The 10-Minute Technique to Becoming a More Productive Writer

image of blogwise ebook cover

Late last year, when I interviewed Brian Clark about his approach to productive blogging, he said something that really struck me as a writer.

Brian’s big on vision — he told me that he believed his vision for his online business was pretty much the key to his success as both a blogger and business owner.

As he said, “It feels really great when you do what you know needs to be done, because you’re getting one step closer to seeing your vision, in one form or another, coming true.”

Having a clear, compelling vision will instantly make you more productive — you’ll “know what needs to be done.”

Once your vision is clear, the daily tasks become clearer as well. And when it’s compelling enough, the right vision feels like it pulls you toward your goals, making everything you do feel easier.

But for many of us, finding that vision isn’t so simple.

I’d like to share a quick technique to become crystal-clear on your vision — the vision that will drive your productivity and make you more successful in every aspect of your blog or business.

Since this is a content marketing blog, let’s start by talking about how you approach writing content.

What are you writing today?

An email newsletter? A sales page? A content-based product?

Whatever it is, it’s your job to make sure that every word you include in that piece or writing supports your long-term vision.

How can you make sure your sales page, blog post, or press release is doing that?

There’s no single answer to that question — issues such as content strategy, marketing strategy, positioning, and audience targeting combine to take us closer to (or further from) our goals.

But the question, “how can I uncover my compelling vision for what I’m writing, on a word-by-word basis?” does have an answer.

The technique for writing your vision

If you’ve ever worked in traditional media or marketing, this technique may already be familiar to you. Yet few online writers seems to consider it consciously, or specifically.

That technique is this:

Before you begin to write that sales page (or email autoresponder, or Facebook update), ask yourself how you want the readers to feel after they read it.

How do you want them to feel? Write that down in the language of their mental dialogue.

Is it …

Woah, this training series looks crazy-amazing! I’m gonna tweet this right after I sign up.

Or:

This resource is exactly what management has been looking for. Better email this link to Bob’s PA. Might bookmark it, too.

Or:

Oh my God, this is a totally cool tip! It’ll only take five minutes to make that change. I’ll do it right now, before the kids get home.

If you don’t know — or can’t imagine — how your audience members’ mental dialogue sounds, go back and reacquaint yourself with your audience definition. If you haven’t already, develop some personas so that you have real people in mind when you’re preparing to write.

How this strategic approach to content works

When you know how you want to make your audience feel (along with the words they would use to describe that feeling), you start to pull those big-picture, strategic threads into a single focus.

Those threads include:

  • the audience, their needs, hopes, and dreams, and what resonates with them as individuals on an emotional level
  • what you’re trying to communicate
  • your business, marketing, and sales goals
  • what your blog, business, or brand stands for
  • the features and benefits of what you’re writing about
  • a call to action

This technique gives you a concrete tool for using your intuition to develop a creative approach that works best for this audience, this execution, and this communication or business goal.

And it allows you to write in a way that naturally engages and resonates with readers. Since engagement is the pathway to action and loyalty, that matters.

Considering audience sentiment can also have a massive impact on your level of creativity, and the quality of the writing you produce.

Start the writing process by thinking about how you want readers to feel, and you’re unlikely to wrestle for long with writers’ block, or find that all your content sounds the same.

Finally, this technique also gives you another avenue to test and tweak in the process of improving conversions — and the quantifiable efficacy of your writing.

Putting audience sentiment into practice

As you can probably guess, I consider audience sentiment before I write any client copy; it’s an essential element of every brief I take.

In a recent project to write an FAQ page for a mass-targeted online retailer, I decided that the resulting audience sentiment should be something like this:

Phew, that’s a relief. I thought getting help was going to be an ordeal, but I’m done — it’s all fine. How great that it was so easy, though!

The communication goal of the content was, of course, to provide practical assistance and reduce the potential for dissatisfaction without (business goal) adding to the support load for this bubbly, proactive, super-reliable brand.

