What to do if you don’t consider yourself a writer

Somebody said to me in passing the other day: “I do all my company’s writing”, but I don’t consider myself a writer”, and I suspect that’s a position in which a lot of people find themselves. It may be, however, that you don’t need to be a writer, because you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Why’s that? Well, in this age of information overload, where we’re all finding it hard to be heard, the most important aspects of any piece of writing are the choice of subject, followed by the headline. In a great presentation called The Psychology of Persuasive Content for “Boring” Industries, web psychologist Nathalie Nahai recommends that you write an outline of the copy first, then the headline. More importantly, these are the items where you should be taking your time and using your expertise. The writing of the article itself, while needing to be factually accurate, comes second to this.

That might enrage some people, but if you don’t get clicked on and read, there’s no point in writing the article. I would say that 90% of the links I see in our so-called “boring” industries don’t inspire me to click on them. The subject material was uninteresting, and (or) the title was tedious.

So here’s what I reckon: tear up your regular practice of spending 4 minutes thinking what to write about, then 4 hours writing about it, and 40 seconds writing the headline. Instead, spend 40 minutes thinking what to write about and creating a draft headline. That’s likely to be the stuff you can do better than anyone else. Then farm out the 4 hours’ writing to someone who does that for a living – it’s really not expensive, especially if you give the writer a great brief and headline. Get on with the stuff you really can do better than anyone else.

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