4 unhelpful things we tell ourselves when writing online content
Recently, I’ve had a few new clients needing support setting up their own businesses or launching a side hustle. They know that producing regular online content will kickstart their marketing, but for one reason or another they can’t get started or, when they do, they’re not consistent.
When we dig a little deeper, we often find that their unconscious mind is busy offering up a whole bunch of reasons why writing content might not be a good idea. Enter stage left: our inner critic!
Our brains are programmed to keep us safe and so any new behaviour that takes us out of our comfort zone is likely to turn up the negative chatter in our head. The theory is that nothing bad can happen if you never do anything new. If we don’t make that ‘innovative’ TikTok video then it won’t go viral and we won’t end up humiliated, broke and alone. Sorry, is that just me…?
Although being aware of this brain function is incredibly helpful, how do we turn down this critical voice and should we ever listen to it? Plus, we’ve still got that Facebook post to write by lunchtime – what can we actuallydo?
Turning down the inner critic
'I’m a rubbish writer'
This is a classic and likely to show up with even award-winning writers at some point. We already know that our brain is giving us these messages so that we don’t make an idiot of ourselves. But what is helpful for us to consider here?
When you take a good hard look at your writing abilities, are you good enough? It’s likely you’re not going for the Pulitzer prize here. But is your writing good enough to create the impact needed? And most importantly, if you really think your writing needs to be improved, are you prepared to put in the time to get better?
If you think you really do suck, you genuinely hate it and are not interested in improving, then ask yourself if this is a good use of your time. Is it possible to ‘re-work’ things to take this kind of writing out of the day-to-day? What are your other options to market your business?
If you choose to focus on 'I’m not the best writer yet but I can get better', then embrace this new challenge!
A great way to start building up our writing muscles is by keeping a daily journal. If you want to go even further, then think about adopting a practice such as the morning pages technique. This popular method comes from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and promotes a daily routine of writing three pages of free flow as soon as you wake up every single day. If you do take this forward, you’re likely to find that as you get more comfortable expressing yourself in this way, your writing will improve. The bonus is that having an outlet for what’s going on in our heads is likely to quieten your inevitable brain chatter. How cool is that?
'I hate marketing'
'I hate marketing. It’s just sales in a different dress and I hate sales.'
I get it, you didn’t go into your new profession to be writing pithy articles on LinkedIn, you’ve got much more important things to do. Again, it’s important to understand what’s going on with this one – it’s possible it’s just 'I’m not good enough' in disguise – but if you are really struggling to find the joy in this part of your new role then a re-frame might be helpful.
Re-framing is a coaching technique that I will often use with my clients and it’s all about shifting our perspective. When we re-frame, we consciously challenge how we view a situation, making a shift from limitation to opportunity.
The technique has helped in my own journey – changing my view of writing from sales to something more creative and fun. I read interesting stuff all the time, my clients are endlessly fascinating, and writing articles gives me an opportunity to reflect and then by putting this into words, I consolidate my learning. Sharing what I’m thinking becomes a generous act of sharing, rather than another thing to tick off my to-do list. If I also get new clients out of it then all the better!
'It is imperative that I clean out my sock drawer immediately'
Procrastination is a killer. It’s the number one issue my clients I work with cite as holding them back from achieving the things they want. It’s always linked to our inner critical voice and the end result is either doing nothing, doing something less important on your to-do list or doing something completely 'off list'.
As with the others, the first thing is to spot it. Do you really need a decluttered sock drawer? Could it wait? What could really be going on? Is it possible that looking at your competitors’ bright shiny new websites has thrown you, and now all you want is to quietly match socks with their life-long partner?
The good news is there are loads of things you can do to fight off this evil genius, and it’s always to do with taking action, however small. In his hugely popular book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about how to lean into our habits to propel us forward, which is especially important when what’s going on in our heads is trying to keep us stuck.
People generally have more control over their actions then their feelings. But we can influence our feelings by taking action. Take one small step. Move the body first and the mind will follow.
When we make a habit out of something, we are more likely just to do it rather than putting it off. What we’re aiming for is like when we brush our teeth, it’s not really a decision, it’s just something that we do. We don’t waste time or energy considering which brush we fancy using today, or if we’re doing it right, we just get on with the task at hand.
Another favourite of mine for quietening the chatter is using the Pomodoro technique (often a huge hit with clients). This is a time management technique which breaks time into 25-minute chunks, with appropriate breaks in between. Using the system, we concentrate for 25 minutes, get stuff done and after a short break, complete another 25-minute chunk of work. Rinse and repeat until completed. There are some great Pomodoro timers online. Some also have a function to set various versions of 'white noise' in the background. Again, super helpful in turning down the mind chatter.
'I’ve got nothing interesting to say'
This one can be a biggie for people. Who am I to dare to have opinions and to put them out there into the world? If I’m honest with myself then somewhere in the background, while I am writing this article, I can hear this loop being played over and over. I really hope you’re not yawning.
Of course, it’s unlikely that you haven’t got anything interesting to say. You are a professional in your chosen field of work, and as an experienced professional, you will have views and opinions on the sector you are part of. If you find something interesting, then chances are at least someone else will.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you write from personal experience, you can’t go wrong. Although this is true, it can also be very limiting.
As well as making time in our days to write, think about making time to learn, too. This will immediately broaden your horizons, helping you to produce more interesting and varied content. There are so many ways to learn new things out there, my favourites are Blinkest, Ted Talks, Medium and a whole host of podcasts.
The trick then is how you filter this information and make it your own. When we relate bigger concepts to personal stories, we make the information easier for others to engage with. And we build connections. Remember we don’t just want to give people information but we want readers to connect with us as a person.
When we are genuine and put ourselves into our writing, people will want to listen. If you're having trouble overcoming self-doubt and finding the motivation to write, contact me and we can work through it together.