Within that context, I made a few decisions in working to achieve the desired audience sentiment:

  • I used contractions, and other natural language that made the Help pages sound personable, and the brand sound relatable; for example, “What if I’m not around when the delivery is made?”
  • I aimed for a positive, upbeat, understanding tone that allowed us to acknowledge the dissatisfaction that arises when things go wrong with online orders without necessarily remarking on it explicitly; for example, “We’ll take care of returning and replacing the damaged item for you.”

The client also had some great suggestions to achieve the desired audience sentiment, which included restructuring the grouping of question types. On the other hand, having thought about the audience sentiment made it easy for me to dissuade them from removing contractions from the drafted FAQs.

I also use this technique to pitch the tone and content of blog posts at the right level.

(For example, my desired audience sentiment for this post is something like, “You know, that’s pretty interesting. Maybe I’ll give this a try. Man, Copyblogger.com just keeps getting better!”)

So thinking about audience sentiment is helpful with any given piece of writing. But when it comes to products — like the ebook that prompted me to interview Brian — audience sentiment really comes into its own.

How to create resonant products

Brian was one of nine people I interviewed for Blog Wise, ProBlogger’s latest ebook … a book that takes you inside the heads of nine successful bloggers to learn their best productivity strategies and techniques.

How do you begin turning nine forty-minute interviews into an ebook?

You think about the desired audience sentiment.

Our imperative with that ebook was to have the audience come away open-mouthed, thinking,

My God. That was incredibly helpful.

But, as our interviews revealed, everyone’s approach to productivity is different. The reason there’s such a proliferation of productivity approaches and techniques is because no single one of them works perfectly for any one person.

So how could we make an apparently nebulous approach to productivity incredibly helpful?

The answers to that question helped us to:

  • shape the product’s components (ebook, downloadable practical additions, sound files, etc.)
  • develop three formats for presenting the interviews themselves (audio, text transcript, and editorial-style) and, for the last format, develop conceptual executions like sidebars, pullouts, and micro-summaries, that allowed readers to easily digest the information in bite-sized chunks, and easily compare the techniques different bloggers use
  • develop a final chapter that brought the advice into stark practical focus
  • make decisions such as leaving the interviewer out of the interviews (I felt that having a first-person other than the interviewee would be an unnecessary distraction from the already detailed, rich proliferation of ideas within the interviews themselves).

As you can see, reaching for a particular audience sentiment — one that supported the objectives of the ever-practical ProBlogger brand and business — drove us to create the product in a certain way. It encouraged us to innovate with formats and really dig deep into the information we’d gathered in creative ways that were actually relevant to, and resonated with, the audience.

Of course, every creative execution is an experiment in some way, and there will always be things we could have done better — and will do differently next time.

But by looking at audience sentiment — how you want to make them feel — you really can identify, as Brian said, “what you know needs to be done,” and “get … one step closer to seeing your vision, in one form or another, coming true.”

Do you use this technique — or something like it — in your writing? How could it work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author: Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer and Content Manager for ProBlogger.

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Comments

  1. Personally i have built a powerfull ebook based on the rapid response from my target audience. The technique of becoming a more productive writer is by asking your target audience on what to write as this will propel your blog writing even if you dont have a clue.

    The last tip that you have discussed, is what i think is the mother of all battles. Making your audience feel part and parcel of your writing is what will make you or break you.

  2. Absolutely love this. Exactly what I needed today.

    Thanks big G.

    • Aww, thanks BT! ;)

      • Hi Georgina, I loved this blog. I guess really good blogs are long–it seems that way for copyblogger.

        I’ve been singing this mantraa for 20+ years to help my book coaching clients write better books, blogs and promo at their sites and on email. It’s my life’s work, and I include “Why Knowing your Primary Audience for this ___ is so important to its success!” I write a chapter on this is #1 to know BEFORE you write anything or even network on social media in all my books including “Write your Ebook Fast” or “Linkedin Marketing.”

        You message is so important to the business community! Thanks again!

