview alone opened my eyes to several new techniques I have never heard anyone else discuss.

    I particularly hearing about the “Dear Lisa” approach, where she acts like she’s writing to herself. I’ll be stealing that :) I sometimes I get too caught up worrying about the audience that it paralyzes me.

    Thanks for putting this together, Kelton, and thank you, Lisa, for the glimpse into your (brilliant) mind and processes.

  16. Great interview! I was adding blogs to my reader and bookmarking many pages/resources! Thank you!

  17. She is awesome! Loved the interview. Straight forward!

  18. I like the idea of “point the light where other people aren’t looking”. I feel like I do that same thing with my content.

  19. What a wonderful, inspiring interview.

    I love this quote: “Your priorities are the things you do. Not the things you say you do.”

    Yes… That hits home for me. (Wince.)

    Lisa, thank you for the inspiration, and the links to check out.

    Great series. :-)

  20. This was a fantastic read, thank you for getting real in the interview, Lisa! I really relate to the fear aspect of writing, it crippled me for 3 years. Glad to know I’m not the only one :)

    p.s. Congrats on the engagement, your honeymoon should be in Kauai if you have never been!

  21. Inspiring post Lisa…thank you! Particularly like the two viewpoints on Writers Block and SEO. Writers block is something that was invented by procrastinators for procrastinators in my book. If you’re serious about writing ,even when life gets in the way(which was always my excuse) sitting down and just starting to write about anything that comes into your head will get you moving;always!
    As someone who has struggled with webmasters since my earliest days and listening to all the SEO b.s I’m glad you have put them in their place in favour of writers who care about their principles and who wish to serve.Clearly making a fast buck has been the M.O of many web sites and their so called content writers and hopefully we are now seeing a change with the rising to the top of authentic and purposeful writers…I am so glad to have stumbled across copyblogger and all like minded real people.

  22. I’m kind of ashamed because Ms. Barone gave some of the simplest yet makes-lots-of-darn-sense answers for some things I’m rather guilty of. Namely, the so-called writer’s block, being organized, and being better.

    Still, thanks also for the interview. It reminded me the importance of improving my writing to: a) make my intended readers feel something, and b) give them value somehow.

  23. A lot of great straight talk. The many hours, the discipline, pushing yourself…and not accepting less from yourself. And I agree about writers block…anytime I’ve felt that hesitancy or fear, I just have to write. I appreciate your desire to get raw too. I can imagine in your position with your visibility, it could be easy to grow a little distant from your true voice. Looking forward to more at overit.com.

  24. I really enjoyed this interview! I have had been struggling to get motivated to write every day. I have honed my tactics with social media and other marketing materials. I just keep putting off the most essential part of my online brand, my written word.

    Lisa, I really enjoyed how you are “finding your voice” and being no bull shit. I have read some really bad blogging and have read some really great blogging. I feel we can all learn from the good and the bad to hone in what is the best way for our message and for our audience. I also liked how you mentioned SEO and content. I feel the same way. Thanks for making everything detailed yet simple!

    How would you best engage your community and attract more members in your “tribe” as Jeff Groins would say?

    Best,

    Sean

  25. I love that rainymood site, Lisa! Hadn’t heard of that before, but I’m definitely going to start using it. Perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon when you have work to do. Now I can fool myself into thinking that it’s raining, and the rest of the World AREN’T outside having fun!!

  26. Interesting interview
    Learn much from Lisa

  27. Hi, I really enjoyed this post. As I writer myself, I found tips on beating procrastination and getting organised really helpful – I need to download some rain! Also, the links to other writers are great.

  28. Lovely interview of Lisa… and i love her definition of creativity… It is absolutely copying the things smartly. Well done Ms. Lisa..:)