My eureka moment came while stressing out about repainting my living room walls. I’d been staring at three swatches of paint taped to one bare wall for over a year, waffling between color extremes.
More than indecision, however, I was stalled by insecurity. I didn’t have much experience with painting, and there was a lot of surface to cover. What if I spent all weekend painting only to step back and see streaks and bubbles and a million other newbie mistakes?
It was more satisfying to imagine the finished project than to actually commit to finishing the project. Too much could go wrong once I opened up that can of paint.
At the time, I was teaching writing, and I realized that many of my students were struggling with the same anxiety when they faced the blank page. It hadn’t occurred to me before because I enjoy writing and I’ve had decades of experience and practice. But for my students who hadn’t spent years writing, the blank page was just as scary as my blank wall.
I told myself exactly what I began telling my students when I returned to the classroom: It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done. You can’t fix nothing, but you can fix everything else.
You’ve gotta start creating content somewhere.
I know a lot of small business owners who struggle with developing compelling content for their websites. The key is to forget about compelling and just start with any content. In fact, I’d encourage you to commit to writing the absolute worst garbage you can imagine for your website. Giving yourself permission to not be good at something is the first step to getting better at it.
Whether I’m working on a marketing document or a novel, I start by dumping all of my thoughts and ideas into a document just so the page isn’t blank. I call it the primer coat. The purpose isn’t good reading. No one’s ever going to see it. The purpose is to make the final coat flow a little more fluidly, drip a little less, and generally appear more cohesive.
Make improvements to your content from there.
From that primer coat, I pick out the main idea I want to get across, and I write one single sentence that captures it. Then, I organize all the other messy thoughts beneath it, playing around with the best order and flow.
If I’m really struggling, I’ll write out what I want the page to be like when I’m done. For example:
OK. So let’s make this post about how to just get through making content already. Start with that time you were painting and then flesh out the idea of just getting started.
Remember, writing is just thinking on paper, so give yourself permission to just think on paper. Don’t feel like you have to think the best thoughts on paper the first time. Get a lot of thoughts – good, bad, and meh – and then you’ve got something to work with.
Go ahead. Right now, brainstorm a list of ten topics you could write about to spark interest in your business. That’s as good a place to start developing your content strategy as any.