  3. Having a clear vision is always the way to approach not only for the direction for your blog or business, but for your life as a whole. I always feel like I think 10 steps ahead from where I currently am to where I want to be in the future. It helps relieve stress and makes you feel accomplished, even if that goal hasn’t been achieved yet. Those who see the “prize” at the end of the tunnel compared to those who stay stagnant in their efforts will turn their vision into a reality.

  4. Vision is good but I sometimes find it hard to jump from vision to execution. That’s why taking the vision and outlining the path to that vision helps me so much.

    It’s not as sexy as the vision but once I have that roadmap down (and know who the audience is) then the prose just flows.

    It also helps to write the vision and the audience on a piece of paper and hang it in my work space. That way, I can “talk directly to my audience” without having to leave my desk.

    Tremendously helpful post

    Jarie

  5. Georgina,

    “You know, that’s pretty interesting. Maybe I’ll give this a try. Man, Copyblogger.com just keeps getting better!”

    Yep – you nailed it. ;)

    I used the 10^2 x 5 technique myself: Write for ten minutes, stop for two… repeat five times. I set a Google Chrome timer so I feel “under the gun.”

    Of course, that’s only the tactical side of writing. What you’re addressing is much, much bigger… to be efficient on a strategic level.

    It’s a type of thinking usually reserved for editors. Which is a shame, because if every writer thought more like an editor we’d have more sites with the quality of Copyblogger/ProBlogger.

    Of course, it’s only a matter of time. Online publishing has grown up some, but over the next five years I’m sure we’ll see more and more sites with high-level strategy.

  6. This is an approach I am definitely going to try with a sales page and a video I have to complete today. This technique provides a valuable shortcut to writing great copy – writing for our audience not for ourselves.

    • This is great, Albert :) We’d love to hear how you went implementing it if you have a chance to let us know once you’re done!

  7. On another note, when creating your new product, how did you poll your audience? Blog posts… surveys… emails?

    When we launch our new site I want to build an audience and ask them problems they have (then build products that solve those problems).

    What do you feel is the most effective way to do this?

    • I’ll let Georgina weigh in, because I know ProBlogger takes a different approach from the one Copyblogger does.

      Over on our side, we don’t do surveys and polls, rather we do a lot of observation of what people do, what they complain about, where they get stuck, what remains frustrating. We do that in comments, on social media platforms like twitter & Google+, and in our own membership community of online business owners.

      The main thing I keep watch for is frustration. Where readers are frustrated, there are opportunities to relieve that and make yourself a Big Damn Hero.

    • Hey Adam,
      Glad you liked this piece!

      ProBlogger’s similar to Copyblogger in this case. Darren did run a survey this year, and while that shaped a few of the elements of the product and the way we presented it to readers, the impetus and concept for the book came from Darren’s ongoing involvement with his readers.

  8. This is a such an encouraging post with practical tips to benefit any blogger! Thanks.

  9. I think you’ve finally articulated what has been the missing link for me. I kept wondering why some posts got better responses than others and now I see that for the posts in which I incorporate this method, I get exactly the responses I’m after. I need to be more intentional about this. Thanks!

  10. Very helpful! Thank you!

  11. Very useful to hear/read anew what has become second nature. As a long-time copywriter, I live and die by the creative brief. If you can answer just (just!) five questions–who are you talking to, what do you want them to do, what do you need to say to get them to do it, who is your competition, what is the promise that only you can make–your content (ad, brochure, video, blog post, etc) will be that much more effective.

  12. Fantastic tip! I’ll pass this on whenever a client says they’re struggling. Thank you!

  13. Thanks for this article!

    It is indeed a logical way to approach every writing assignment… clarity. Once the goal is clear, it is easier to find a path towards achieving it.

    Plus it saves you a heap of time second guessing yourself.

    • Yep Allan, I find this, too. If I didn’t think about how I wanted the audience to feel, I’d be groping around in the dark hoping to find some kind of magic bullet, and then wondering if the approach I’d decided on was really going to work. This technique relieves that pressure and uncertainty.

  14. I enjoyed this article. I’m a “re-beginner” (I used to write well, many moons ago.), experimental, writer, and I noticed that my tweets alone were dry. If I were a reader, I would want to fly right past them. On instinct, I went back to my basic questions of “Whose my audience?”/”Always envision someone specific that you are writing to.” and “What’s my point?”

    I switched my audience somewhat, became more human, and do not complete my tweets (as well as writings) until I know my point to the audience. “What do I want them to understand? How do I want them to feel about it? Why would they want to read this? How do I hit that?”

    I realized I wanted to become more personable, so I stepped more towards relaxed language while not appearing sloppy either. I do use more lingo, slang, and contractions, however I try not to abbreviate as I would in a text. I used to tweet mainly quotes with adjoined comments worded as though I were sending the post to a Finance Director…boring Now I attach an article or video, summarizing or quoting the part that grabbed me the most, and/or a somewhat relaxed personal note and/or exclamation. I’m not a blog, and I intentionally do not follow most friends. I am on Twitter more to follow people I can learn from and/or have more in common with, therefore I don’t have a large list of followers. However, I had a few followers that I respected who left in the beginning. They have now come back…a mini success.

    I also slip in a few personal tweets every now and then, but I try to do it only in the realm that most readers could relate to whether it’s funny, interesting, or serious.

    I am still massively experimenting with significant room to grow, but your article hit home in my tiny world of writing…Thank you for that!!!

    • Hey Debbi,
      Thanks for explaining how this technique is working for you on Twitter. This is such an important point: the technique can help across the board, to make all communications—and therefore your whole brand—more focused and relevant to your audience.

  15. In one word real “helpful”. This is exactly something i was looking for !

  16. Excellent article packed with great tips! Thank you!

  17. I have been blogging “blindly” for years, but I finally took the time a couple months ago to make a plan for all my blogs, which included where I was, where I wanted to be and how I would get there.

    I look at this plan every day to make sure the things I’m doing directly contribute to me reach the end goals.

  18. OMG, Copyblogger just keeps getting better!!!! I swear it does!

  19. Identifying who you’re writing for is the first thing you have to do in order to generate things that people really want to read. There are far too many words that fly around that I think give people a jaded and somewhat negative opinion of the copywriter. A lot of people feel that we’re simply trying to get people to “buy something” and while that may be true on some level – many of us just want to educate people on how or why our product benefits them.

    I also have started to use a timer in the recent weeks and have found that my productivity has nearly doubled. Things are getting checked off my to-do list, rather than just hanging on to the next day, when I start all over again.

  20. Georgina, I really like this because it’s helping me articulate what I kinda do naturally to a level. When I review a site or certain kinds of content, I do often get a “feeling” from it. Does it feel overwhelming or easy, busy or calming for example. The problem with this kind of assessment can be that it’s subjective to a point. Yet I’ve always believed it’s still a valuable thing to know and most people don’t realize it or understand how to see or create it. Your description here adds a bit more objectivity to the process, so I like that too. Great stuff! Thanks!

  21. I think this is a terrific, powerful technique. It’s very similar to one I’ve used for years developing copy for print and online, modelling user outcomes. In fact I encourage my clients to go one step further with the structure, and model two kinds of outcomes: practical and emotive. The practical outcome is what they will do afterwards (‘I’m going to try that technique right now’), while the emotive is how they feel (‘I’m confident I know how to approach it’). Ensuring that all copy meets both those needs all but guarantees your content will be valuable, provided you’ve got reasonably accurate personas and outcome statements.

  22. Great post, thanks!

    I ended up streamlining my vision after reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” last year and have made INCREDIBLE progress in the last several months.

    With my new focus, my blogs are performing much better and my mystery/thriller novel (which wasn’t selling very well) made Amazon’s bestsellers list!! There’s nothing like seeing your novel rank with heavyweights like Stephen King and Barry Eisler!

    It’s also wonderful to get much bigger Adsense and affiliate checks in the mail.

    It’s really incredible what a clear vision, some hard (& smart) work, persistence and a genuine belief in yourself can do for a career. =)

    Thanks again for the great post.

    Jennifer

  23. Great post! I work for a hypnotist who makes, among other things, relaxation, stress reduction and sleep hypnosis videos. When I tweet about his videos, I almost completely ignore the value in the content of the videos. Instead, I focus on how listening to the video will make you feel. Reading the comments from their viewers has revealed to me that people care about how they will feel after listening to Jer and not about the actual words he uses.

  24. Superb guide. Also love the fact that you have a ‘print friendly’ option. Saves a ton of paper by printing w/out comments. I store great articles in a binder for future reference.

  25. I’ve been wrestling with a mammoth writer’s block that has left me not as productive as I wanted,
    and I was drawn to this article when I opened my mail because it’s exactly what I needed. And then
    I realized, in my daily grind, how easy it is to forget something as basic:

    “Yet few online writers seems to consider it consciously, or specifically.”

    By reminding me to refocus on my audience, the burden of what “I” needed to do did not
    seem too heavy anymore. Thank you for this career-saving post. Now I can go back
    to my 12-hour day writing schedule :)

  26. Excellent perspective that as an emerging blogger I believe will be beneficial to myself and my readers! I automatically consider the potential needs of my readers, but appreciate the additional insight of thinking beyond the article to what the readers response will be in terms of their motivation. Thank you.

  27. “You know, that’s pretty interesting. Maybe I’ll give this a try. Man, Copyblogger.com just keeps getting better!”
    You took the words right out of my mouth! This was definitely interesting.
    I recently created a reader persona while following the SEO Bootcamp book, so now I know who I’m writing for I’m going to write every post with him in mind, great tip!

  28. Thank you, thank you, thank you! What you said in this post feels exactly like what I’ve been searching for! I will certainly be applying this method to my own writing from now on. Once again, thank you!

  29. Thank you for sharing this Georgina, I love how you connected every little thing that is being written to a bigger vision. Somehow it makes it more important and exciting!

    I’ve actually used this technique for a while – I participated in Kelly Kingman’s Contentpalooza and wrote 50k non-fiction in November. Writing that much (for someone who isn’t used to it!) forced me to think a little first, otherwise the quality would have been much lower. What did I want people to get out of it? What action did I want them to take? And yes, how did I want them to feel? That got me so much more structured and focused on the reader more than just “how much info can I get in there”.

  30. This blog post was very insightful and a technique I use in every creative breifing (and pitching ideas to clients). I struggle with “shiny cat syndrome” aka looking around at distractions, which sparks one idea and another and that makes productvity an important factor I have to consciously focus on when getting projects done.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this post together!
    Jessica

  31. As someone coming from the software industry (specifically product management and user experience), this really resonates with me. Creating personas and understanding desired outcome is part of the DNA. I never thought about applying this to writing!! Thank you for your insights. This article will be added to our “Gnome Likes” this week!

  32. This was incredibly helpful – focusing is probably one of the hardest things to do and just asking how the reader wants to feel can really help lock my writing in. Thanks!

  33. The most remarkable points that Georgina included in this article are Vision of Writing, Strategic Approach, Audience Sentiment into Practice and Creating Resonant Product. To become a good writer these noteworthy points must be followed in order to get readers attractions. Thanks to Georgina for writing such a helpful article.

  34. Looking something new and creative in this post. Quotes in this post make me little smile.

  35. Awesome post and very encouraging. Thank you!

  36. Very well said. Apparently, the key to a good article is knowing your goals and how to translate that goal into something that will not only catch the attention of your readers but will have them interact with you. Ending your article perhaps with questions is a good example of doing that at the same time, ensuring that you’re writing the article as a whole neat and clean.

  37. This is a great piece of work. The 1st point already added so much value to me. How do I want my reader to feel?
    That question alone direct the tone of my writing. It’s really great!

  38. Great speech.It’s really helpful for creative writings and creative thinking.When I read all these topics,I feel proud.Lots of thanks to Georgina Laidlaw from my core of heart to do nice work.

  39. Awesome tips! I often blog blindly which is probably why i don’t see to make results. I’m certainly going to implement these tips. Thanks!